We hear it all the time: Don’t judge a book by its cover. But, in some cases, clothes can influence self-esteem levels and help determine the impression we make on othersPersonality judgments based on physical appearance. Naumann, L.P., Vazire, S., Rentfrow, P.J., et al. University of California, Berkeley, USA. Personality and Social Psychology Bullitan, 2009 Dec;35(12):1661-71. Epub 2009 Sep 17.. And whether it comes from a great first date or a snazzy suit, self-confidence never goes out of style!

Clothes Call

Clothes can have a big impact on how a person feels. (Lady Gaga must have some serious mood swings!). Some research justifies an occasional shopping spree, since a new article of clothing can gear up a person’s mood. And feeling blue? A bright red shirt may be the way to go. The color red can increase self-confidence; people wearing red clothing may also be more likely to win physical contests (and to join certain political parties)Psychology: red enhances human performance in contests. Hill, R.A., Barton, R.A. Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group, University of Durham, Durham, UK. Nature, 2005 May 19;435(7040):293..

Appearance can also play a part in first impressions, especially in professional settingsPersonality judgments based on physical appearance. Naumann, L.P., Vazire, S., Rentfrow, P.J., et al. University of California, Berkeley, USA. Personality and Social Psychology Bullitan, 2009 Dec;35(12):1661-71. Epub 2009 Sep 17.Dress and address: patient preferences regarding doctor’s style of dress and patient interaction. Gallagher, J., Waldron Lynch, F., Stack, J., et al. Department of Endocrinology, AMNCH, Tallaght, Dublin. Irish Medical Journal, 2008 Jul-Aug;101(7):211-3.. (No flip flops on the job interview!) One study suggests patients feel more comfortable when doctors wear a semi-formal outfit than when they wear jeans. But when health care workers are dressed too formally, their clients may perceive them as unapproachableJudging a book by its cover: descriptive survey of patients’ preferences for doctors’ appearance and mode of address. Lill, M.M., Wilkinson, T.J. Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, New Zealand. British Medical Journal, 2005 Dec 24;331(7531):1524-7.Communication competence within dietetics: dietitians’ and clients’ views about the unspoken dialogue–the impact of personal presentation. Cant, R.P. School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, Churchill, Victoria, Australia. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 2009 Dec;22(6):504-10..

America’s Next Top Model judges aside, research suggests women may value clothing and appearance more than men doGender differences in memory for the appearance of others. Horgan, T.G., Mast, M.S., Hall, J.A., et al. Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2004 Feb;30(2):185-96.. Women are generally more likely to remember each other’s attire, possibly because they pay more attention to people’s personal characteristics. Women may also be particularly sensitive to how they look: Poor body image can make many women dread a trip to the dressing roomShopping for clothes: Body satisfaction, appearance investment, and functions of clothing among female shoppers. Tiggemann, M., Lacey, C. School of Psychology, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. Body Image, 2009 Sep;6(4):285-91. Epub 2009 Aug 5.. Furthermore, when young women are insecure about their appearance, wearing tight or revealing clothes can cause their self-esteem to come apart at the seamsCan self-esteem protect against the deleterious consequences of self-objectification for mood and body satisfaction in physically active female university students? Thøgersen-Ntoumani, C., Ntoumanis, N., Cumming, J., et al. School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom. Journal of Sports Exercise and Psychology, 2011 Apr;33(2):289-307..

Guy or gal, you never know when there might be someone worth impressing at the bar, at the gym, or in the next cubicle over. So consider polishing up that look— most importantly to impress yourself!


The way we dress can boost (or hurt) self-esteem and send different messages about trustworthiness. And, as Mark Twain said, naked people have little or no influence on society.