Why do we bother what other people think about our appearance? Why do we dress like others? Why not just live our lives dressing up according to who we really are?
Attraction Attracts Friends
We care about what others think about our appearance because we are sociable creatures. We want to make friends — man is not an island. By conforming to social standards, others will be more likely to make friends with you, to be more attracted to you (you look more attractive if you look like them right?). The person who is not looking for friends or acquantences will most likely not bother conforming to standards — he doesn’t have to. That is not to say the latter is better or more mature, s/he might just be anti-social!
The Right Clothes, Not the Best
I have been labeled over-sensitive to appearance and vain by people before, more often than not because of the slightly-longer-than-average time I take to get myself ready to face the outside world. I have to make sure my hair is that way I like it, my clothes match (or at least don’t clash), my shoes are right etc. I value appearance quite a lot. You’ll understand why if you read some of my other posts on appearance.
Mental Comfort vs. Physical Comfort
When I talked about the way I dressed, I was using very subjective terms (“the way I like it”, “shoes are right”). There is no such thing as a good looking article of clothing. To each his own. When we look for something to wear, we don’t have to pick our favourite or best clothes. We pick what feels right, or what we think is right (or appropriate). We pick what makes us most comfortable mentally.
If I was going for an interview, the clothes I pick may be physically uncomfortable (e.g. long-sleeved shirt and tie), but mentally I know it’s appropriate, and therefore I feel comfortable mentally. If I were to wear shorts and a singlet, I might feel comfortable physically, but mentally uncomfortable — actually, it won’t only be me, the interviewers will probably feel embarrassed for me too! As a rule, we wear things that don’t upset our mentality.
Gandhi and His Loincloth
Then there are the exploiters of this rule. Gandhi wore a loincloth to provoke response from people. To make people jump out of their comfort zone. He needed to spark controversy as the people of India were apathetic to his cause. He wanted to free India, but India didn’t want to be freed, they had gotten comfortable… his clothes were out to make a statement and provoke response.
Dressing affects our thinking
Our physiology is intimately connected to our emotions. By forcing a huge grin, and keeping it there for a while, one can actually break out of any other emotional state (including sadness and depression), even if it’s only for a while.
Remember though, that dressing appropriately is very event-specific. Do your research on the internet, and get tips on how to dress your best, for the specific occasion. Even Gandhi’s extreme dress down was deliberated over, and was picked because it suited his purpose.
Below area couple of useful links on dressing I used when choosing clothes, and how to carry them off, for my graduation.