The Psychology of Dress

The doctor is in... your closet!

What Men Wear, What It Means, What Men Want Women to Wear and Why

For Men Only

 

 

I spent this week in an alternative universe, the world of men. Everything is different there, simple, basic, blunt, and to-the-point. When you are hungry, you eat, you eat whatever it is that you are hungry for. Obsessing over the after-effects does not occur. When you feel like having sex, you find someone to have sex with. If you like her you date her, if you don't you move to the next one. Fearing that she may not call or may not like you is short-lived if occurring at all. When you have an issue with others you keep quiet and move on or you tell them off and move on. Smiling at someone you hate while gritting your teeth does not occur.

I have abandoned the men in my quest to understand the psychology of the wardrobe. When I was interviewed by Cosmo for the July men's issue, I decided that it was time to address them here. It was time for an exploration!

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Although all components of the male world fascinate me, my mission was very specific to examine the contents of their wardrobes. This seemingly easy task brought back memories of my days working at Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie and Fitch. Like an awkward middle school dance, girls stayed on this side and boys stayed on the other side. Crossing into the men's department felt unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

Using Wardrobe Analysis on females is an easy task for me, using it on men for this mission required a translator. "Take me to your leader" was in order, and with the help of John Royse, Penn State football player and former head groundskeeper of the Washington Nationals and Andrew Usmiani, author of an upcoming book From Keg Stands to Corporate Ladders, I was able to understand the Psychology of Men's Dress.

These men were chosen to address the complete wardrobe needs of all men. Mr. Royse gets his hands dirty for a living, you can't get any manlier than that folks. His wardrobe consists of casual styles that still must maintain his professionalism. Mr. Usmiani must keep his hands clean for a living. What woman does not love a man in a suit and tie? His wardrobe consists of formal styles that still must maintain currency and youth. These gentlemen were kind enough to answer some difficult questions about dress and emotions from the male perspective. Their answers may help you if you are a man who has given up on your look or a woman who is looking to attract a wonderful man. So, ladies put on your heels and gentlemen, burn the dad jeans, we are about to enter the world of the stylish man!

John Royse:
Do your emotions influence your fashion choices? How?

Yes, some days I want to look nice and impress people, and some days I want casual dress. Sometimes I am feeling bad, so I try to make myself feel good and dress up.

Does your wardrobe reflect who you are? How?
Yeah, I'd say I'm a preppy guy. My wardrobe starting changing in college and post-college. As I grew to understand myself more my wardrobe grew. In college, I wanted to look nice when going out to parties and for the girl. I also wanted to be what was cool, hip, trendy, and alternative. After college, I entered the professional world, so I wore golf shirts and nice pants. My clothing was more conservative. This more widely accepted clothing casts a bigger net for acceptance and networking.

What makes you pick what you wear?
Usually the weather, the event, and who I am going to be seeing. If I am going to work I wear something nice. If I am doing sod work, I wear something that could get dirty.

Do you have a fashion formula?
Yeah, belts should match your shoes and try to match your colors. I try to pick the undershirt that goes with shirt over top.

How do you stay with the trends?
I love people watching, so I like what catches my eye and what will look good on me. I then see what is selling in the stores and what the stores are putting out.

What are some trends you like now?
The military inspired epaulets on shirts.

Fashion advice for other men?
Keep a clean look. Have your hair trimmed. No hairs should be out of place. Even with a messy look you should keep a clean part, something still needs to be organized in a messy look.

Does emotion influence wardrobe with women more than men? Why?
Yes, because women are emotional.

What would you wear if you were a woman?
Powerful, good looking clothes. I would not mess around. White sequins, blue sequins, and black sequins. My emotion conveyed would be "I like to have a good time, party, let go, be flashy, and feel good about myself". I would also wear heels and slick pants. I would wear clothes that show I workout, take care of myself, and want show my legs off.

What do you think is the most attractive outfit a woman can wear? Why?
On the record or off the record? A white suit, black heels, and some hoop earrings. Show some curves.

What emotions are elicited in you?
I like her. Her outfit shows she is clean and nice.

What does it say about them?
She is a strong woman, and she is feminine.

Biggest fashion blunder?
White socks, not wearing the right pair of socks, mixing and matching patterns like plaids and stripes.

Emotional reasons for them?
When they wear bad socks they just don't care. When they wear crazy patterns they just don't know how shop for clothes. They don't know the basics. They are trying to go too much.

Andrew Usmiani:

Do your emotions influence your fashion choices? How?
Absolutely! Depends on when you shop and what emotional state you are in. Men do not shop impulsively. They shop when they need something. They also shop at different times in their life, such as when they are single and need to impress the ladies or married and their wife says it is time to get some new outfits. Where they are going also influences how they dress.

There are three groups of men. The first, a small population, are the men that are always impeccably dressed, always in style, and look great. An example is Clinton Kelly on What Not to Wear. The second group of men is those who never care what they wear and look sloppy. This small population wears overalls, and torn mesh shirts. The third group falls somewhere in the middle and makes the majority of the population. Their emotions play into their dress. At home they want comfort so they wear flip flops and at work they look nice.

When men go out they dress for women. When men go to work they dress for other men. Most women don't know the difference between a cheap suit and an expensive suit, or an off-the-rack suit or a designer suit. Women look you over and that's it. Men look at the tie, shoe, and watch. It is a Litmus test. When you dress for work you think, "I am going to work, getting the job done, and closing the deal".

Does your wardrobe reflect who you are? How?
Absolutely. If you open up the closet, the clothes tell you what the person does for a living, his hobbies, and whether or not he is a sports fan, if he is particular about how he looks, if his shoes are shined, and how many shoes he has.

Most men now have several pairs of shoes like women always have had. Using the term metrosexual was used as an insult, now it is not. Men have now several new suits and designers jeans in their closets. They care about how they look, how others perceive them, and keeping up with trends.

What makes you pick what you wear?
You have to look at how they buy first. Men don't buy on impulse and in excess like women. They don't have packed closets like women. Women buy to look great and find a bargain. Men shop because of need, and they wear what they buy. Once the item makes it into the closet they choose their outfits based on whether or not it looks good and if it is comfortable. They consider where they are going, what other people are wearing, and what they have in their closet that works.

Do you have a fashion formula?
I do. No great secret equation..it's modern conservative. The pieces last a year or two. I am a regular believer in cleaning out the closet. On a casual day I wear a clean pair of sneakers, jeans, and button down shirt. On a work day I always wear a suit. When I go out I wear a button down, slacks, and nice pair of shoes. Belt should match shoes, colors should coordinate, clothes should be pressed, and you should look clean. If you have a question about clothes ask someone who knows. My Grandma says "Always wear a clean pair of underwear in case you are in an accident".

How do you stay with the trends?
Don't follow them totally because they don't look good on everyone. They look good on a six foot skinny mannequin. When buying you should know your size, know what looks good on you. If people have complimented you in the past on an item take note. Wear what makes you feel confident. You have to be your own trendsetter within reason. You have a lot of options, know your spectrum, and what works for you.

What are some trends you like now?
I am very happy with the jean selection. Not a big fan of super relaxed jean with the big belt dragging around waist. It looks bad. I like the button down shirt but not with the big collar and chest hair hanging out.

Fashion advice for other men?
Don't look sloppy because you never know who you are going to meet that day.

Does emotion influence wardrobe with women more than men? Why?
Absolutely.You can always can see emotions in women by their dress. If they are depressed, they wear baggy, darker clothing. If they are happy, they dress well. If they feel bloated, they wear clothes that reflect that. What you wear does change the way a guy looks at a female. Women who always dress well come off with a stronger personality, more stable, and more attractive to a guy.

What would you wear if you were a woman?
Off record? Nothing! On the record, I would wear something that makes me sexy. I would dress sexy and feel sexy. Every woman should get up shower, put on some makeup, and dress her best. You never know when UPS guy will stop buy.

I would wear something classy, a little revealing, leaves something to the imagination, modern, clean, and shows the curves. I would wear a great skirt with heels or jeans and heels. Women must be able to walk in their heels. Accessories like jewelry are important. Wear some makeup. You nails should look good. Most guys look at the hand to see if the woman is engaged or married. Hands play a hand.

What do you think is the most attractive outfit a woman can wear?
A one piece form fitting dress with some cleavage. A cocktail dress in black.

It shows off the female form. Don't wear belts, baggy jackets, or anything that hides the form of the female

What emotions are elicited in you? Why?
First, the most natural would be to find the female attractive to. Men, until day they die, will look at women. That is the way men are. Men will always look at women. Second, the younger guy will try to get her number the older man will have a fond memory of someone he liked or knew triggered. Third, this encounter may lead to something more desirable.

What does it say about them?
She is confident, outgoing, looking for eye of audience and envy, and wants men to say she is hot. Confidence is very attractive. No one wants a depressed, quiet, and insecure person. A confident person is a happier person. Confidence shows a sense of accomplishment, fun, and leads you to want to know more about that woman.

Biggest fashion blunder?
If you've got ugly feet leave the flip-flops at home and invest in a good pair of shoes.

Emotional reasons for them?
They are probably ignorant and oblivious to it. The 18-40 range can get too comfortable with how they look. Some older men just don't care. Men look for love, take care of themselves, meet their wives, and let themselves go. For some people, it is who you are. You style stays with you throughout life.


Calling all ladies and gentlemen Dr. B wants to know what you think! Men, what do you like to wear and why? Women,  what do you like men to wear and why? Men, if you were a woman what would you wear? And what do you want women to wear and why?

 

Jennifer Baumgartner, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist who examines the underlying reasons for clients' style choices and creates a wardrobe to facilitate positive internal change.

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