What are your clothes saying about you?
Every item of clothing you wear has something to say. It speaks to you, your idea of yourself and to other people around you. The technical term for this is ‘enclothed cognition’, but few people know the term and even fewer identify with it, so we’ll stick with the talking clothes if that’s OK with you?
Humans are social creatures, it’s how we have survived. We have implicit trust in our senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, taste. We’ve refined these over 1000’s of years and they serve us very well.
Seeing is believing
We make huge judgements purely upon what we see or have seen. Forget the narrative and all the other influences, we use them to supplement what we see. This is why what your clothes are saying is so important.
That visual outbound message is how we connect with people, the things that help us to find and connect with other people in all aspects of life and form social friendships and relationships.
Two second rule
It probably isn’t as long as that TBH, but let’s be generous. Evolution has created a highly sophisticated creature that micro processes and responds in nano seconds, backed up with an almost infinite ability to adapt.
At the heart of this is a fantastic human trait, we look for elements of ourselves and our believed selves (or inner self) within other people. That’s how we select who we’re going to talk to first, because we can see common ground. We are naturally predisposed to connect with other people because we’re social creatures, it’s through our social channels that we establish trust and that’s the most powerful asset anyone can ever possess.
This is significant, it’s also very personal, everyone will be different, but we all follow the same pattern when we enter a room of strangers. When you look around, you don’t know who the other people are, whether they are or aren’t your kind of people - sharing similar values and outlooks. So where do you start? With what you can see – clothes, faces (in particular smiles) and body language. It’s a kind of inbuilt compass that’s so good we’re often not conscious of it even being there. This unconscious bias exists for everyone, and for everyone it will be driven by different life experiences and expectations.
So how does this Trust develop?
Where does it come from?
How will it grow?
Above all, what is the thing, the magical key that will open the doors and allow you to connect with other people?
It’s a fact that first impressions count, especially when meeting someone ‘new’, we can be pretty confident that there will be some of ‘my kind of people’ everywhere but how do we recognise them? And immediately we’re back to evolution and our reliance on visual messages – remember don’t eat the red berries.
How you look, what you are wearing and your overall appearance speaks volumes to everyone who sees you. Your dress code creates images in the minds of those who are observing you. They’ll make assumptions about who you are, your interests, ambitions and much, much more based on nothing more than how you look.
No right or wrong
Is this right? Is this wrong? Neither or both, it really doesn’t matter because it’s innate and we cannot stop ourselves. It’s hard wired, a learned reaction passed down from generation to generation, it’s what has enabled us to survive, to be here today, so there’s an immense trust that we all place in visual labels.
You’re never going to please all of the people all of the time, and that’s a good thing, we all have different experiences, motivations and connections. The clothing choices we make won’t connect with everyone, but they will have a profound impact on the people that you do connect with and the conversations that you have together.
I think we are agreed that clothes have a voice. They play roles way beyond the visual and influence our reactions and the interaction and reactions of other people around us.
Being pro-active not reactive
We have been asked about this many, many times. There’s more detail in our ‘We’re all suffering from enclothed cognition’ blog post here. Roughly 18 months ago we had one of these conversations with a group of people who are researching the earth’s environment at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). We shared our insights into this complex visual world and explored what it meant to people.
We had a really vibrant conversation on Zoom - yes you read that right, we were just into lockdown and hadn’t yet hit Zoomed Out status yet.
There were nearly 50 people on the call and lots of dialogue between us about the way clothes and colours made us feel and interact. This was a conversation that connected with everyone, regardless of age or gender, nobody escapes the visual messaging that comes from clothing.
The Innovation team at BAS contacted us shortly after our meeting with a challenge, could we develop a shirt that would convey the current climate research in a way that would truly engage people, start conversations and start people thinking anew about what humanity should do about climate change?
We love a challenge, it’s a big part of the DressCode ethos to explore and break new ground. We’re also passionate about our planet and the things that we can all do to reduce our demands on its precious resources.
800,000 years of data, 1 clear message
This is at the heart of our Climate Code project, developing a design that would be attractive and engaging when worn, without overtly posturing or pointing the finger. We explored lots of data and some truly beautiful visualisations before agreeing that less is more. Keeping things simple increases the opportunities to connect with other people, in this case Professor Ed Hawkins from Reading University and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, who had also created a strong visual narrative - the warming stripes - that are understandable as both a piece of design and data (ch)art.
The final result has come from team work, collective thinking, discussion and the recognition of personal skill sets. It’s a true collective, there are many people involved – from BAS we have the Innovation team, climate scientists and data interpretation and visualisation experts. Within DressCode we have pattern designers, textile designers, tailors, printers, weavers and packers. All of whom came together to develop this solution, creating a shirt that has something to say to everyone.
If you'd like to know more about this project, follow our social feeds or drop us a line here.
The Climate Code shirts are available to pre-order NOW!