"Dress to impress" is something we've all heard before when applying to a job, starting a new school year, or going on a date. However, is there really a necessary reason to do that? Does wearing certain clothes make us more likable, or do they just present an image that is more likable? The things we wear say a lot about us. Our image is what we present to the world, it is how we try to conform to society's standards and fit in. That is why there are websites and magazines that spend their time judging what other people wear, since we ourselves judge what people wear.
Clothing has a way of leading to labels for people. We look at how someone is dressed and place them into various boxes that we think they fit into. If someone is wearing a suit, then they might be an executive, or they might be a man on the poorer side looking for a loan for their house. If a woman is in sweatpants, she might be poor and can only shop at Walmart, or she could be a lawyer on laundry day. Although clothing can be used to create labels, it is also our way of expressing ourselves. One can wear clothes supporting their favorite bands or sports teams to show what things they are into. People also wear clothes just because they feel like it compliments the way they look. Yet, people are also required to wear certain clothes because it is assumed that in those instances that is what is appropriate.
If someone is presenting to a group, they are usually told to dress professionally. Carpenters and lawyers do not dress the same. Society has perpetuated all these ideas as to how people should dress for their professions or financial statuses that we feel compelled to conform to them and further engrain them into our lives. Yet, why are suits and modest dresses what come to mind when we think of "professional." Is anything one wears for their profession not professional by definition? Then, there are certain situations that people associate with dressing a certain way that also causes problems with labeling based on clothes.
This is something I have personally dealt with at my college. My university is in a city associated with money and grandeur since it is full of guided age mansions and personal boats. However, as someone who grew up in that city, I can attest that it has fallen far from that image. It is actually one of the poorest cities in the state. Yet, since my university is a private school and most of the people who go here are fairly well off, they assume that that image still prevails. Thus, they go out and buy Vineyard Vines and Jack Wills' and other expensive name brands to wear while they are here. It causes people to look at those who do not have those things and label them as poorer than them, as someone who is definitely there on scholarship. I am one of those people, yet I am proud of my scholarship because it is an academic one. Yet, I am not as poor as they may think. I'm still middle class, but because they assume that people who do not have those things are poor, then I am labeled as poor.
Does changing what I am wearing change who I am under my clothes? No, for the most part it does not (there was one study about how people who wear knock-offs generally view the world more cynically, though). I may wear a button-down shirt and dress pants for a presentation, but that does not change the fact that I like hardcore rock music. We advise people to dress a certain way because it makes them fit into the stereotypes we have of what they should be. Essentially, we are stripping away their personality. Due to societal norms, we label people, yet clearly their clothes are not always an accurate depiction of who they are. Thus, as a society, we must learn to not judge people based on their clothes, because for the most part, clothes do not define us.