The Science of Dressing Well: First Impressions

Today begins a three-part series on the “science” of dressing well. What does research tell us about the relationship between clothing and well-being? Today’s topic is the speed of first impressions – and how custom clothing enters in to the equation.

What is the speed of first impressions?

Conventional wisdom used to say a first impression – the involuntary judgment someone makes upon first encountering you – takes about seven seconds. More recent studies, however, explore “thin slicing,” which is intuitive judgment of “competence, confidence, and likability” that takes less than a second. Within this snapshot, we assume one another’s power status and trustworthiness. Researchers think this is an evolutionary mechanism that helps us separate friend from foe. Whether on a first date or in a high-stakes business transaction, we would be irresponsible not to plan for a great first impression. For better or worse, we do judge books by their covers and people by how they present themselves. So the speed of first impressions is quite fast.

Granted, clothing is not the primary driver. Facial expression and body language are most important, so be ready to smile, make eye contact, and project healthy confidence. But clothing is also a major factor. Custom-fitted clothing, in particular, communicates attention to detail and personal competence. While the person you’re meeting may not think consciously about these things, his or her “thin-slicing” of you will take note of proportion, symmetry, and color palette. Shirt too baggy? Pants too long? Seams fraying or collar curling? You run the risk of looking sloppy, if not immature or unprepared for the task at hand. Instead, wear high-quality clothing that fits, creates clean lines, and coordinates well. The upfront investment in a handful of versatile pieces will pay major dividends in your social and business life.

Ready to nail your first impressions?

As a custom clothier, it’s my job to make this easy for you. I can help you set up a capsule wardrobe of custom-fit clothing that will stand the test of time and serve you well for hundreds of first impressions to come. Please let me know if I can be of service with a free fitting and consultation.