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What about a person’s clothing makes us swipe left… right? Wait, which one is it? Left? Getting to the point, does what we wear affect people’s impression of us? And how can we possibly boost our matches on online dating apps?

First impressions can be heavily influenced by the messages conveyed by clothing (Howlett et al., 2013). People use clothing to make inferences about happiness, intelligence, confidence, trustworthiness, and sexual interest (Rosenbusch et al., 2021).

The introduction of mobile dating apps in the 21st century has meant that with the flick of a thumb, finding potential partners has never been more convenient for us. We can decide in a split second whether we want to pursue a person or not based on their name, a profile description, and a finite number of pictures of the profile owner’s choice. Cues in both pictures and texts on online dating profiles can affect the impressions people form of the owner of the profile. A profile picture functions as the profile’s gatekeeper (van der Zanden et al., 2022).

A profile picture functions as the profile’s gatekeeper (van der Zanden et al., 2022).

Ward (2017) conducted interviews with men and women, aged 19-52 years, on their experiences of self-presentation practices, profile construction, and evaluating potential matches on Tinder. A majority of the participants used Tinder in order to boost their ego, find a partner, and simply for casual entertainment. When it came to impression construction, how people manage the impression they want to give, participants expressed that they cautiously considered how they could be seen by others because they did not want to be seen as something they were not. Participants constructed their profiles to avoid certain appearances such as appearing too sexual. According to one male participant he had experimented with his profile picture to see if a shirtless picture would garner more attention from women than a picture with a shirt on. Whether or not it worked for him was not mentioned unfortunately. One study has shown that sexualised profile owners are evaluated lower on social attractiveness, perceived to have an increased likelihood of experiencing cyber dating abuse, and perceived as less likely to seek long-term relationships (Yan et al., 2022). Overall, participants of Ward (2017) wanted to display their authentic self and chose pictures that they liked or their friends recommended.

Participants expressed that they cautiously considered how they could be seen by others because they did not want to be seen as something they were not.

When participants evaluated others’ Tinder profiles, they regarded appearance as being the most important factor in making the decision to swipe left or right (Ward, 2017). Selecting partners on Tinder is driven by physical attraction. Attraction is subjective. Remember that. Participants stated that they paid attention to superficial characteristics present in pictures, regarding it as not so different to real life. Superficial characteristics referring to age, height, assumed ethnicity, hair, etc. Besides appearance, many participants expressed specific things that they disliked seeing in pictures. This included men with fish, men with cars that aren’t theirs, men with alcohol, animals, pets, landscapes instead of a person, pouting, and more than one person in the photos where it’s hard to determine who the profile owner is.

Attraction is subjective. Remember that.

On to clothing specifically now, it has been found that people make rapid judgements of others based on their clothing alone (Howlett et al., 2013). Howlett and colleagues examined whether minor modifications to clothing style made a huge impact towards how we are perceived. Participants rated images of a man in two suits of different cuts (bespoke vs. ready to wear) on five dimensions (i.e., confidence, success, trustworthiness, salary, and flexibility). Both suits were formal, the same colour, and the same fabric. The model’s face was blurred so that facial features did not influence ratings. In the bespoke suit, the man was rated more positively on confidence, success, salary, and flexibility, but not for trustworthiness. Therefore, it is suggested that clothing that is well-fitted and well-tailored, can positively enhance one’s image. Wear clothes that fit you well in your profile pictures.

Studies have suggested in the past that wearing red can increase the attractiveness of women in person, but Hong and Kim (2022) were interested to find out whether this was true for digital photos. The results suggest that different shades of red may enhance female attractiveness to men on a digital photo. What is interesting is that both men and women wear more red clothing during a first date in comparison to non-date contexts (Kramer & Mulgrew, 2018). Wearing red or black during meeting someone for the first time implies that the wearer is seeking to increase their attractiveness.

One study has examined the perceptions of women on women in different coloured clothing (i.e., Sidhu et al., 2021). Sidhu et al. (2021) found that women reported higher body attractiveness and slimmer body size ratings for women in black and red clothing. Green and grey clothing however were associated with the lowest body attractiveness and overestimated body size judgements. Race also influenced body perception where 'African' avatars were rated as more attractive in white, blue and green than for 'Caucasian' avatars.

We even use shoes to infer others’ characteristics. Gilliath et al. (2012) asked a group of participants to take pictures of their most used shoes, and to self-report aspects of their personality and demographic factors. Another group of participants were then asked to look at the images of the shoes in order to make judgements about the owners. The shoe owners’ age, gender, and income could be accurately determined based on the images of their shoes.

What is the takeaway message from these studies? Well, the message is to wear what suits you. Try to wear well-fitting clothes, wear a smile, and have confidence in yourself if you want to appear attractive. Be your authentic self and the rest will fall into place.


Gillath, O., Bahns, A. J., Ge, F., & Crandall, C. S. (2012). Shoes as a source of first impressions. Journal of Research in Personality, 46(4), 423-430.

Hong, H. R. & Kim, Y. I. (2022). How different shades of red T-shirts enhance the perceived attractiveness of Asian women in digital photographs. Fashion & Textiles, 9(5).

Howlett, N., Pine, K.J., Orakçıoğlu, I., & Fletcher, B.C. (2013). The influence of clothing on first impressions: Rapid and positive responses to minor changes in male attire. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 17, 38-48.

Kramer, R. S. S. & Mulgrew, J. (2018). Displaying Red and Black on a First Date: A Field Study Using the “First Dates” Television Series. Evolutionary Psychology, 16(2), 1-7.

Rosenbusch, H., Aghaei, M., Evans, A. M., & Zeelenberg, M. (2021). Psychological trait inferences from women’s clothing: human and machine prediction. Journal of Computational Social Science, 4, 479–501

Sidhu, N., Qualter, C., Higgs, E., & Guo, K. (2021). What colour should I wear? How clothing colour affects women's judgement of other women's body attractiveness and body size. Acta Psychologica, 218, 1-8.

van der Zanden, T., Mos, M. B. J., Schouten, A. P., & Krahmer, E. J. (2022). What People Look at in Multimodal Online Dating Profiles: How Pictorial and Textual Cues Affect Impression Formation. Communication Research, 49(6), 863-890.

Ward, J. (2017). What are you doing on Tinder? Impression management on a matchmaking mobile app. Information, Communication & Society, 20(11), 1644-1659.

Yan, K., Terán, L., Gahler, H., Salmon, J., Dajches, L., & Stevens Aubrey, J. (2022). The costs of sexualization: Examining viewers’ perceptions of sexualized profile owners in online dating. Psychology of Popular Media.

2 commentaires

20 mai 2023

Awesome thank you - what was said in the end about authenticity was spot on. If you're being someone completely different before or when you get in a relationship (I call this your 'fake self')- you're gonna change instantly right? Or always live up to some expectations or what society says. Being yourself is key and if a man can't accept you for you really are then they aren't worth your time at all nada


24 avr. 2023

Love this. More please. 💞

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