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  • Writer's picturePBMIF

FASHION CONFORMITY

Find PBMIF on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube for useful tips and facts in consumer and fashion psychology.


You may find yourself one day on Steal Her Style looking for a model’s hair scrunchie, or some random fan account for a K-pop idol’s socks. Whether you want to admit it… or not… “Hey Google, where can I find j-hope’s socks?” So, the question I’m here to answer today is, why do we dress like other people?






We just like what they're wearing


The simplest answer is that we just like an item of clothing that someone just happens to be wearing. If we happen to like something that someone else is wearing, we’d like to wear it too, right? It could be a coincidence that we’re dressing like others.


Imitation baby


Malik and Zaheer (2013) conducted a study to find out the reasons behind fashion imitation; why we copy the clothing of others in our society. The researchers interviewed 14 female participants aged between 18-50 years on what inspired their clothing style. Participants shared that sources of inspiration were friends, celebrities, magazines, and TV shows. No respondents admitted that they copied or tried to imitate the style of others. The research implies that copying or imitation was done by participants unknowingly. Although they do this, they try to keep their style unique at the same time by making small alterations. According to a few participants, if they like clothing worn by someone else, they’re likely to purchase it immediately. What is more, it was found that women, sometimes spent more on clothing to maintain their status in society and to receive praise at social gatherings.


Mimicry


When we dress like others, it could be due to the chameleon effect. According to Chartrand and Bargh (1999), the chameleon effect is a phenomenon where people unconsciously copy the behaviours, postures, mannerisms, facial expressions, and other behaviours of their interaction partners, so that they match people around them. Pretty simple right? We may start dressing like others in order to fit in. If we were to stand out amongst a crowd, we would feel like we don’t belong. Proximity is a large factor in mimicry, the more we see someone, the more we’re bound to pick up their behaviours and mannerisms. Mimicry is useful to us in a social perspective; it can strengthen rapport, liking, prosocial behaviour and empathy (Chartrand & Lakin, 2013). However, according to White and Argo (2011), mimicking can have a negative effect on consumer behaviour. If an individual sees someone close to them, such as a friend or sibling, show interest in a clothing item that they themselves really like or already own, it’s likely to become immediately unappealing to the individual, leaving them to find another interest. This is due to consumers’ wants and desires to appear and feel unique. This can explain why trends come and go.


Social learning theory


From a young age, we learn from observation and interaction with others. It’s trial and error learning where we sit back and watch what happens. If you see someone doing something silly and then they get told off, then obviously you’re not going to do something silly as well, are you? The same goes for our clothing choices. If you see someone wearing a clothing item and they get praised for it, and you would like to be praised too, social learning theory would suggest that you would wear that clothing item too to receive praise.






Appearance management, maybe?


According to Park and Chun (2020), Gen Z really like to watch fashion YouTubers to the point where they try to look and be like them. YouTube is a platform where you can choose whatever video you want to watch according to your taste. Today, YouTubers are always busy creating content so it’s likely you’ll see them in a video at least once a week, giving viewers enough time to get used to their mannerisms, habits, and behaviours. Park and Chun (2020) wanted to examine how YouTube influenced 15 women, aged 15-25, on their perception of appearance. Through interviews, the researchers found that participants not only want to look like their favourite fashion YouTubers, but to match their behaviours as well. YouTubers help them to manage their appearance. YouTubers come across as friendly, honest, attractive, and open to their viewers. Who wouldn’t want to be like someone that they admire?


 

Chartrand, T. L. & Bargh, J. A. (1999). The chameleon effect: The perception–behavior link and social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(6), 893-910. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.76.6.893

Chartrand, T. L. & Lakin, J. L. (2013). The antecedents and consequences of human behavioral mimicry. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 285-308.

Malik, R. K. & Zaheer, N. (2013). Imitative Behavior of Women in the Selection of Clothing. Journal of Basic and Applied Scientific Research, 3(5), 429-439.

Park, J. & Chun, J. (2020). How does watching YouTube fashion content impact perception of appearance: a phenomenological study of Korean women in Generation Z. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 7, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-020-00652-2

White, K. & Argo, J. J. (2011). When Imitation Doesn’t Flatter: The Role of Consumer Distinctiveness in Responses to Mimicry. Journal of Consumer Research, 38, 667-680. https://doi.org/10.1086/660187

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