Looking for simple ways to improve your profiling skills? Clothing is an easy read when it comes to predicting an individual’s behavioral characteristics. And, some of our quick tips may surprise you.

Lucky for you, it’s a fashion show out there, and everyone is on display. Whether people know it or not, clothes really do make the man (or woman).  The way we dress has a big impact on how people perceive us. The scientific truth, however, is that the style choices we make actually do come from our personality archetypes.

While designers may cringe at the outfits they see, behavioral scientists revel in how clothing provides a place to begin piecing together the characteristics of an individual. Even those who think they are making no statement when they dress cannot help but express a piece of themselves in everything they wear.

Interested in sleuthing what a person’s clothing says about them? Here are three easy clues to get you started:

Clue 1: Formality

People tend to differ greatly along a dimension of casual to formal dress. While various situations call for different degrees of formality, some individuals will present themselves in a manner that is outside the norm, just too formal or too casual.  Judging style of dress on a scale of how it adheres to norms for that situation can provide a wealth of personality type clues.

Formal Dressers – May be goal-oriented, overachievers, decisive, persistent, respect for rules, less playful, money and status-oriented, eschew change and adventure, conformists, dependable.

For those that tend to dress toward the formal side, there is a higher likelihood that they are goal-directed and seek to exceed expectations and be recognized for doing so. Similarly, they expect the same effort from others. Formal individuals also tend to be more decisive than their casual counterparts, and can persist in the face of challenges. Another key characteristic is their respect for rules and regulations, and keeping their obligations toward others.  Unfortunately, this allegiance to rules may be at the expense of fun and playfulness, and they may be more likely to place a higher importance on money and status.  They may tend to avoid change, new experiences, and adventure, preferring to stick with what they know, preferring to conform to habits and customary practices. Conversely, individuals who tend to be more casual may be more likely to waver in their long-term goals, and are more open to new experiences and breaks in routine.

Clue 2: Flirtatiousness

You know those girls (and guys!), and maybe you’re one of them. They’re flirtatious, they’re provocative, they’re seductive . . . and then there’s everyone else. That much you know, but what else might we be able to deduce from these vivacious vixens.

Flirtatious Dressers – May require more stimulation, adventure seekers, like to be entertained, easily bored, risk-takers, charismatic, high opinion of themselves, opinionated, game-players, opportunistic, manipulative, dishonest, liberal, open-minded.

People who like to express a flirtatious vibe, whether through their clothing or behavior, may be generally more comfortable with and may seek out stimulation, activity and adventure to keep entertained and alert. Without an adequate source of stimulation, they are quick to experience boredom.  They may be thrill-seekers, willing to take risks and are up to trying daring activities. These individuals are also more likely to be characterized as charismatic, and view themselves as attractive and clever. They can be assertive in expressing their views, but may be less honest and forthcoming. They are more willing to present themselves to others inaccurately and perform or play “games” if it suits their needs. As a result, these individuals may act in opportunistic ways and seek to control or influence others in a way that involves lying, excessive compliments, or other forms of manipulation. Individuals in this profile often do not feel much guilt over this behavior, as they view it as simply a part of an emotionally intelligent skill. They are more open-minded when it comes to absolutes of correct behavior and treatment of others, and are more apt to help than punish offenders. These individuals are less likely to have strict, dogmatic religious or political beliefs, preferring to support cultural and community events. They are less likely to have a strict moral code, and are more likely to rebel form the norm or depart from their internal code. They are more accepting of others values and behaviors, often shirking traditions to update their values and beliefs as they change over time.

Clue 3: Originality

You know it when you see it. Whether you like it or hate it, when someone you know or see wears something original and unique it makes an impression on you. If this decision to wear something original is more than a one-time event, there may be some characteristics you can ascertain.

Unique Dressers – Creative, enjoy aesthetic arts, philosophical, liberal, playful, diverse interests, open-minded, innovative.

In particular, originality in dress is a special indicator of someone high in creativity.  They may be interested in the arts more generally and find beauty in the environment around them. They may gravitate toward arts, music, nature, poetry, dance or other visual or sensory forms of art, and can be moved emotionally by creativity in the world around them. In addition, intellectual problems of a philosophical nature may interest them as well. These individuals are less likely to describe themselves as conservative, and are more likely to enjoy playful humor and role playing.  They tend to have a wider range of interests and are less conservative in their beliefs, making them more open to the ideas and thoughts of others. They may also have a great imagination, and a better ability to innovate and express originality.


Now, before you jump to conclusions about anyone and everyone, let’s review some rules.

– Rule number 1: If an individual had no control over their choice of clothing, a proper analysis based on clothing alone is likely impossible.

– Rule number 2: The dimensions of formality, flirtatiousness, and originality should be perceived within the context, cultural and situational, in which they are being evaluated. Formal in one situation may be quite casual in another.

– Rule number 3: It is essential that the individual being profiled knows they are dressing differently from the norm.  The active choice to dress differently is what is essential to the interpretation.

Clothing is a great starting point for profiling because humans literally wear their style on their sleeves. Remember to conduct additional observation as necessary to confirm your hypotheses.

Adam Troy, Ph.D.
Behavioral Research Group, LLC

Behavioral Research Group, LLC
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Behavioral Research Group, LLC

Dr. Adam Troy is president of the Behavioral Research Group, LLC, which specializes in helping individuals and businesses better understand customers, groups, peers, and organizations by applying unique data-driven models to predict and inform. The Behavioral Research Group is a single source solution for behavioral market analysis, individual or group profiling, survey and questionnaire development, and statistical modeling oriented toward a better understanding of behavior.
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