Fashion isn’t frivolous if you’re a practicing psychologist on the topic. Dr. Karen Pine, who teaches developmental psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK and is a professor in the department of the fashion at Istanbul Bilgi University in Turkey, spends her days linking the clothes we wear and their psychological motivations and effects. And the association between the two isn’t new. Fashion has always been considered a form of non-verbal communication, like facial expressions and body language.
Studies surrounding “embodied cognition” prove that something as simple as a white coat can alter our perceptions and how we feel and express ourselves. In a 2011 study by Adam D. Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, individuals wearing a doctor’s white coat felt more empowered than wearing a painter’s white coat. (Spoiler alert: It’s the same exact white coat.)
According to a recent profile on Pine, her findings within embodied cognition focus on blue jeans. We wear them because we’re sad due to the years and years of our attempt to find the perfect fitting pair:
Jeans don’t look great on everyone. They are often poorly cut and badly fitting. They can signal the wearer hasn’t bothered with their appearance. People who are depressed often lose interest in how they look and don’t wish to stand out, so the correlation between depression and wearing jeans is understandable. Most importantly, this research suggests it is possible to dress for happiness, but it might mean ditching the jeans.
While I completely agree that there are societal and psychological aspects behind our wardrobes, I may need to look further into Pine’s actual research materials on this sad-jeans conclusion. It’s almost as twisted as Jessica Lopez‘s analogy in Mean Girls:
And if she’s aligning the action of wearing jeans in order to blend in with everyone else, then is dressing normcore a sign of sadness as well? Moving along with the interview, Pine went on about the importance of fit and finding what suits your body shape, which made her sound more like Rachel Zoe than a credible psychologist:
Like [people] whose body shape thickens out around the middle but they still wear sweaters or tops that finish at the mid-line. I look at them and think, ‘Wear something longer, direct the eye to your best feature – your slim thighs, ankles or that bit where your body narrows – why on earth are your drawing attention to your bulging midriff?’
Ouch, Pine. That hurt. I’m going to go sulk in my jeans now. Or better yet, my sweatpants. Words can’t express the instant feeling of happiness when I slip into a pair of loose-fitting, elasticized cotton.