Rightly or wrongly, humans make judgements about others based on their appearance. So, if you’re out to impress someone this Valentine’s Day, whether in person or on a virtual date, you’ll need to be looking your best. But what does that entail? Is it your clothes or your hair that you should be focusing on? In this article, we’ll take a look at both and discover what they reveal about you.
The importance of appearance
Many of the judgements that we make about others are deeply ingrained and almost entirely subconscious. But we also think consciously about appearance. A recent survey by All Things Hair, for example, found that 85.4% of women expect their date to look like they’ve put effort into their appearance.
In terms of hair, that provides plenty of scope. We can colour, trim and style to dramatically alter our appearance and, as such, the judgements that others make about us. Various studies have shown that your hair colour, in particular, impacts how people perceive you. A 2012 study by researchers Viren Swami and Seishin Barrett, for example, found that men consider blonde women to be more approachable. However, separate studies discovered that women with blonde hair are also considered to be more needy and more aggressive than those with other hair colours.
As a quick aside, did you know that blondes also get paid more than non-blondes? A Queensland University of Technology study of 13,000 women from that blondes earn more than 7% more than other, non-blonde female employees. Just something to bear in mind if you’re considering a change of hair colour!
Additional studies have revealed all manner of things about the associations and judgements that we make based on hair colour. Redheads, for example, are considered to be temperamental, while brunettes are thought to be intelligent and capable.
Who will judge you based on your looks?
How many people do you imagine will make judgements about you based on how you look? According to Allure’s national judgement survey, 64% of people reported that how attractive somebody tends to be the first thing they notice about a person. Half of those surveyed also said they believe that appearance either defines us significantly or defines us completely.
That certainly explains why such a big proportion of people get their hair done before going on a date. 42% of people get a hair treatment or haircut before a first date.
Clearly, if you want to make the best possible impression, it’s time to focus on taming your tresses. Thankfully, with so many great products on the market, you don’t have to spend a fortune to achieve the look you want. In fact, most people spend under $40 on their haircare prior to a date, with 46.97% confirming that this would be their maximum budget.
However, more than four in ten people (40.61%, to be precise) are happy to spend a bit more, setting their pre-date haircare budget at between $50 and $100.
Of course, attractiveness isn’t judged by hair alone. Even the face of your shape is enough to cause people to make assumptions about you. Do you have a baby-face? A turned up nose? A strong jaw? All of these are sufficient to ‘tell’ those looking at you about your personality, regardless of whether or not their subconscious assumptions are actually true.
If you have a baby-face, for example, research has shown that people will see you as warm, honest, kind, naïve and likeable. Baby-faced women are considered to be the most attractive in cultures across the world, according to a University of Chicago study.
However, the American Psychological Association has shown that baby-faced boys are more likely to be delinquent than their mature-faced peers – and to commit a greater number of crimes. This highlights how false our impressions can be when based on appearance alone. Yet we continue to make these subconscious snap judgements.
While you can’t do as much to change your facial features as you can your hair, you can certainly use the latter to alter the former. If you have a strong forehead, for example, a fringe can work wonders. If you have an angular face, soft curls and a peep-through fringe can do much to soften your overall look. If you have a more rounded face, short, shaggy layers and waves are ideal.
What your clothes say about you
People also make judgements based on the way you dress. Clothes that could be deemed ‘revealing’ are the obvious example here. But it turns out that clothes-based judgements actually run a great deal deeper. An interesting study from New York University and Princeton University, published in 2023, found that people dressed in expensive clothes were judged to be more competent than those in cheap clothes. This was despite study participants being asked to ignore what the people they were being shown pictures of were wearing. Even with that specific request, those taking part in the study were making subconscious judgements about people’s competence based on the cost of what they were wearing.
So… what should you be focusing on?
With Valentine’s Day approaching, if you want to make the best possible impression on your date, there are a few quick wins you can crack on with.
Start with your hair. Do you need a quick trim and a decent blow-dry or is it time for a more fundamental restyle? Think about what you want your hair to say about you and then make it so. It’s also worth considering how your style works with the shape of your face and whether you can rework your hairdo in order to let your natural features shine.
In terms of clothes, again it’s a question of thinking about what impression you want to convey. Your date is going to be making judgements based on what you are wearing, so what do you want them to conclude? Think about the whole picture that you are delivering and you’ll be all set to subconsciously tell your date precisely what you want them to hear!