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Stereotypes of Physical Appearance Essay


The aim of this research is to find out if there are stereotypes of physical appearance especially in dressing and to find out what these stereotypes are. In psychology and sociology researches, different types of stereotyping people are found. However, these stereotypes generally depend on race, sex and ethnicity. In this study, existence of stereotyping people according to clothing styles is tried to be proved.

Before this study, a thesis called “Clothing Motives” was done by Ilhan Candas in 1985. In that study, Ilhan Candas studied the motives behind people’s selection of different types of clothes. He had a questionnaire which he applied to nearly a hundred people. He used the figures of people which have small differences. He tried to find out the effects of these small differences on people.

However, in the present study different methods are used and it is about the stereotypes of dressing not the motives of clothes. Also in this study the researchers do not study small differences but they focus on different styles of clothes and the prejudices of people toward these different styles.


The hypothesis of the study is that people have some common stereotypes about the way people dress. To prove this claim, two methods are used. These methods are questionnaire and interview.

Questionnaire: (Appendix 1)

Subjects: 25 people who are the students of Bogazici University from different classes. (13 men, 12 women) Preparation: It is prepared according to data that is collected, especially from a thesis that is done by Ilhan Candas in 1985. It is generally adapted from the questionnaire that Ilhan Candas prepared for his research. Content: It contains twenty five questions whose answers were “Yes”, “I have no idea” or “No”. Its questions are about the stereotypes about people’s style of dress.


Subjects: 10 people who are the students of Bogazici University from different classes. (5 men, 5 women) Pictures: For the interview 6 photos are selected. Some are taken by the researchers and some are found from the internet resources. There are three girls and three boys who are dressed in three different styles (Formally, sporty and showy). (Appendix 2) Application: Researchers show each photo to the subjects and ask questions about the life-styles, personalities and socioeconomic status of these people. Then for each photo, the answers are noted and analyzed.

The questionnaire results are treated in different categories such as personality, sex, life-styles and fashion. First of all, 100% of subjects think that the way people dress can tell us a lot of things about them (Q1). Also generally people think that people have the tendency to conform to the majority (Q12, 68% yes, 16% no idea, 16% no) and want to look as much like everybody else as possible (Q2, 40% yes, 28% no idea, 32% no).

In addition, the subjects think that males have less interest in clothing and they care less for their physical appearance (Q7, 44% yes, 16% no idea, 40% no) and they refer the necktie as a sign of discipline, responsibility and traditionalism (Q3, 60% yes, 24% no idea, 16% no).

On the other hand, the subjects prove that females spend more time for dressing and hair care (Q6, 88% yes, 8% no idea, 4% no) and the people who use accessories are showy (Q4, 40% yes, 24% no idea, 36% no). Also they think that “Modern independent female” tries to create a “fashionable, new, beautiful, exclusive, independent” self and social image (Q11, 76% yes, 8% no idea, 16% no).

Furthermore, people want to use their clothes in different areas and for different purposes. One of these purposes is emphasizing their beauty and hiding physical defects (Q9, 76% yes, 16% no idea, 8% no). It is important for people to hide both personality and physical defects by clothing (Q16, 48% yes, 12% no idea, 40% no). According to the questionnaire, other functions of clothes are impressing others (Q10, 88% yes, 8% no idea, 4% no), creating respect (Q19, 52% yes, 20% no idea, 28% no) and of course reflecting personality (Q22, 52% yes, 16% no idea, 32% no). In the same way, it is thought that people try to avoid dressing in a way respected people dislike (Q15, 56% yes, 20% no idea, 24% no).

In addition, according to the subjects of the study, clothes can be used for several and contradictory purposes (Q17, 92% yes, 8% no idea) and dressing should depend on the peculiarities and necessities of the place (Q25, 64% yes, 28% no idea, 8% no). Also people give importance to aesthetic beauty in clothing (Q20, 68% yes, 20% no idea, 12% no).

The next thing that people are careful in clothing is that when people go to a place important for them, they should make sure that their appearance is immaculate (Q14, 80% yes, 12% no idea, 8% no) and they should consider comfort of their outfit (Q21, 72% yes, 12% no idea, 16% no). Certainly the last thing people consider is fashion. Especially females give importance to fashion. People think that a fashionable life-style enables females to develop an independent, up-to-date, overall beautiful personality image (Q5, 52% yes, 20% no idea, 28% no) and a relaxed, tolerant, prestigious personality image (Q8, 56% yes, 24% no idea, 20% no).

On the other hand, conforming to fashion is not limited with the females. If thought generally, people agree with that clothes are identified with some life-styles (Q18, 92% yes, 4% no idea, 4% no) and a part of good living is dressing-well (Q23, 44% yes, 24% no idea, 32% no). However, it is not thought that following the fashion is the sign of belonging to high income groups (Q13, 24% yes, 24% no idea, 52% no). It may be because of the opportunity to be able to find a product in very different prices from expensive to cheap.

In conclusion, people really have preferences in clothing and they are careful in different subjects such as fashion or hiding physical defects while choosing dresses. In addition, they really have some common stereotypes in the way they regard the way that other people dress. However, they think that there should be no rule in clothing (Q24, 40% yes, 24% no idea, 36% no). Results of the interview:

For the interview, 6 photos are used. These are sportive girl and boy, formal girl and boy, showy girl and boy. Questions about the life-styles, personalities and socioeconomic status of these people are asked to the subjects.

1. Sportive Girl (Picture 1): The findings show that the sportive girl in picture 1 is perceived as an 18-25 old, single, university student. Generally people identified the girl as a member of a middle or a high income group. It seems that posture of the girl also gives different messages to people such as calmness, dignity, soberness and coolness. Furthermore people pointed out that the girl does not follow fashion because of the way she dressed in a relaxed way. Also people generally thought that the girl lives with her family or in the dorm.

2. Sportive Boy (Picture 2): Sportive boy in picture2 is thought to be aged between 20 25 by the subjects. As people said about the sportive girl in picture 1, people generally described the boy as a university student. This person is generally perceived as a member of a high income group. Due to the clothes in fashion and brand named accessories on the boy in picture, people identified the person as a “clubber” who likes “the night life”, pubs and bars. Also from the disposition of the man, he was depicted as a creative job holder such as a musician, advertiser or a sportsman. Also people claimed that he is single and lives with his friends not with his family

Formal Girl (Picture 3): People generally identified the woman in picture 3 aged between 25 30. She is perceived as a bank official, a lawyer or a manager in a company. Most of the subjects described the woman as self-confident, successful, innovative and trustful. She was thought as a member of a high income group who has good relationships with the people around her.

Formal Boy (Picture 4): People generally thought that the man in picture4 is aged between 25 32. %50 of the subjects claimed that he is single and rest of them said he is married. It is generally perceived that he is a businessman who is the member of a high income group. Most of the subjects identified the man as serious, disciplined and choosy. Also people found him metro sexual who cares for himself and his appearance and who has good relationship with other people.

Showy Girl (Picture 5): The girl in picture 5 is generally thought to be aged between 18 25. People generally depicted her as a fashion model or a singer. Most of the subjects said that she is very energetic, self-confident but prodigal who does not know how to save money and she was found as fond of boys. Also she was perceived as a member of a low or a middle income group who wants to show off to people and who wants to seem different from whom she really is.

6. Showy Boy (Picture 6): He was generally thought to be aged between 25 30. Most of the subjects said that he was a famous actor, composer or a singer. All of the subjects agreed that he is rich and member of a high income group. Also all of the subjects share the idea that he is a car or motor sports fanatic. In addition, generally people said that he follows the fashion and likes flirting with girls and due to his posture he is perceived as selfish and prig by the subjects.


In this study, it is aimed to find out that there are certain stereotypes relating to physical appearance especially in clothing. All the subjects in the experiment have made nearly the same comments about the people in the pictures. For example, they all identified the formal boy (picture 4) as a serious, disciplined and choosy businessman or they identified the showy girl (picture 5) as an 18-25 year old fashion model or a singer. Even though, some people have made eccentric comments such as their horoscopes, eye color or hair color of the subjects in the pictures. This shows that all the clothes they wear are perceived nearly same by the subjects.

Furthermore, the questionnaire results also supported the hypothesis. Especially in question 1 which is that the way people dress can tell us a lot of things about them, all the subjects shared the same idea and agreed with the claim. In addition, in the questions 6, 10, 17 and 18 more than 90% of the subjects answered them as “yes”. On the other hand, for question 13 which is following the fashion is the sign of belonging to high-income groups, there is high rate for the answer “no”. As it is mentioned before the questionnaire results proved the idea that there are definite stereotypes of clothes.

To sum up, both the questionnaire results and interview results supported the hypothesis of the research. The research would lead people to conduct more studies about the stereotypes of accessories, beard, and moustache or hairstyle in the future.

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