Shoes, suits , dresses and wristbands, we care a lot about how we are perceived and our clothing is an indication. Clothing companies understand the importance you place on clothing and identity, which is how they get you to shop in their stores. This is not a call to end clothing shopping or force you to buy clothes at Goodwill. However, unless you understand the game that is afoot, you’ll always buy and never be satisfied.
We Spend a Lot on Clothes
Our spending on clothing in America is nothing to shrug at. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we spend $1,801 or $150/month on our apparel. Compared to average spending, clothing makes up roughly 3.6% of our budget. For comparison sake, we spend more on clothes than the average American donates to charity.
It’s All About the Story When We Shop
Our preferences in where and what we buy tends to come down to branding by clothing manufactures. What is branding? It’s a collection of feelings and images that we associate with a brand or company. A simple way of thinking about brands is that it is a story we associate with certain products.
Have you ever had to pick out a name for a baby? If I had to bet on the most common response for eliminating a potential name it would be because the objecting party knew someone with the name that they didn’t like. In essence this is how branding works. We attach our emotions onto a story, good or bad, and that story shapes our perceptions.
It’s a little strange when you really think about it. Does a name have any predictive value on how someone is going to act? However, it’s a powerful factor in naming babies and no less powerful in inspiring your clothing purchases.
What’s the Point?
Having now talked more about clothes in one post than I have in my entire life, I’ve come to the one piece of wisdom I have to impart on clothing.
Branding isn’t just something between clothing retailers and us. Clothing can be an investment in your own personality brand (confession: I’m far, far underinvested in my appearance). People often try and fit you into a story when they see your appearance and your clothing. Regardless of whether you think this is right or wrong, it’s been a part of society since people started dying clothes. Clothing can be an investment, and it is important to note that not all clothing purchases are smart investments.
Our stories, or brands, are formed from many of our senses and experiences. It’s not just whether we admire the look of an article of clothing, but our shopping experience impacts our judgment. For example, are beautiful looking people staffing the counters? Does the store smell unique because they’ve sprayed the floor with perfume and cologne? None of these things benefit you, they are just marketing techniques that try and influence how you perceive a clothing line’s story.
Before you fork over $80 for a t-shirt, it’s important to ask: is the money really worth it, or are you just paying a very high price because the retailer sprays the carpet with cologne and perfume? Are you paying because some gorgeous employee looks good in the t-shirt? None of these things help you and your image, but they do influence you into buying.