Clothes are often seen as frivolous, trivial and inconsequential, particularly where men are concerned. There is very little research on the impact of clothing on men’s body image. Most psychological research on body image focuses on women because it is assumed that they face greater pressures than men to be a particular size and shape.
It is often assumed that men dress for fit and comfort rather than style; that women dress and buy clothes for men; that men who dress up are peculiar (one way or another); that men do not notice clothes; and that most men don’t buy into the endless pursuit of seasonal fads.
However, over the last 15 years, men have come under increasing pressure to conform to the cultural ideal of a lean, well-toned, muscular build, which is reflected in cultural representations. Research by UK suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and Instagram found 48% of men aged 16-40 had struggled because of how they feel about their body. Of 2,000 males asked, 58% said the pandemic had affected how they feel about their body in a negative way. Only 26% said they were happy with how they look. And 21% said they don't feel comfortable talking to anyone about it.
An Irish survey conducted in 2017 found that 52% of young males see body image as a source of stress. (https://www.bodywhysbodyimage.ie/resources/3research-on-body-image-in-ireland-and-internationally, n.d.)
With Men’s Mental Health being a focus during the month of June, I recently asked a selection of my male clients to comment on the impact their style consultation has had on their body image and confidence – if any. Is there a link between what they discover in their style consultation with an improved body image?
Here’s what I discovered with my small analysis sample.
Men Value Practicality
The convenience of shopping quickly, being deliberate with choices and understanding the importance of dressing appropriately makes life easier for all those questioned.
· provides a solid basis for making decisions
· allows more economical and more effective shopping
· simplifies packing and saves time every morning
Men are happier to invest in better quality with the knowledge that they are buying the right clothes for them.
Confidence and Well-Being
All those questioned understand the importance of their appearance, not only to their own self-esteem but to send subtle messages of authority and significance. “When you are confident in what you are wearing that provides a lot of energy and creates a tremendous sense of well-being.”
The added confidence of knowing that they look well increased their overall sense of well-being. “Before my consultation I was ‘fairly content’ with my appearance. Now I am much more confident and people compliment me all the time. My confidence has never been higher.” There is reassurance that they are putting their best foot forward and that when they look good they feel good.
Most of my male clients don’t have serious body image issues. However, when specifically asked, a few mentioned that they didn’t like how they looked when younger or when they compared themselves to their peers. The style consultations changed their perceptions of themselves and for a few totally bolstered their body image. The ease with which they can dress in a style appropriate to their own personality both casually and professionally, offers an enormous boost to self-esteem and self-worth. “My consultation had a huge impact on my confidence in both personal, and professional settings. With my peers I felt like I was finally able to put together a coherent and stylish outfit that suited me and my personality. In professional settings I now see that dressing well can provide a boost to my confidence, particularly when dealing with more senior colleagues and clients.”
Male style used to be easy. The uniform was a suit and tie – and for less formal occasions you ditched the tie. Nowadays, it’s become more complicated. The suit and tie uniform has disappeared and ‘smart-casual’ is the dress code. Once men understand the colours and styles which suit them, navigating that becomes much easier. They will have a guaranteed replicable formula for looking good and feeling good.
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