Sep 29, 20203 min read

Invincible shoes and a kickass suit: how our purchases reflect our identity.

Kate Nightingale

by Kate Nightingale

Clothes make a man, goes the old saying. The more scientists are studying our relationships with what we buy, the more we all realise how truly important it is to really consider what you buy.

Fashion, beauty, homeware, furniture, even food and drink are tied to our identity. People use these purchases to express and redefine themselves. How you feel about yourself wearing this new dress you bought, or going into that restaurant a friend told you about, or booking that much needed yoga retreat is priceless. Our purchases often have so little to do with the actual product or service and everything to do with what impact they have on our lives.

The goal of shopping is often so much bigger than a single product. Invincible shoes, powerful jacket, intimate sofa, confidence-boosting lipstick… It is about the emotional, psychological and social benefits that the product/service or the act of buying can bring us.

But how does that work? How can we be sure that what we are thinking of buying will bring us these benefits?

Well, the human brain works on associations without even realising it, from colours, patterns, textures, shapes, people, and places.

When we are exposed to a particular colour, for example red, it affects how we feel or how we make decisions. The same principle works in first impressions of people. You know that instant feeling you get when you meet someone or walk into a place? It might be that you feel super comfortable and happy or that that person scares you or that shop makes you feel ‘off’ somehow. This is your brain telling you how to feel.

Individual Associations 

So what motivations that encourage us to shop? Well, the most powerful is the individual associations that influence how we feel or even how we think. We all have special meaning attached to various things we buy. I, for example, have these invincible heels. Whenever I need that extra boost. I also have a power red trousers suit that I love wearing when delivering my public speaking engagements. Yes, there is research which shows that people treat information presented by someone wearing red!

And, it’s not just about how clothes you feel but also how you think. Did you know that certain associations with fashion or accessories can, for example, impact on how attentive to detail and focused you are. I like wearing tighter clothing whenever I need to stay focused. However, looser pieces help me be more creative. Your furniture and home décor are really important too. Red walls have been shown to make people more attentive to detail, whereas blue shades more creative and relaxed. Crazy right?

The key to making sure therefore that what you buy enhances your wellbeing is to focus on what emotional, psychological and social benefits you want to really experience. Confidence boost? Feeling more powerful, less stressed, happier? Want to be more focused or organised?

Take some time to ask yourself the Rule of Three: Do I love it? Will I use it? Is it worth it?

When you drill down into those, you’ll find out what that piece you are buying makes you feel. If you already have something that will do the job, just use it rather than buying a new piece, especially that the more personal it is and the more positive memories you relate to it, the better it should work. The effect might be immediate but you should feel a bit better at least.