Isn’t it funny how sometimes we judge a person by what they are wearing? We glance at the shoes, what name brands they wear, how they style it all together, etc. Usually we will look at what they wear and judge whether they are from around or visiting, whether they do dirty work or a good clean job, we try to distinguish what borough they are from, even what race they might be. The other day I was looking through some of the articles on The New York Times webpage and I happen to come across a great article “Is Race Reflected by Your Outfit?”; I thought it was a perfect article to share with all of you.

The article involved a experiment where people had to determine the race of different faces. The faces were associated with either a janitors outfit or a business suit. The following were the results:

The question was whether people wearing janitor attire would more likely be viewed as black. The answer: Yes.

Using a mouse-tracking analysis, researchers found that even when users decided a man dressed as a janitor was white, the speed and path in which they moved their mouse to the “white” button was slower and veered closer toward the “black” button than when the same man was dressed in a business suit. The more racially ambiguous the face, the more pronounced the results.

To me this wasn’t as surprising because I remembered the little class activity we had the other day where we had to determine the race of the different faces that were presented; we were all so off, everyone seemed to look Hispanic to us. Someone even said, “he cant be Hispanic look at the glasses he is wearing!” This brings me back to how we all tend to judge other according to what they wear or how we think they present themselves. If race is not apparent to us just by looking at their skin color we tend to dig deeper; we will associate what they are wearing with what their occupation might be and if they are wealthy or poor. The article went on to say exactly this:

Social status may not be the only variable informing our perceptions of a person’s race. “Although we have suggested that the effects of contextual cues on race categorization were driven by differences in the social status of occupations,” the study says, “it is possible that they were driven by other differences related to occupations, such as stereotypes of intelligence, pay, or who does ‘dirty work., ”

I personally catch myself doing this all the time. For instance my friend and I went to Long Island for a meeting and at this meeting there were a lot of girls(this was a meeting on a make-up coarse), I remember the both of us sitting there and looking around and distinguishing where each one is from. We stereotyped them according to what they were wearing how they were sitting and how expensive or inexpensive their bags and shoes were. ( I know it’s bad, but we all do it!)

Race is much more than just black or white, to most of us race is what you wear and other material aspects of a persons life. So next time you find yourself judging other according to their clothes, don’t worry about it because most likely there are five others next to you who do the same.
If you guys want to read the entire article you can do so here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/fashion/when-color-is-reflected-in-a-janitors-outfit-studied.html?_r=1&ref=race

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One response

  1. sshrestha says:

    I also agree with the article that we often judge one’s race with their respective fashion traits. Today, especially in the United States, societies are so diversed that one’s race is obscure just by the skin color. First, due to increasing interracial marriages and second, it is hard to distinguish a person’s race among millions of people from all over the world. For example, I am a South Asian, but people have asked me whether I am a Spanish or Moroccon or Turkish or Iranian or from other South Asian countries like India or Pakistan etc. I think, fashion, as one’s hair style, way of social conduct, and other physical features, is a symbolic representaion of one’s social class and racial identity. We all know that what one wears significantly tells about her social class and according to this article, often about her race. In the United States, upper class elites are significantly White racial group who are rapidly changing their fashion traits so as to distinguish themselves from the “others”. While most minorities (middle/lower class and other racial groups) tend to dress and conduct as upper class Whites quickly copying their styles in order to make and feel themselves as White elites or at least feel equal to them.