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Ahh The Good Old Days;

It’s the reason why we all collectively paused our daily activities to watch the new Lion King trailer last week, the reason why we’re waiting in anticipation for Ariana Grande’s Mean Girls inspired video and why songs from your childhood will always be better than the ‘trash they play today’. These days, with the political and social landscape being as it is, it can seem that there are more things that divides us than brings us together but one thing that we all share despite our style, age, gender or ethnicity is nostalgia. Nostalgia is a sentimental longing for the past that continues to make everything, including fashion, circular.

Fashion Loves A Revival

When speaking about fashion’s obsession with the past, Jessica Regan, assistant curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute stated that “We can sit far back in the history of fashion — back to the early 19th century, which was a period of rapid industry and change — and see nostalgia for a preindustrial past, based on romantic notions of chivalry.” Whilst fashion’s love for nostalgia is surely nothing new it has been ever more present in the last two years.

Last year, the original supermodels assembled for Versace’s Spring Summer 2018 show in tribute to the late Gianni Versace. Gucci’s Cruise 2018 show paid homage to 80s designer and bootlegger Dapper Dan and beloved 90s brand Juicy Couture remerged this year during New York Fashion Week’s Fall 2018 season. The digital age in which we live has given us unparalleled access to images from years gone by which easily allows designers to draw inspiration form the past with one simple click. But this ease of reference is not the main reason why the glasses we look through to the past with are oh so rosy.

Fashion Psychology Nostalgia

The Psychology of Nostalgia

Early research previously identified nostalgia as a negative experience due to its association with negative psychological states. For example, in a study where researchers (Wildschut et al., 2006) induced high levels of loneliness in some participants and low levels of loneliness in others, the participants in the high loneliness condition were found to be more nostalgic. But we now know that the reason why these participants engaged in more nostalgic thinking is due to the psychological benefits of nostalgia. Nostalgia protects and fosters good mental health. After engaging in nostalgia inducing activities research has shown that people experience higher self-esteem, are more optimistic, feel less lonely and more socially connected, are more creative and can even feel… cosier.

Word association studies show that people often associate nostalgia with the word ‘warm’ but you may be surprised to know that nostalgia has similar physiological benefits. Researchers at the University of Southampton found that people placed in cold rooms rated highest on nostalgia scales and thinking nostalgic thoughts in cold rooms made people think the room was warmer than it actually is. Proof that the good old days can help towards your heating bill this winter!

Jewellery and Nostalgia

More than just memories, nostalgia can refer to a variety of objects. Within the context of fashion, one of the most nostalgia inducing items can be jewellery. Whether it’s a costume necklace that you’ve had forever or a treasured item that has been passed down for generations, jewellery can be incredibly sentimental. The sentimentality and preciousness of such items are also heightened when they have a connection with someone we’ve lost.

When going through the stages of grief it’s not uncommon to experience a sense of meaningless that alters your sense of belonging. This is backed up by a 2010 study by Juhl and colleagues which found that the existential threat of death awareness triggers nostalgia. This is why companies such as Heart-In-Diamond which produces memorial diamonds that allows you to take a lasting reminder of your loved one with you everywhere you go are growing in popularity.  

“There is something touching about using jewellery to memorialize those whom you love. I always feel them beside me even if they are far away.”

What Must Fashion Do to Safeguard Models?

Two years ago, casting director-turned-whistle blower James Scully delivered his plea to end the “cruel and sadistic” treatment of models to an audience at VOICES 2016, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers in the fashion industry held in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate

[Business of Fashion]

Dolce & Gabbana Publicly Apologize for Their Recent Racist Ad Campaign

Co-founders of the Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana, Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce, aren’t new to controversy, however, they are unfamiliar with the concept of an apology. That’s why it came as somewhat of a shock when the designer duo released a video on Friday morning, muttering the words “Dubi bu qui,” which is the Mandarin phrase for “sorry.” 

[InStyle]

Fashion Brands and Their Socio-Political relevance

Fashion matters. It matters to the economy and to most of us personally but it is often viewed as a frivolous or vain industry and people fail to see how far-reaching it really is. Globally, the industry is valued at $3 trillion and it’s the second biggest worldwide economic activity for intensity of trade – employing over 57 million workers in developing countries, 80 per cent of whom are women.

[The News on Sunday]

Trawling for trash: the brands turning plastic pollution into fashion

Fishing nets and discarded plastic are finding their way into wardrobes around the world thanks to a rise in the number of fashion designers using materials made from recycled ocean waste.

Brands including Gucci, Stella McCartney and Adidas are increasingly partnering with organisations such as Parley for the Oceans – which raises awareness of the destructive effect of ocean plastics – and sourcing materials regenerated from companies such as Aquafil, the textile manufacturer that transforms ocean waste into sustainable materials such as Econyl.

[The Guardian]

Women in Ireland Are Posting Images of Their Underwear to Protest Rape Culture

Women in Ireland posted photos of their underwear on social media last week to protest the events of a controversial rape case. The images were accompanied by the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent, and many accused Ireland’s judicial system of promoting rape culture. The rape case that prompted the movement drew international headlines after the attorney for the 27-year-old male defendant used the 17-year-old accuser’s lace underwear in her defense argument.

[Teen Vogue]

Marie Claire Wants Its Fashion Editors to Drive E-commerce Revenue

Marie Claire has launched Marie Claire Edit, an aggregator site where readers can shop from retail partners like Selfridges, Gucci, Prada, Net-a-Porter and Topshop, as well as follow the trends of the title’s fashion editors.

The site, developed by parent company TI Media to boost the publisher’s e-commerce revenue, also holds native ad and display spots that will run on the Marie Claire Edit site and Marie Claire’s main site. 

[Digiday]

An exploration into the effect of counterfeit consumerism

Six teary eyed women circled the mobile device as they stared at the loss of a colleague’s stolen goods, the ultimate accessory – the handbag. “Louis, Chanel, Geiger, but the greatest loss was my black statement Mulberry.” Three men had broken into her home, walked passed the fifty-inch plasm, left the children’s Ipads, ignored the fine china and headed for the clothes closet, where they knew quick and easy money could be made. But when her statement Mulberry eventually finds itself in the hands of a new owner, it will go for a fraction of the retail price. Why? Because its leather imprinted tree certainly didn’t grow in the luxury of a Mulberry factory, however in the hands of a counterfeit labourer.

For decades, tourists have been drawn to the back-street markets in major cities that offer cheaper versions of the ‘real thing’, but counterfeit purchases are becoming ever more common with the click of a button and independent online sellers. The ease of purchase increases the demand of production and as customers we find ourselves wrapped in the cellophane of the counterfeit market.

“our desire to look the part is affecting the designers who create the image we seek

The primary question that we must ask ourselves is, why do we indulge in counterfeit consumerism? It’s no secret that the financial cost of a fake item doesn’t unstitch the lining of our pockets like that of a famous designer brand. But what is it that makes consumers return to counterfeit markets? Whilst the original designer brands come at a price, they also connote the image of success that customers desire; possession-defined success as Professor Adrian Furnham names it. This is arguably the driving force of counterfeit consumerism. However, our desire to look the part is affecting the designers who create the image we seek. Names such as, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel are designers whose monograms lace each corner of the world and because of their world recognition, they have become vulnerable to counterfeit crime.

But what is the effect of our counterfeit consumerism? Counterfeiting goes beyond Carrie Bradshaw’s fear of cheap-looking, bottom of the trunk goods; it goes beyond our dishonour to Chanel and is now widely regarded as a serious social, economic, and political issue. It’s no secret that fashion is a complex art that has taken years of ever evolving perfection. The existence of the counterfeit market insults the talent of the fashion industry and robs it of its authenticity. Brands such as Louis Vuitton have built an ancestral house and work to protect its individual craftsmanship, as one spokesperson claimed by “fighting the illegal network that infringe on human rights, the environment and global economy.”

Unlike the authentic craft of designer goods, counterfeit items are made cheap materials to construct designs that have not been tested in conditions that fail to accommodate safe working conditions. Counterfeit crime has a devastating effect on communities where labourers often work in appalling conditions and earn an insufficient amount producing fake products. This year Inews reported “most imitations are made in unregulated factories in middle-income or third-world countries, with some using child slave labour. China produces more than 80 per cent of the counterfeit goods seized in Europe, according to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).”

Whilst these products are being made in countries such as China, Vietnam or Russia, the issue lies and can only be stopped by the consumers themselves in Europe or the USA. If the customers are made aware of the effects of their consumerism, they will avoid indulging in the counterfeit chain, rippling a stop to their production. As consumers and tax-payers, it is our moral responsibility to ensure our consumerism is not infringing the tax laws and investing money where money should not be made. Last year’s Intellectual Property report found that 4% of all UK imports made in 2013, were counterfeit. This results in a loss of sixty thousand jobs in the manufacturing industry and £4 billion lost in tax revenue.

Whilst consumers must acknowledge their part and responsibility in this issue, brands have begun to take it upon themselves to cease the trading of counterfeit goods. In 2010, Louis Vuitton initiated over thirty thousand anti-counterfeiting procedures worldwide, resulting in the seizure of thousands of counterfeit products and the breaking up of criminal networks.” However, these procedures cannot prevent the production, selling or buying of replica items worldwide and the ease of this is putting the real industry at risk. France introduced new measures to discourage buying counterfeit luxury goods with the Real Ladies Don’t Like Fake campaign, where legislation allows for consumers to be jailed up to three years. Adverts had been placed around airports to raise awareness of the issue and consequences. However, will this suffice as a strong enough deterrent of counterfeit consumerism and will we ever take responsibility for ceasing the fake market?

Since Mel B implored us to tell her what we really really want, our interest in animal prints has never really subsided, at least the Spring Summer ’19 shows have confirmed as much.  Brognano, Michael Kors and Burberry were just a few designers to send models down the runway in stunning zebra, leopard and cow print designs and if that wasn’t enough to persuade you that animal print is having a moment, Rihanna turning up to the celebrate the anniversary of Fenty Beauty in Sydney earlier this month wearing a head to toe snakeskin Atelier Versace outfit surely is. Animal print has a pretty extensive history dating back to ancient Africa in its use exclusively by leaders and royalty alike and since the 1920’s celebrities and fashion designers have played a key role in bringing animal print to mainstream fashion. Fashion is cyclical and while most trends fade and re-emerge over time, animal print in one form or another has remained a staple in our wardrobes. What is the cause behind animal print’s rare ability to transcend seasons? Evolutionary psychology would suggest that it has something to do with fear.

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Fight or Flight

Evolutionary psychology dictates that human nature can be understood by analysing the behavioural and psychological adaptations evolved to ensure human survival and one psychological adaptation that has strong evolutionary roots is the fight or flight response. First coined by Walter Canon in the 1920s, fight or flight is a chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside the body to help  mobilize the body’s resources to deal with threatening circumstances. The most threatening circumstance of them all? Being face to face with a predator. Now whilst it’s a rarity to witness a leopard or tiger strolling through city streets, it can be argued that flashes of animal print are enough to activate a subconscious and instinctual fear response in the brain.

Dress: ASOS Design

Fear or Arousal?

But, if we’re afraid of something wouldn’t that increase our likelihood of avoiding it? That’s where the misattribution of arousal comes in. If asked to explain why we feel what we do at any given moment many people would claim to know the answer but that’s a common misconception as we all find it difficult to correctly identify the reasoning behind our feelings. For example, the physiological responses to both fear and arousal are incredibly similar such as increased blood pressure or shortness of breath which is why people often mistake fear for love and arousal and Dutton and Aron’s 1974 experiment demonstrated as much. In their study, an attractive female was asked to wait at the end of either a suspension bridge (that would induce fear) or a sturdy bridge (that would not induce fear). Male participants were asked to cross the bridge and during their walk the woman interrupted them and after a short interaction, she gave them her number. Results indicated that the woman received more phone calls from the men who walked the fear-inducing bridge. Researchers concluded that the fear response was confused with or misattributed with arousal for the woman in front of them.

The same outcome can be found when we’re confronted with animal prints. The latent fear response that has remained with us throughout the years to ensure our survival has been conflated with arousal overtime. It’s no wonder then why animal prints have been defined as both powerful and sexy. Just in time for spooky season, scare tactics can be a useful marketing trick when Halloween costumes are equal parts fear and sex.

Diversity Report

The Spring 2019 Runways Were the Most Racially Diverse Ever, but Europe Still Has a Major Age and Body Diversity Problem.

[The Fashion Spot]

Sexual Desire and Odor

Is you sex life impacted by a poor sense of smell?

[Psychology Today]

Met Gala 2019

Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute, has framed the exhibition around Susan Sontag’s seminal 1964 essay Notes on “Camp”, which posited different ways in which the concept could be construed.

[Vogue]

7 Steps To Embracing Positivity

Life transformation coach Corinne Worsley shares her tips for turning your back on Murphy’s Law and embracing positivity.

[Psychologies]

Fake Reviews

An ex-employee from celebrity-favourite beauty brand Sunday Riley reveals that employees were ‘forced to write fake reviews for our products on an ongoing basis’.

[Grazia]

Meghan Markle’s Pregnancy

Everything we know about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s royal baby from baby names to the due date.

[Elle]

With the booming cosmetics industry and Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics making her the youngest self-made billionaire, it is clear that people love makeup! It’s so nice to see more and more of the population embrace the creativity and artistry which comes with using cosmetics, but when it comes to women specifically, is our interest down to a subconscious drive to look more appealing to the opposite sex?

 

Studies researching  women’s motivations behind using cosmetics have linked it to their ovulation cycles. Think about it from an evolutionary perspective. During your cycle there will be a time when you are most fertile and least fertile so, from the evolutionary stance which prioritises survival and reproduction, it would make sense for women to want to be their most attractive selves during ovulation as it would maximise their chance of mating and reproducing.

 

I realise nowadays women may have different aims in life and their priority isn’t always reproducing so it is interesting to investigate if these urges still exist subconsciously. In 2012 a psychologist named Guéguen looked into this idea and studied how much time women spent on their makeup at different stages in their cycle. His first study asked participants to estimate how long they spent doing their makeup while two makeup artists judged the quality of the makeup. The results showed that the women did indeed spend more time on their makeup near or during the ovulation phase of their cycle and that the quality of their makeup was more attractive as well. This suggests that subconsciously women still try to maximise their attractiveness during their most fertile phase even if their intention is not necessarily to attract a mate.

If it really is the case that women wear more makeup when they’re in their most fertile stage of their cycle, can this logic be applied to anything else? It seems as though everywhere we look on social media people are getting lip filler or surgery to enhance their bodies and its increasingly becoming the norm. Is the increase in surgical enhancements just an extension of our inbuilt evolutionary need to try and be the most attractive versions of ourselves?

Last year, Psychologists Nicholas and Welling investigated this idea and suggested that it would make sense for women in their most fertile stage to be more open to getting cosmetic surgery. Their findings however were surprising. They showed that actually the trend was the opposite and women were more open to cosmetic surgery in the non-fertile stage of their cycle. They suggest that this trend might be seen as studies have previously found that women feel most self-confident and attractive during ovulation and so would be less likely to feel the need to change their appearance surgically.

Another idea they highlight is that during their most fertile stage, women don’t agree with cosmetic surgery as they consider it an unfair advantage that other individuals can have and they would rather have a level playing field. Although interesting, this idea seems a bit far-fetched especially in the context of the present day where our sole aim in life isn’t always to reproduce and so many more factors affect our desire to do so.

The topic of how women’s cycles affect their use of makeup and surgery is a very interesting one and all boils down to a more evolutionary stance. So, in light of these findings, what do you think? Do our ovulation cycles still drive our behaviour in subconscious ways?

Huda Kattan Eyebrows
Huda Kattan Source: Instagram.com

During the nineties and well into the early 2000s, thin, barely-there eyebrows were all the rage. If you googled photos of celebrities or even found old Facebook photos of your friends, you will notice that everyone from your high school friend Melissa to Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani took pride in their thin eyebrows. Then, several years ago, people’s perspective on beauty started to shift. Celebrities, regular people and even beauticians began to notice just how much the frame and proper fullness of the eyebrows can affect not only the shape of a person’s face, but actually enhance their beauty. Prominent eyebrows took center stage, and then the frenzy was taken to an entirely new level.

Rumor has it that thanks to Cara Delevingne, sales of tweezers have dropped drastically as everyone, all of a sudden, wanted their brows, thick, voluminous, feathery, wild and powerful. People went to extreme lengths and the overworked brows became an object of ridicule that the beauty community begged for to stop. 

Since then, people have been doing their best to let their natural eyebrows grow back, and those who couldn’t, resorted to trusty brow gels, pomades, and pencils that would help them fill in the blanks and cover up both the insane and unflattering thinness and at times hairless spots and scarceness in their brows. Now, while there is nothing wrong with wanting to have nice and symmetrical-looking brows that frame your face and add to your beautiful features, there is apparently a dark secret lurking behind overly prominent brows.

The study of narcissism

There have been numerous studies conducted on narcissism and how to spot a narcissistic person. The ‘red flags’ ranged from asserting authority and emphasizing their superiority over others, excessive flattering and/or harshness towards other people, incredible manipulative skills, blame shifting, the works. They also exhibit excessive amounts of confidence, foster a strong belief that they are more special than anyone else, and constantly crave and demand external validation. However, the worst traits of narcissists are that they are incredibly exploitative and will use anything and anyone to get what they want, which is inextricably linked with their utter and complete lack of empathy. It is hard to be sympathetic and considerate when you’re your own number one, and for that matter, only priority.

However, these are all internal traits, so in order to uncover a narcissist you often get burned by them first and come to this realization once the damage has already been done. Now, however, there are new studies that suggest that there is a single prominent physical trait that can help you recognize a narcissist right off the bat.

The tell-tale sign

Eyebrow Psychology

A number of studies, those published in Psychology Today, Business Insider and Independent, just to cite a few, have come to the conclusion that aside from the fact that these people are usually highly attractive, wear luxurious clothes and are impeccably neat, there is one more thing that will help you spot them, one that is perhaps more obvious and quicker to spot than all others – full and highly prominent eyebrows. As stated in Psychology Today, “Eyebrows may be particularly important to people high on the personality trait of grandiose narcissism’ as they foster a yearning to be admired and recognized – which granted, brows have the power to do. As a result, they might “seek to maintain distinct eyebrows to facilitate others’ ability to notice, recognize, and remember them; thereby increasing their likability and reinforcing their overly positive self-views.” This comes as no surprise as not only do narcissist yearn to be liked, but they have an innate initial likability that draws people in in the first place, that is, before the mask is removed and they see what kind of person they’re actually dealing with.

Another study conducted by  Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas Rule involved recruiting a number of people who were shown photographs of people’s eyebrows alone and the verdict of the target group happen to coincide with the level of estimated narcissism in those who were subjected to the test. This research, according to the conductors will prove highly beneficial in the future as it will provide people with the “ability to identify dark personality traits at zero-acquaintance” and thus prevent any chance of attraction, infatuation and even potential exploitation.

It appears that the eyebrows can be a true life saver, a red flag if you will that can tell a person to steer clear of a narcissist. However, although we don’t disagree with the result of the study, we have to take into account that thick and well-groomed eyebrows are a global trend that millions of people have embraced simply because they realized they made their faces look more shapely and attractive. And while yes, a narcissist’s desire is to be more attractive and alluring, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions based on the brows alone.

There is a long list of narcissist-typical behavior that can be easily spotted, and if a person doesn’t exhibit any of the aforementioned traits, perhaps it would be unfair to write them off solely on the fact that they have trendy full brows. There are probably people out there who simply followed a beauty trend, just like millions of people follow fashion trends, and they couldn’t all be narcissists. The final verdict is – be wary, take the brows as sign number one, but look for other clues as well and give people the benefit of the doubt.  

If you ask anyone in fashion ‘Who is Fashion Week for?’ they’ll give you the same two-word answer: ‘The Buyers’ and to some extent that is true. However, with each season as Fashion Week becomes more and more consumer facing, with the advent of see now buy now, live posting and live streaming we’re all being roped into the weird and wonderful bi-annual festivities. Like with anything that we’re intensely exposed to there’s a subsequent psychological impact and we’d be silly to think that the current Spring 2019 shows are not affecting us even in some implicit way.  

Michael Kors, Photo By: Sonny Vandevelde / Indigital.tv

Fashion Week Psychology

Tome, Image Source: Vogue Runway

Fashion Week Psychology

Brandon Maxwell, Photo By: Monica Feudi / Indigital.tv

So far, with New York Fashion Week wrapping up and London Fashion Week being underway we’ve seen the emergence of some interesting trends including; Printed Headscarves courtesy of Michael Kors, Laquan Smith and Kate Spade; Tie-Dye showcased by Prabal Gutung, Tome and Eckhaus Latta as well as statement Canary Yellow pieces as seen in the Brandon Maxwell, Oscar de la Renta and Pyer Moss shows.

Making A Statement

Speaking of Pyer Moss, the fresh-faced founder Kerby Jean-Raymond decided to make a statement at his show by creating a $125 sweater branded with the demand ‘Stop calling 911 on the culture’. Now this is by no means the first time we’ve seen the runway become a political stage, even for Jean-Raymond who intertwined Fashion with Activism for his Spring 2016 Menswear though the medium videos, music and posters with quotes from Black Lives Matter activist MarShawn McCarrel. 

Fashion Week Psychology
Image Source PyerMoss.com

What this is, is the first time we’ve seen a direct call to action against modern instances of violence against ethnic minorities – in particular Black people, in the form of hoax and extraneous calls to the authorities. Despite there being many quibbles about the wording of Jean-Raymond’s slogan tee as well as the associated price tag one thing that can’t be denied is that a standpoint was made, and a message that often gets ignored by mainstream media was delivered on a global stage.

The Veil of Racism

Slogan tees are just one of the many ways that brands have chosen to deliver messages about the current state of race relations, yet one of the most visible ways of delivering this message is through a designer’s choice of models. Whilst you may be thinking that model selection is essentially ‘not that deep’ the representation or lack thereof of a particular sub-group on a mass platform like fashion week has a strong impact on said individuals. In the 1903 book ‘The Soul of Black Folk’, W.E.B. Du Bois discusses “the veil of racism” and amongst many things, the veil is symbolic of the way Black people are prevented from seeing themselves as they really are, outside of the negative vision of Blackness created by racism and exclusion. This theory is backed up by results from Implicit Association Tests which reveal that black people are more likely to associate fellow Black people with negative and unfavourable characteristics. So, why do these results occur and what does this all have to do with fashion? Well according to researchers, witnessing the continued underrepresentation of one’s ethic group causes group members to feel devalued within society and in turn, can negatively impact upon their self-worth. This is why representation on mainstream platforms like the New York, London, Paris and Milan runways is so important as seeing ethnic minority individuals hailed as symbols of prominence and beauty will serve to strengthen the self-image of all ethnic minorities.

It’s too soon for stats for Spring 2019 but if last season’s diversity report is anything to go by then the future is looking bright.  The Fashion Spot’s statistics indicated that the Fall 2018 shows were the most diverse to date. In New York 37.3 percent of models were non-white. In London, 30.03 per cent of models at London Fashion week were non-white, a 3.6 per cent increase from the season prior with similar increases being reported at both Paris and Milan.

Fashion Week Psychology

Slick Woods

Naomi Chin Wing

Duckie Thot

Adut Akech

According to psychologists Taylor and Lee, “examining how minority groups are portrayed in media can provide information of how a minority group is viewed by society at large”. The impact of fashion is often downplayed but if the research is anything to go by the more we become witness to positive representations of minorities through the likes of models like Slick Woods, Naomi Chin Wing, Duckie Thot and Adut Akech the closer we can get to lifting the veil of racism and seeing not only ourselves but each other in a better light.

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The topic of whether there is a beauty premium in the job market is always discussed as, for obvious reasons, society is trying to minimise discrimination in all areas but specifically within the workplace. The term “beauty premium” refers to the finding that beautiful individuals are paid more and earn higher salaries than less beautiful people. For example, research has shown that ‘attractive’ law grads earn more 5 years into their career than their ‘less attractive’ counterparts (Biddle & Hamermesh, 1998). But is this really the case?

This conversation was first brought to light by Hamermesh and Biddle in 1993. Their study showed that ‘attractive’ people did indeed earn more money than average looking people and that ‘average-looking’ people earned more than ‘plain-looking’ people. So as a result of this they suggested that there is a penalty of between 5-10% on the wages of ‘plain-looking’ people. Importantly, they highlight that this finding is directly due to the discrimination which employers enforce. If their results are true then there is much work which needs to be done to eradicate this effect to ensure that productive people are being rewarded for their work equally, regardless of their looks.

Since their original study, a whole host of other research has been carried out to see if this penalty really exists and whether there’s more to their story. In 2007, Leigh and Borland had an inkling that maybe it wasn’t looks which were affecting pay but self-confidence instead. This could make sense as it is a popular belief that confidence can make someone appear more physically attractive. Although it would be great if this was true, unfortunately their study found that not much of the beauty premium effect in the job market is due to confidence and is mostly down to physical appearance.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! Most recently Kanazawa and Still regenerated this topic and published their findings in 2018. They tried to understand at which point this effect occurs. By doing this they would be able to highlight what needs to be changed to avoid this happening. In their study, they took the idea that the “ugliness penalty” must either result from pure discrimination, self-selection of jobs or that there are other individual differences which cause this effect to be seen. Their beliefs were that…

 

  • If discrimination was the cause then they would expect to see that as pay increased so would levels of ‘beauty’
  • If it was due to self-selection of jobs then there would be no evidence of a beauty premium when they took this into account.
  • If the effect was due to differences between individuals other than attractiveness (e.g. health, personality),then once these were analysed the beauty premium would no longer be found.

 

Their findings were surprising as they showed that “very unattractive” individuals earned more than ‘unattractive’ and ‘average-looking’ individuals and sometimes even ‘attractive’ people. So in other words they found signs of an “ugly premium”.

 

The researchers believe that factors like health and personality are what actually affect our productivity in the workplace and therefore our pay. So they suggests that the “ugly premium” occurs as these individuals happen to have better education and are more intelligent and the beauty premium occurs as these individuals have better health and more suited personalities for the job. To put it simply, to say that your level of attractiveness plays a significant role in your pay bracket  is not entirely correct, health, intelligence and personality all have a part to play – thankfully!

 

This is a much more positive finding than past studies but let’s not forget that this is based off an attractiveness measure of facial symmetry which is not all that goes into the total attractiveness of a person. Attractiveness is a multidimensional concept encompassing several factors that make up one’s social identity including age, culture, ethnicity, personality etc.

 

In general this is a very difficult issue to discuss as more research needs to be carried out in order to clarify the above findings. Also terms such as ‘ugly’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘unattractive’ are used very superficially throughout the research whilst ignoring the fact that numerous factors go into the way we perceive someone as beautiful. Until further research is carried out it is wise for employers to be mindful about the people they hire in order to make sure they are prioritising productivity and suitability over looks, because ultimately, that is what makes a successful team and business.