Psychology of Shoes

Our clothes tell the world about who we are, our status, wealth, personality and more. Although an outfit as a whole can do this, particular pieces in our clothing can have the power to give cues about these things alone. For instance, our shoes. Shoes are powerful pieces of an outfit. They are what makes an outfit complete and give strong first impressions to others!

Shoes as a form of first impressions

A study showed that shoes are the main source of first impressions as strangers accurately judged the age, gender, income and even attachment style of shoe owners just by looking at pictures of shoes they tend to wear the most!

The strangers saw individuals who tend to wear masculine shoes as less agreeable and worn out shoes as more extraverted. Shoes that were less comfortable and expensive gave an impression of anxious attachment. The researchers argue that this can be because individuals with anxious attachment might receive attention and care through wearing clothing that stands out. Individuals with avoidant attachment may tend to wear shoes that do not stand out, as they tend to not care how they are perceived.

Of course, there were some inaccuracies on some shoes and judgments. More expensive and well-kempt shoes were judged as more conscientious contrary to the owner’s self-report. Colourful and bright shoes were seen as extraverted which did not match self-reports.

But overall, shoes gave away strong cues about personality to strangers.

Shoes and perceived attractiveness

Shoes also play a role in impressions of attractiveness. In a study where women and men watched videos of women walking in heels or flats, the women wearing high heels got a higher score in attractiveness. Researchers argue this is because, with the heels, women’s posture will have ‘exaggerating sex-specific aspects of female gait’ and women move their hips differently while taking shorter steps which may appear more attractive.  

French sociologist, Marcel Mauss states that high heels make a person focus on their posture by lengthening the calf muscles, pushing the chest forward and tightening the buttocks. 

Alongside the body moving differently in heels, could the effect of these shoes on our behaviour and attitude be another reason for these results? Could it be that when wearing high heels, women had increased confidence or felt sexier and hence behaved more confident and feminine? It could well be!

Effect of shoes on mind and behaviour

The shoes we wear change our physical appearance by changing our posture. Wearing high heels will make you stand up straight with a longer posture while a pair of sneakers will allow for more relaxed body posture and movement.

Research shows that our body language changes our mood and thinking then affect the way we behave. Subsequently, the way we behave when wearing different type of shoes changes and affects others’ impressions of us. When we wear high heels we act and appear more feminine and attractive, when wearing worn-out comfortable shoes we act and appear more extraverted and outgoing.

Another recent study suggests that wearing high heels while shopping may curb overspending. According to the study, consumers experiencing a heightened sense of balance — as one does in high heels — may weigh their options more carefully. Researchers add that anything that forces your mind to focus on balance affects your shopping choices as well.

You may not have thought, but shoes are very important in terms of peoples’ impressions of us, how we think and behave. Next time you are shoe shopping and can’t decide which pair to buy, thinking about who you want to be and how you want to be perceived might help you decide. You may also want to wear high heels whilst shopping, for a more careful decision making!

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