Q: People seem to be influenced by others when making fashion choices. How are men influenced by their friends and family regarding their fashion choices?
A: There is research that suggests two main ways that people are influenced by others in their fashion choices: Normative and Informational influences (I’ll explain what those mean later). Men and women are equally influenced by normative influences but men seem to be less interested in informational influences. Additionally, men are less interested in the importance of color and color trends when buying clothing.
A researcher from Iowa State University who studies textiles and clothing was interested in how people are influenced by others when making fashion decisions.
She was particularly interested in how men and women differ in their fashion decisions.
In previous research, two types of personal influence were identified when people are making decisions to purchase things:
- Normative influences are the ways that people make purchases in order to belong or be accepted by a group they care about.
- People who are susceptible to normative influences tend to ask themselves things like, would my friends like this? Do people I care about wear this brand? Etc.
- Informational influences are the ways that people make purchases based on basic information gathered from others.
- In this case, belongingness is not really as important as information.
- People who are susceptible to informational influences would be more likely to ask friends and family whether a certain brand is good, whether it is functional, whether there are better alternatives, etc.
- These people aren’t so much interested in whether a purchase will make them fit in, they’re more influenced by the information their friends tell them about a brand. They want to make decisions based on that information.
This researcher sought to see whether men and women differ on these factors when making decisions about one particular aspect of clothing: color.
The results were published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills in 1998.
The researcher gathered a group of 313 undergraduate students to do a survey on interpersonal influence in purchasing, and color preferences in clothing purchasing.
The survey included questions that measured both susceptibility to normative influence and susceptibility to informational influence.
Normative influence questions included items such as:
- If I want to be like someone, I often try to buy the same brands that they buy.
- I rarely purchase the latest fashion styles until I am sure my friends approve of them.
- Informational influence questions included items such as:
- I frequently gather information from friends or family about a product before I buy.
- I often consult other people to help choose the best alternative available from a product class.
The survey also included questions regarding color choices in fashion. It included questions such as:
How important is color in your apparel buying decisions?
How closely do you follow the current trends in color?
All the data were analyzed and patterns emerged in the differences between men and women on these factors.
Some interesting connections were made between all the variables. Some were unsurprising, and some were more interesting.
- People who were susceptible to normative influence (making purchases in order to belong to a group) were more likely to say they follow fashion trends in colors – and the reverse was true. People who follow fashion trends are more strongly interested in fashion that helps them belong to a group.
- People high on this trait were less interested in:
- Particular colors (they seemed to be more interested in fitting into a group and less interested in their own color preferences)
- People who were susceptible to informational influence (making purchases based on straight up information from family and friends) were also more likely to:
- Make fashion decisions based on color
- Make fashion decisions based on trends
- Say that fashion decisions are difficult
- They were also more likely to be female.
- This might be a surprise to some – men and women were both bandwagon fashion shoppers, but men were less likely to be information-gatherers.
- Other findings:
- Females were more likely to make fashion decisions based on colors (both personal color preferences as well as what is trendy in colors).
- Men were interested in trends and colors, but less so than women.
- What do we learn about men’s decision-making when it comes to fashion?
- Men are highly influenced by “fitting in” when making fashion decisions.
- Men are not influenced by information gathered from friends and family in fashion decisions (i.e., they are not influenced by friends’ and family’s thoughts or ideas about a certain brand, they’re just interested in whether friends and family are wearing a certain brand).
- Men are interested in color when making decisions about fashion, but less so than women.
- Men are interested in trends when making decisions about fashion, but less so than women.
- Men are more interested in their own color preferences than what is trendy.
- In other words, they’re more likely to pick a shirt because it’s their favorite color than a shirt because it’s a trendy color.
HOW TO USE THIS INFORMATION
- This information could be used to figure out what type of fashion consumer a man is. For instance:
- If a man is interested in fashion colors, then he is more likely to be a “Normative influence” type of person.
- This means that they’re primarily interested in belonging to a group and less interested in information.
- They’re also going to be more interested in what is trendy.
- They are going to respond to “bandwagon approaches” and less on informational approaches.
- Men in general are interested in what is trendy and what colors they like, but they’re not going to respond to these things like women do.
- Furthermore, men in general are not interested in informational approaches to clothing (they don’t want to read a whole flyer of information about a shirt before they buy – they’re really just going to want to know if the people they care about are wearing it).
- Men who are information gatherers have particular characteristics:
- They’re going to be interested in every aspect of a piece of clothing – the color, whether the color is trendy, and whether other people are wearing it.
- They’re also more likely to say that fashion decisions are difficult.
- BUT BE CAREFUL:
- This study was done 15+ years ago. Do you think men are different now?
Miller, N. J. (1998). Susceptibility of consumers to normative and informational influences in selecting colors for apparel. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 87, 1131-1136. Link: https://www.amsciepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2466/pms.1998.87.3f.1131