Appropriate Dress (Matings Part 6)

[[…continuing what was started in I Love the Way You Say That (Matings Part 1), Sex on the Beach (Matings Part 2), Sing Me a Little Song (Matings Part 3), Sing Me to Sleep That I Might Learn Thee Loves Me (Matings Part 4) and Want to kick the habit? Play Some Music (Matings Part 5)]]

On average, who spends more time on buying clothes, accessorizing them, and staring at their reflection to make sure everything is on just right, men or women?

This isn’t an easy one so take your time with it.

And while we’re at it, let’s up the ante — will an individual spend more time looking good when they’re out with friends or out looking for a mate?

Let’s start with whether women or men spend more time dressing and buying. If you guessed that it’s about equal, you’re correct.

Myself, I answered “women” than held up my hand. “Let me think about this,” I said.

And think I did.

Clothing is one of the most obvious and immediate demonstrations of group identity, cultural identity, ethnic identity, social class, peer recognition, … (I cover much of this in Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, fyi). It turns out that if you measure across the broadest spectrum possible men and women spend equal amounts of time making sure they look just right with men leading the mirror charge as economic groups go higher and higher.

John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever

And if they want to climb an economic or social ladder, watch out. Did you think John Travolta’s Tony Manero character spent all that time on his hair just for kicks?

It’s a pretty interesting study, the science of ornamentation, dressing and such. Anthropologists and archaeologists spend lots of time studying such things because they reveal so much about cultures, peoples and most of all mating habits.

That last part leads us to whether people spend more time pruning and preening when they’re out with friends or out mate-hunting. If you guessed people will spend more time preparing for a night out with their friends than out looking for a mate, good for you, you got it.

Women going out with the girls for a night on the town have an acute if nonconscious sense of peer group pressure and hearing “I love what that dress/blouse/skirt/… does for you” is enough to make the night grand. Likewise, men will compliment each others’ appearance, if not with outright statements then with reflective comments such as “That woman over there thinks you’re hot.”