What Your Clothes Say About You When You Fly
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
When you head to the airport, are you dressed in an impeccably matched business suit and wingtips? Or are you more likely to be racing to the gate in unlaundered sweats and flip-flops?
Either way, you may want to rethink your flight wardrobe, because your in-air sartorial sensibilities are telling your fellow passengers who you are.
“The image that a person wants to present has to do with their unmet needs and how they want others to see them,” said Seth Meyers, a psychologist in Los Angeles.
In other words, celebrities and kings may be above the human concerns of fashion when it comes to flying, but the rest of us are definitely not the makers of manners. Instead, we are what we wear.
And here’s what what you wear when you fly says about you, according to psychologists.
Neat or Sloppy?
It may seem like common sense, but psychologists said that how neatly or sloppily you dress when you fly can be a clear indicator of how conscientious you are in your everyday life.
“If someone hasn’t done their belt buckle, or if their shirt is not tucked in, if the shoes are shined or unclean and the clothing is wrinkled or pressed — these are indicators that give you a sense of who they are,” said Jonathan Bricker, professor of psychology of the University of Washington, in Seattle.
“You’ve probably seen someone at the airport dressed to the nines, who obviously put effort into what they were wearing,” Meyers said. “The man in the suit with the polished shoes and the woman with the hair perfectly coiffed? That’s someone who’s very image-conscious and has a need to be seen as attractive to be noticed.”
Colorful or Muted?
The palette your ensemble draws from makes a statement too. According to Bricker, the flashier or more unusual the colors, the more outgoing and outward-facing you typically are. Think red, orange, bright green and pastels.
“An extrovert is saying, ‘Look at me!'” he said. “It’s brave to wear something colorful, and it says you’re willing to experience people’s perceptions of you. It also shows an openness to new experiences. Unusual colors or design? To be able to wear these kinds of things in a public place where you’re going to be seen getting on and off a plane is a measure of extroversion.”
“The more unusual the color is, the more the person is looking for attention and to be noticed — especially red,” Meyers said.
On the other hand, people who wear dark and muted colors like black, gray and brown are trying consciously or subconsciously not to stick out.
“Darks, browns, grays, darker blues don’t invite your eye, and that’s important to the more introverted type of person,” Bricker said.
Why Shoes Are So Important
If there’s a single item of dress that says more about you than anything else, it’s your footwear, the experts said. They can give out big hints about your line of work, your hobbies, whether you prioritize comfort or aesthetics, and much more.
But on a plane, where today’s average traveler just wants to be comfortable and not suffer too much from the swollen feet that come with the altitude, shoes can be harder to gauge. At the same time, that’s what makes it so remarkable when someone on a plane chooses to lace up something besides sneakers, pull-on boots or comfy loafers.
“If someone’s shoes are shined and they’re wearing them on a plane, where most people wear comfortable shoes these days, that’s your marker that this is a conscientious person,” Bricker said.
That goes double for glamorous but impractical high heels, which are becoming rarer on flights in this day and age.
“A woman who looks great in five-inch heels is not making a good decision while traveling through an airport — you’re going up and down steps, from the jet bridge to the airplane, so they’re not sensible at all,” Meyers said. “If you see that, you know that this is someone who values getting attention more than comfort or even safety.”
On the other end of the spectrum are those who fly in flip-flops or even less.
“Flip-flops are comfortable, but they show that this person is more focused on comfort than anything else,” Meyers said. “I actually don’t think flip-flops are respectful to your fellow passengers, because feet sweat and are smelly.”
Want to really push the boundaries? Go barefoot when you fly, and display the ultimate in selfishness.
“It’s about being very independent, not considering others or thinking of others on the airplane,” Bricker said.
“Most people aren’t going to be wanting to sit next to someone in bare feet, and you can infer that this is someone who’s thinking about their comfort level as opposed to the comfort level of others,” Meyers said.
The Real Meaning of Logos and Brand Names
If your clothes come covered in brand logos, flashy phrases or eye-popping icons, it can mean more than that you’re a proud fan of, say, the Houston Astros. For extroverts, wearing an instantly recognizable symbol on your clothing is about putting out a conversation piece.
“They like to talk to seatmates on an airplane, and are happy to talk to the other people in line,” Meyers said. “People who are more gregarious and like more interactions with people like to feel connected, and schmoozers do things like wear sweatshirts with their favorite baseball teams or college logos. If I’m somebody who wore a Vassar t-shirt while traveling, I probably thought that morning, ‘Maybe somebody who knows Vassar will find me.'”
That said, high-end brand names and accessories are a slightly different matter.
“Jewelry, Apple Watches, the things people wear to appear to be from a monied class of people — that is someone who really wants to impress and who derives gratification from people noticing them,” Meyers said. “It makes them feel self-important.”
Of course, the irony is that the more a person makes an effort to prove how superior he or she is, the more it’s apparent that the opposite may be true, at least in his or her heart.
“The higher your self-esteem, the less you care about impressing anyone — especially strangers,” he said.
The most important thing to know about what people wear when they fly, however, is that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and you can’t substitute snap judgments for really getting to know someone, said Pauline Wallin, Pennsylvania psychologist and author of Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-Defeating Behavior.
“Sometimes you just really like flamboyant shoes,” she said.
Featured image courtesy of LeoPatrizi/Getty Images
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees