Do Clothes Really Make the Man?

When I was in high school, I remember reading a short story entitled “Clothes Make the Man” by Henri Duvernois.  (It can be found at .)  The story relates how a gang of thieves is burglarizing a house, and they put their muscle man in a policeman’s uniform to patrol the sidewalk so as to not arouse suspicion.  But the uniform makes the thug feel so much like a real policeman that he ends up arresting his two compatriots.

So do clothes really make the man?  Can what you wear to school protect you from bullies?  Would Trayvon Martin be alive today if he wasn’t wearing a hoodie?  Can wearing a lab coat help your concentration?  What happens to a Jewish inmate in a concentration camp when he puts on a Nazi’s shirt?  And I haven’t even mentioned cross-dressing.

There is a growing field of research called “embodied cognition“—the idea that we think with our physical experiences as well as our brains.  This would include the clothes we wear.

If this sounds interesting, I recommend a podcast from the National Public Radio show Invisibilia entitled “The Secret Emotional Life of Clothes”, which originally aired on July 22, 2016 (  And one of the studies they discuss is explained in greater detail on the Psychology Today website as “Clothes Make the Man — Literally”  (

Just something else to think about when you plan your next Halloween party.

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