People make healthier food choices when they are wearing formal clothes, according to a new study published in the Journal of Business Research. The experts found that casual clothes were more associated with comfort foods, such as unhealthy snacks.
The research was focused on students attending a university in southern China. The participants were divided into two groups and instructed to wear either T-shirts and jeans or suits and other formal attire.
A series of experiments revealed that diners who were dressed up made healthier food choices than those who were dressed casually.
The researchers theorize that wearing formal clothes drives people to become more aware of the impression they are making while eating. This leads to healthier food selections, such as choosing a salad over a hamburger.
In one particular experiment, students were offered a choice between potato chips and cherry tomatoes as an afternoon snack.
Nearly half of those dressed formally did not eat anything at all, while only two percent snacked on the chips. On the other hand, about 40 percent of those wearing casual clothes ate both snacks, and 25 percent opted for just the potato chips.
In a separate trial, 277 people were asked to choose between almonds or potato chips at a supermarket checkout. Two-thirds of the individuals who were dressed up chose the healthier snack.
A survey with nearly 300 respondents revealed that formal wear enhanced self-esteem and led to healthier food choices. The analysis also indicated that wearing casual clothes led consumers to value comfort and relaxation, which steered them toward tastier, less healthy foods. The researchers said that students in a suit and tie felt greater restraint and self-control, resulting in healthier choices.
“Our findings have significant implications for policymakers,” said study lead author Professor Xuehua Wang. “Obesity has long been a critical issue. Future research should examine conditions that may strengthen or weaken the effect of clothes style on food choice.”
The study is published in the Journal of Business Research.