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What On Earth Is Dopamine Dressing?

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A new feel-good trend that you should take out for a spin!

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When the pandemic hit in 2020, we traded our formal shoes for Hawaii slippers, trousers for shorts, and jeans for joggers. In a world that didn’t know how to cope with all that was happening, people perhaps chose ‘comfort dressing’ to find some solace or as a coping mechanism. When 2021 brought in some hope in the form of vaccines, a new sartorial trend started gaining some serious steam: Dopamine dressing! 

Man’s Life tries to decode this ‘happy’ trend…


In simple terms, how dopamine dressing works is that people actively choose to wear clothes that bring them joy.  The beauty, however, lies in the fact that it’s part fashion and part mindfulness! According to—it was Net-a-Porter’s senior market editor Libby Page who spotted a dramatic change in customer shopping patterns as lockdown restrictions ended!  Demand surged for more exciting and optimistic fashion, bright colours and playful prints. From neon palettes and tie-dye to colourful plastic jewellery, experts believe fashion that improves the wearer’s mood, known as—dopamine dressing—might be more than a flash in the pan trend; and is here to stay! Can you really blame people for finding little ways to find joy—even if it’s through bold, happy clothes—after a miserable 18 months?


In a recent article in Refinery 29, influencer, author and journalist Ben Pechey said that they use their clothes regularly to come across as more extroverted. “I always dress for the person I want to be. I do a lot of public speaking and even when it is online, I still dress in the way that makes me feel the most authoritative and confident—and that is always colourful.” Can clothes really have an impact on the way we feel or elevate our mood?

For the uninitiated, our bodies produce dopamine, and our nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells; it’s a type of neurotransmitter. When dopamine is released in large doses, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward—which motivates us to repeat that behaviour that guarantees that feeling. It’s not surprising then that people are embracing this ‘sunshine’ trend, as the world is crawling back to normalcy!

So does it really work? The short answer is: Yes. However, it’s not necessarily about dressing to resemble a rainbow-coloured lollypop!  Speaking to The Guardian, Carolyn Mair, a psychologist who has developed an MA course in fashion psychology at the London College of Fashion, said: “It’s as much about you (and what meaning you believe your clothes have), as it is about the clothes. Mair further says that there’s “less than scientific evidence” to suggest certain colours lift your mood… and is down to how you see that colour. Colour is culturally loaded—in some countries, black is the hue people wear to mourn a loss while in some others (mostly Asia), it’s white. 

She goes on to explain this further in the article: ‘If you believe that wearing a certain colour (it doesn’t need to be bright yellow, it could be black) lifts your mood … it’s a simultaneous wearing and believing that has been found to have significant results.’ “When people believe in the symbolic meaning of their clothes, it can affect their cognitive processes, and part of those are your emotions.”

So, dopamine dressing could mean different things for different people. It could be wearing vibrant colours for some, and for others, black. While a well-fitting pair of denims may do it for some guys, it may be a well-tailored pair of trousers for some! Ultimately, dopamine dressing is whatever makes you feel good. Like with anything in life, especially when it comes to fashion, the most important thing is to have fun with it!


[Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock]