Fashion is often criticized for being superficial and vain. People who love fashion and who wear expensive things are often seen as “peacocking”. Wearing designer clothes and having accessories from renowned brands is seen as showing off.
But the reality of the matter is that there is a lot more to this phenomenon that one would think. The act of peacocking is tied to some of the most fundamental things in life: it’s how we showcase our best side, attract people and gain social points that give us the tools to be safe and to have a good experience.
Peacocking and culture
Showcasing your best is something that people have always done. Evolutionary psychology is a field that analyzes the things that are so deeply rooted in our genes that we hardly think of them or notice, yet do on a constant basis, with a strong influence on the way we behave, act and even consume goods.
Status competition is something people have always done. Even texts as old as Greek poems discuss it and the ways in which people try to surface on top in society and their group. This is basically what peacocking is all about: signaling that you are good enough, important enough or, better said, relevant enough to be taken into consideration and placed at a high place within a certain group of which you want to be a part of. The group can be as small as a partnership between two people and as big as the world.
Proofs and conclusions
The fact is that different cultures use different forms of peacocking. However, the main characteristic about peacocking according to researchers who have studies this phenomenon is that it is the mostly the males who will engage in it. Being in high-status items has been proven to have physical changes on the body. For example, a study conducted a few years ago compared a man driving a simple car and then driving a high-status car, a Ferrari. The conclusion was that when the driving the high-status car in a public environment with many people around (but also in a private setting), the men’s testosterone increased incredibly. A similar study has shown that a man in a high-status car is perceived a lot more attractive than in a regular car. Also, it has been concluded by researchers that men who are in high-status cars are three times more likely to obtain a phone number from a woman than men in regular cars.
These findings indicate that status symbols not only have a big impact on the way we are perceived socially, but also on the way we are perceived as individuals. Moreover, if just being in an object can change your hormone levels, such as your testosterone, it can be clearly said that an object has the power to change your behavior and worldview, as, as it is known that men act differently depending on their level of testosterone.
Thus, it can be said that the things we find in have a great impact on the way we are. Other studies have also shown that fashion labels of high-status brands also work as an indicator of someone with great resources. In fact, fashion is peacocking at its finest. Because fashion is so strongly associated with identity, labeling yourself as someone who has a vast amount of resources makes you extremely attractive in the eye of others.
This is why people from all around the world also use fakes and images of labels they don’t really own. These are meant to say something about the other person, to associate them with the high status represented by the brand in the eyes of others and thus to heighten their level in society.
This might sound weird to some, but social competition is strongly embedded in our DNA. A study has been done by a team of researchers where two almost identical online dating profiles were created, the only difference being that in one of them the male had a high-status car and in the other, a regular car. Respondents were asked to estimate his height. As expected, women considered him to be taller than he was in the profile where he was driving the high-status car and men considered him to be shorter in it. The explanation is simple: the men were all competing with him, so this was a way to try and lower his social status. Therefore, social competitions involving fake fashion items and other luxury goods might seem ridiculous, but it is something we do out of instinct.
Social competition and status symbols used to peacock are not, however limited to fashion and luxury goods. People are usually criticizing those who use these things, but fail to notice that each group and society, as large or small as it may be, has its own social status indicators. For example, in some groups it is who has the most money, in others who is the most eco-friendly and so on.
The signal changes, but the process remains.
People are always becoming more and more aware that sometimes the things one owns or displays are not necessarily a reflection of his own personality, but it is very hard to overcome these impulses. Social status indicators will be here as long as we’ll have societies where people interact and they will continue to evolve and renew themselves.
And, in the end, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a good standing in society. The only problem is to be able to eventually back it up with more than flashes.
Fraquoh and Franchomme
P.S. We want to hear from you! Do you peacock using fashion and style? How? How do other people around you peacock? Share your feedback, questions or thoughts in the comments below! For more articles on style, fashion tips and cultural insights, you can subscribe to Attire Club via e-mail or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!