A new study lead by researchers at Oregon State University finds that while more formal clothing may deflect certain racially biased assumptions, many people still hold negative stereotypes about Black men based on what they’re wearing.
In an experiment, college students were asked to look at photos of Black male student-athletes in different styles of clothing: championship T-shirts from their recent soccer victory; sweatpants and sweatshirts; and more formal button-down shirts and slacks. Results showed that participants judged the models to be more hardworking and more intelligent when they were wearing formal attire than when they wore sweatpants.
Researchers were surprised by results that showed no improvement in perception of the Black models wearing their soccer championship shirts. “We really thought, ‘Man, this should be the best category.’ What’s disheartening is that, even showing this clear evidence of success, of competence, it still did not shake stereotypes,” said Regan A.R. Gurung, a psychology researcher in the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University and the lead author of the study.
The full study, “Can Success Deflect Racism? Clothing and Perceptions of African American Men,” was published on the website of the Journal of Social Psychology. It may be accessed here.