Dubai Residents Comment on Appearance Judgment Culture


Salwa Mohammad Hanif Society ,,,,,,
What you own defines you.

Gucci, Chanel, Mont Blanc, Ferrari.

Dubai is home to malls at every corner, oozing luxury. Look at your own possessions – even if you don’t see yourself as brand-conscious, you’ve probably got one or two items that denote your social status.

The idea that you can’t wear your money has disappeared – you can flaunt it. The price isn’t visible, but the brand is. This lust for luxury items, driven consistently by a mix of jealousy, desire, ambition and marketing, has led to a significant growth in appearance judgment in the UAE.

A resident and businessman in the UAE said this was common here,

“UAE is all about status. Even a Pathan from a village who comes here becomes status conscious over a year or so because of how they portray lifestyle over here. They are pretty heavy on lifestyle.”

We already know that our concept of ‘beauty’ determines how much people trust or judge others’ competence and even integrity.

Does this judgment of beauty extend to brands?

It’s safe to say – Yes, but not how you’d think. What you wear, what you carry, and what you use does not only determine your social status, but for some strange reason, comes with the implication of superiority. Psychologists call this the ‘Halo Effect’, where positive feelings about someone in one area causes you to see even their neutral traits as positive.

A definite downside to this phenomenon is our mistaken attribution of traits like trustworthiness and competence where it doesn’t exist. This, of course, does not happen on a conscious level, where you think ‘Oh, she has a Michael Kors bag, she must be talented.’ It’s more subtle than that.

An employed person, who recently moved to the UAE, also shared similar views:

“One class of our society is so brand conscious that they don’t talk to anyone whose appearance is simpler! It’s a never ending race to a finish line that doesn’t exist!”

Past research has shown that wearing branded clothes versus label-less clothes affect the person perception of the wearer. Further, “brands can literally change what we like.” [Say you don’t typically like leopard print, but you see a ‘vintage’ bag by Louis Vuitton and you like Louis Vuitton, it’ll affect how much you like the bag.]

This is not to say that this is limited to Dubai – it’s a worldwide trend. A fourth year medical student from Pakistan says:

“It’s less about how you earn but more about how you spend. These things are heavy on the pocket and heavier on the soul. Various brands today use systematic tactics to take control of the way we think; they generate fame and market their products in such a manner that consumers feel that such products are a necessity rather than luxury.”

The problem comes in when these seemingly harmless branded items cloud over our intuition and judgment while meeting someone new. When the wrapping is pretty, we usually don’t look to see if there’s substance beneath.

Do you want to risk trusting the wrong person – professionally or personally?

Tell us in the comments below if you’ve been judged by the brands you wear, or a time you’ve felt particularly brand-conscious.

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