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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Journalism Fail: Plain White Tee's

There is a t-shirt "story" being repeated across internet blogs and news sites these days that grabs attention with headlines like, "White t-shirts make men 12% sexier". Some articles are making the claim that a Nottingham Trent University Study revealed that women find a man wearing a plain white t-shirt more attractive. For instance, this article reports, "And now, a groundbreaking scientific discovery. Women think guys who wear white t-shirts are hotter than men who wear other colors of t-shirts. 12% hotter". While some men might find hope in the idea that a white t-shirt could help them appeal to more women than they usually do, the headline leaves one wondering "sexier than what?" It turns out that a little research into the study reveals that, in fact, the study did not determine anything about the sex appeal men can derive from a white t-shirt, but rather the effect the participants of the study reported when an optical illusion that is provided by a "T" design is added to a shirt.

From the Nottingham Trent University Article: "It involved showing 30 female participants images of different male body shapes, wearing a plain white t-shirt, and asking them to mark their perceived
attractiveness, health and intelligence.They were then asked to do the same when shown the bodies again but with upright and inverted T-illusions of varying shapes and sizes on the t-shirts. The results showed that upright T-illusions increased attractiveness and health by about 10%, while inverted T-illusions resulted in a drop of attractiveness by the same amount. The upright and inverted 'T' with wider horizontal bars showed a bigger average effect, both positive and negative. And the size of the effect depended on how close the individual body was to the ideal WCR - bodies closer to the optimal ratio received less benefit than those further away. Nottingham Trent University psychologist Dr Andrew Dunn said: "The wider barred 'T' seems to emphasise the upper chest when upright, which accentuates men's optimum shape. The opposite happens when inverted[sic]."
Credit: Nottingham Trent University

Clearly, the study determined nothing about how the color of the t-shirt a man wears affects a his attractiveness to women, that the plainness of a t-shirt leads to a positive female reaction, nor that the t-shirt itself is a particularly eye-catching style. Rather, the study used only white t-shirts so as to create a benchmark. No other color is compared. The study did show an increased attractiveness in males when a specific design, which tends to give the illusion of broader shoulders was added to the shirt. The study also concluded that a certain design could accentuate areas of the male body which would make it appear less attractive to women. The effects of the designs were most pronounced when worn by men who did not already possess the bodily proportions which are commonly most attractive to females (duh).

These facts do not prevent the common tripe from being lazily regurgitated onto blog pages. Let the worship of the plain white t-shirt begin:

Kanye West is certainly benefiting from this non-trend, recently selling out of his "designer", plain white, $120.00 t-shirt. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a plain white t-shirt every once in a while. But given the actual findings of the study, there are going to be some disappointed men wishing they had their $120 back when they find out that they are not, in fact, experiencing a 12% (or even 10%) lift in female attention. Given a little time, a smart designer is going to catch on to the realities of the Nottingham Trent University study, and create designs on shirts that actually do make men appear more physically attractive to women than they do without the design.

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