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Style, Image, & Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Image and psychology are pretty closely linked. To be clear, we aren’t psychologists, but there are clear correlations between the two concepts. Ideas around personality and its manifestation have one foot in image and the other in psychology. They way we perceive what we see and hear (and smell and touch) are present in both areas. We wanted to explore this relationship a bit more, so we’ll be discussing Style, Image, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Who Was Maslow?

abraham maslow sittingAbraham Maslow (4/1/1908 – 6/8/1970) was a Jewish-American psychologist and professor. He taught at, among other places, elite institutions such as Brandeis University and Columbia University. Profoundly influential in the field of humanistic psychology, he was ranked 10th most-cited psychologist of the 20th century by A Review of General Psychology in 2002. Maslow himself summed up humanistic psychology as completing what Sigmund Freud started, saying “It is as if Freud supplied us the sick half of psychology and we must now fill it out with the healthy half.”

He is arguably most famous for his Hierarchy of Needs, a theory which, when paraphrased, says that humans have to meet certain existential needs to be mentally healthy and eventually self-actualize – become the best person that they can. The stages are below.

What is Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs?”

maslows hierarchy of needs pyramid

  1. Physiological needs: Like other animals, we need the basics to have even a remote chance at thriving. Food and water, air, shelter, clothing, sex, sleep, and excretion all fall under this category.
  2. Safety needs: Once your body has what it needs, you focus on protecting it – surviving. What do we need to survive? We need to feel personally secure, not concerned about threats to life and limb. We need resources, jobs that allow us to make money to acquire those resources, and, of course, our health.
  3. Love and belonging: Humans are social animals. Anecdotes we hear about people losing it during quarantine make sense – we need positive relationships to thrive. These relationships can be friendships, family ties, romantic intimacy, and/or a sense of connection to one’s community and other social groups.
  4. Esteem: We need to feel good about ourselves if we are to thrive. This can come in the form of social status, respect, self-esteem, recognition by others, and the freedom to do as you please (more or less).
  5. Self-actualization: With all our other needs met, we can focus on being the most that we can be.

These needs are often simultaneously present in an individual, but fulfilling those needs is a one-at-a-time endeavor. Having a close, loving spouse meets an important human need, but if you don’t have food to eat, you’re going to look for a meal before a mate. You wouldn’t survive otherwise.

How Your Personal Brand Relates To Your Well-Being

Unsurprisingly, as clothiers and image consultants, we see a lot of what we do in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If we start at the bottom of the pyramid, we see that clothing itself meets a physiological need. It keeps us warm when it’s cold and protects us from the elements – in short, it enables us to survive in the physical sense of the word.

This is a natural segue into the next tier of the pyramid, which involves safety needs. Clothing doesn’t just keep us safe from the world around us – it also enables us to secure employment in the modern world. It goes without saying that gainfully employed people will usually have better access to resources and better health outcomes than unemployed or underemployed people.

Image & Relationships

man and woman kissing in the forestAs for love and relationships, clothing and your image both play a role. Clothes aren’t everything, but good ones that fit well and flatter your frame will make you more physically attractive – just ask any guy whose wife sees him in a nice suit. The clothes you wear affect how you present yourself to the world – your image – and therefore affects how others respond to you. The right clothing – one that aligns with an authentic image you wish to project – will help you develop deeper relationships more quickly, satisfying a basic human need.

man in custom suit with a beltAs for esteem, one word that sticks out to us is status. We wrote about how we use clothing and other markers of wealth to signal membership in a social group, hearkening back to tier three. We use clothes to project status and, in some cases, rejection of traditional status norms. Our sense of self-esteem is tied up in our image as well. Image is part of who we are, it’s our brand. If you feel good about your brand, that’s high self-esteem.

Becoming The Most “You” You Can Be

Self-actualization, or being the most that you can be, starts with a healthy self-image. Humans need this to reach their maximum potential. Expressing your image through your clothing can help you reach this potential.


The psychology of image fascinates us. We hope you enjoyed reading as much as we did writing about style, image, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Curious to develop your image? We’re here to help. Call 215-310-0219 or email info@henrydavidsen.com to start a conversation.

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