You know that feeling you get when you know you look good? Maybe it’s pair of pants that make your butt look great. Maybe it’s a shirt that that’s just tight enough in all the right places. Whatever it is for you, you know it when you feel it. You instantly become more confident. You own the room. Did you know there is actually science behind that?
A few years ago, Danish researchers wanted to find out how the clothes someone wears affects their brains, productivity and sense of themselves. Yes, a company actually funded a study like this. You can read the full study here if you don’t believe me. The scientists who conducted the study had a theory called “enclothed cognition,” which essentially means they thought people dressed a certain way would act similarly to the way they were dressed. In the study, the scientists had a test group and a control group. The test group was told to put on lab coats, perform a series of tasks and answer a set of questions. The second group was told to do the same things except for putting on lab coats. Instead, they were told to just keep on whatever they wore to the testing facility.
As it turned out, the people wearing the lab coats finished the list of tasks 18% faster than those in regular clothes. They even answered questions in a more authoritative tone (they measured the octaves of their voices) than the control group even when it was clear to the interviewer that the subject had no clue what the answer should be.
Enclothed cognition is a thing.
Endurance sports like trail running and obstacle course racing (OCR) are like the lab study by those Danish guys in terms of people’s sense of self. As an athlete, you visualize yourself doing something like you were watching yourself on video. You’re always running with good form in those pre-race fantasies. The point is, you have a picture in your head of the way you’ll look when you’re performing well. Can the right pair of shorts or compression tights improve your mental game to a point where it has a positive impact on your physical performance?
As we learned from Matt Fitzgerald in his book “How Bad Do You Want It?: The Science of Mind Over Muscle” your mental approach to physical activity often dictates how you’ll perform. Matt’s case study in the first chapter demonstrated how someone who was not in prime physical condition could overcome someone who was during the Chicago Marathon by wanting it more. To be clear “wanting” has nothing to do with the power you generate with your muscles or you VO2 Max.
The confidence you have in yourself makes all the difference in the world when it comes to your physical performance. We think about that as the focal point of our design process. How can we make someone feel damn near invincible when they wear Human Octane clothing? That’s one of the reasons we create lines that flow with the natural shape of the human body. It’s called body mapping and it helps not only get the fit dialed in, but it accentuates the existing physical attributes of the person who’s wearing it.
Our compression tights are a perfect example of this concept. To make them perfect for OCR and trail running, we had to make the person wearing them feel like the superhero version of herself. We looked at comic book superheroes when we started sketching to design. (I wrote about it here). The prime vertical seam that comes down the thigh on our women’s compression tights is placed so it draws the eye in, creating a sleek silhouette. The seam going down the front of the shin in our men’s compression tights using contrasting color to emphasize the appearance of big calf muscles. (that’s NOT an excuse to skip leg day)
Of course, the look won’t do anything for you if the clothing doesn’t perform. We want you to put it on, feel like a badass and then forget about it. We don’t want people tugging on anything during physical activity. It can’t be uncomfortable when wet. We run and race too. We get it. That’s why we went out of our way to make sure our shorts, shirts, socks and tights provide next level performance in trail running and OCR. From fabric to construction to trim, everything we used is World Class. No corners were cut (that’s cheating!).
For us, understanding enclothed cognition was the perfect way to match what we’d already known in the science of our training plans and marry it to our process for making gear.