BY BRITTANY BROLLEY
What even is “attractiveness?” According to psychiatrist Fredric Neuman, it’s “never just a matter of face and figure.” Conventional beauty often boils down to symmetry whereas attractiveness is, as Dr. Neuman explained in his article for Psychology Today, “more complex.” Men and women can find themselves attracted to someone simply because of that person’s mannerisms, personality, or even clothing. “That initial impression determines whether that person seems attractive or not,” Neuman revealed. “But the odd thing is that what strikes one person as attractive will seem unattractive to someone else.”
Attractiveness is incredibly nuanced and, as such, Neuman advises against striving to become everyone’s cup of tea. That’s just not possible. However, science has discovered that a select few items women regularly use have the power to attract the opposite sex. And, as it happens, you probably already own a majority of them. Curious to know which of your everyday objects possess the power of attraction? Keep reading.
In 2014, the American Podiatric Medical Association revealed (via PR Newswire) that high heels are the devil. Okay, they didn’t say that, but they did say that heels are the leading cause of foot pain in women. This isn’t too surprising given that pretty much anyone who has ever worn heels knows of their discomfort. Through a survey conducted by the association, it was discovered that, of the 49 percent of women who reported wearing heeled shoes, a vast majority complained about the pain. We hear that!
Nevertheless, a study from the year prior discovered a “strong contemporary association between high heels and female sexuality.” Wearing heels was found to alter a person’s gait in a way that reduced the length between steps and upped the “rotation and tilt of the hips.” The unique swagger that comes from walking in heels also causes men to find women more attractive, apparently. After viewing videos of women walking in both heels and flat shoes, the participants in the study rated the heel-wearing women as “significantly more attractive.” Hmm, the more you know, right?
There are plenty of reasons to read. Most people may not crack open a book solely to keep an open mind or live longer than those who don’t read, but both are side effects of the hobby. Surprisingly, books can even influence attractiveness. A study by EliteSingles found that 85 percent of single people considered others who are well-read to be “more appealing.”
As part of another survey conducted by EliteSingles in partnership with Westwing, an “interior design firm,” 26 percent of men and women named a “well-stocked bookshelf” as the most attractive item to come across in a date’s home. When it comes to genres, many men found erotica-readers attractive — surprise, surprise — but Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird was also listed as one of the top five attractive books to own.
But, why is reading so attractive? Books lead to discussions, psychologist Salama Marine told the site. She continued, “Also, your taste in books can highlight aspects of your personality — are you curious, romantic, dreamy? By sharing your tastes you can show and share your inner world.”
A simple sundress
It’s no secret that many women love sundresses. “Dresses are almost always looser and less constricting than pants or a skirt,” Whitney May, an architecture and design assistant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City told The New York Times during the heat of summer in 2011. “When it’s this hot, I don’t wear anything else.” Colleen Sherin, fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, told the publication, “[Sundresses] always make you look pulled together,” noting, “That’s what makes them such a success.”
It’s not just women and designers who love the look, though. Many heterosexual men are drawn to women wearing sundresses. Glamour surveyed a few men who are on board with the trend to figure out just what it is about these dresses that make the women wearing them so attractive. “Sundresses are sexy because they are effortless and give off a girl-next-door vibe,” 35-year-old Penn told the publication. “It’s as simple as this: silhouette and movement,” 31-year-old Kwasi revealed. Other men praised the summer attire for being everything from “classy” to “figure-flattering” to “feminine.” Yeah, sundresses are pretty great.
Anything sleeveless, really
There’s another reason men find sundresses — and pretty much anything without sleeves — so attractive. And it has nothing to do with how “feminine” or “classy” your outfit may or may not be. According to science, men are all about arms. No, that’s not a typo. Although we’ve long stereotyped guys as being “leg men,” they’ve secretly been eyeing up our guns. In one comprehensive study conducted in 2010, “taller women who had longer arms were strongly preferred.” According to the study, “slender arms” were also considered to be “highly attractive.”
A later study conducted by the University of Missouri at Kansas City found that “toned and thin” women were considered more attractive than “thin only” women, as reported by The Independent. When speaking to The Independent, the study’s lead author, Frances Bozsik, explained, “There is a shift in the thin ideal female figure to one that now includes the appearance of physical fitness via muscularity.” Hopefully this “ideal” figure will shift to include all body types in the future.
Perfume, but not just any kind
There is more to attractiveness than meets the eye. “Beauty is also in the nose and ear of the beholder,” researchers revealed in 2017. It may sound a little out there, but our sense of smell seems to have a lot to do with how we assess attractiveness. Citing their own study and prior studies, the researchers revealed that human noses have the ability to assess things like fertility, health, diet, age, and personality. Our noses can even recognize family members through their body odor, which, the researchers speculated, “may be important in mate choice in order to avoid inbreeding.” Okay, that took a turn, but still. Our noses are pretty freaking amazing.
Although you might think all of this research means you should rely on your natural scent, that’s not necessarily the case. Perhaps one of the best attractiveness hacks is perfume. Well, one kind of perfume. Avery Gilbert, a sensory psychologist, told Women’s Health, “Luscious, fruity notes are disarming but attractive.” Dr. Alan Hirsch of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation added, “Edible odors tend to increase male arousal.” Well, there you have it.
Despite what is often said, seeing red is actually a good thing. Not only do women fancy men in red clothing, but men, too, are more attracted to women who wear the bold color. Well, young women who wear red, that is. A study conducted by researchers in Germany found that young women were perceived as “more sexually attractive” when seated against a red background than one that was white. However, the background color didn’t influence attractiveness one way or the other for older women. Interestingly, the study pointed out that “men are not aware of this red effect.” It seems to be completely subconscious.
The reasoning behind this phenomenon is not yet known. Sarah E. Johns, an evolutionary anthropology professor at the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent in the UK, conducted another study on the color red, but could still only give her best guess. “Maybe it makes men feel competitive (other studies have shown this),” she told Shape, “so maybe men are more competitive about women in red and therefore desire them more.” Whatever the reason, red is damn alluring.
If you’re thinking, “No s***, men like makeup,” it’s not quite that clear cut. As part of a study conducted by psychologists at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, participants were asked to view and rate female faces with three styles of makeup: minimal, moderate, and dramatic. The researchers found that each type had “significant positive effects” on attractiveness, as well as likability, competence, and trustworthiness. However, when those same participants looked at the images for a longer amount of time, the faces remained both attractive and competent, but started to waffle in likability and trustworthiness. Why exactly that is is unknown. “Makeup is a powerful but understudied tool,” the study’s lead author, Nancy Etcoff, explained in an article for The New York Times.
In another study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (via Today), both men and women had reported finding women who were wearing minimal makeup more attractive. “So a more natural look makes you appear more attractive to others,” psychologist Alex Jones explained. It seems men are not all about contouring. Oh well.
A bodycon dress
A 2009 study revealed that men found a woman’s hip-to-waist ratio as more alluring than — wait for it — the size of her breasts. Although we’d all certainly love to see more inclusivity in men’s preferences, the study revealed that men rated women with “an hourglass shape and a slim waist” as “most attractive, irrespective of breast size.”
Oh, remember when we said most men don’t like contouring? Well, it turns out they do. Just not on the face. Although there have been calls to retire bodycon dresses, the trend is still alive and well as of this writing. Since the bodycon dress quite literally contours to your body and shows off your hip-to-waist ratio, it’s practically the outfit to wear if you’re looking to attract some male attention. And while some dudes may prefer a “slim waist,” any woman of any size can rock a bodycon while looking downright fabulous.
A hair tie?
Science has told us — time after time — that men prefer women with longer hair. But what if guys actually like what women can do with their hair more than the hair itself? A study conducted by Pantene (via StyleCaster) revealed that 87 percent of men thought a woman’s hair played an important role in her overall appearance. But, according to professional matchmaker Steve Ward, that doesn’t mean there’s only one way to wear your hair.
A tousled braid gives off an “easy-going” vibe, according to the expert, whereas a loose, low bun (think: Meghan Markle) is “an inviting style.” Ward added that, with a low bun, the “hair is up and back, so you can see her face, neck, and collarbone.” What do all of these styles have in common? A hair tie, of course. Although Ward says most men aren’t a fan of traditional ponytails — pshh — guys definitely like a lot of other styles that call for a simple elastic tie.
When The Express Tribune polled men about their favorite women’s fashion staples, it turned out that men weren’t solely fans of bodycon dresses. “All the men agreed that the classic black dress — albeit fitted — was a good choice,” the publication revealed.
The UK company Buy T-Shirts Online further surveyed 1,000 people and discovered how they perceived different colors. The color black “might have connotations of death, gloom, and forest gateaux,” the site revealed, “but it’s a powerful performer in the eyes of the public, who see it as a serious, reliable and solid player, ideal for interviews and first dates.” Furthermore, over half of those who participated in the survey found black to be the color of “confidence.”
A 2010 study conducted by researchers at the University of Liverpool in the UK and Charles University in the Czech Republic also found that when men assessed women’s attractiveness, two colors — red and black — “were associated with higher attractiveness judgments.” Yep, black is amazing.
A set of golf clubs
Although you might think of golf as being about as sexy as bowling, owning a set of clubs actually makes you more attractive to the opposite sex. Hey, we don’t make the rules. The online dating site Coffee Meets Bagel (via Golf Punk) surveyed more than 68,000 people and found that men are significantly more attracted to women who either play golf or follow the world of golf. And the statistics are pretty astounding. A whopping 70 percent of the men surveyed voted this way. Hmm, well this does explain all of those awkward mini golf dates.
Patricia Hannigan, founder of Golf Girl Media, rejoiced upon hearing the results of the survey. “Girls who play golf are more desirable than those who don’t,” Golf Punk quotes her as saying. “We’ve long suspected as much, but now we’ve got proof.” Of course, there’s more to dating — and life — than golf, so don’t worry if you’re not a fan. Interestingly, the women who participated in the study actually didn’t care much for men who played golf. Those surveyed found guys who either watch or play football to be most attractive. Cough — Tom Brady — cough.
A pair of shades
You may love your sunglasses, but it turns out your partner might love them even more. Vanessa Brown, a professor of art and design at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, researched the link between sunglasses and people’s perception of “cool.” The expert revealed to The Cut that sunglasses work not only to block out the sun, but to also make a person’s face more symmetrical. And, since symmetry is conventionally beautiful, well, our glasses up our attractiveness factor without us even having to try.
Sunglasses also make a person’s face look more defined. Not only that, but wearing a pair of shades pretty much makes us instantly mysterious — even if we’re really not. Brown explained, “The eyes are such a tremendous source of information — and vulnerability — for the human being.” Cover up your eyes and — bam! — you’re now mystifying. When sunglasses first became mainstream, they were thought of as “daring and thoroughly modern,” according to Brown. Although they’re no longer anything new or unusual, their edgy “cool” factor lingers.
And regular eyeglasses too
Eyeglasses don’t produce the same enigmatic effect as sunglasses do, but men still find some women who wear them attractive. Much of the attraction actually depends on the glasses — at least that’s what researchers at the University of Vienna in Austria discovered. As part of a study on eyewear and attractiveness, they found that “faces with full-rim glasses” were rated as “less attractive and more intelligent than faces without glasses.” However, faces wearing “rimless glasses” did not lose any attractiveness points. Instead, their attractiveness remained the same and they were also thought of as both more intelligent and trustworthy than faces without glasses.
Of course, whether you decide to wear chunky frames, rimless eyewear, or anything in between is totally up to you. It doesn’t have to come down to what men consider to be attractive. It’s also worth noting that what’s hot in eyewear today may change tomorrow, so picking a style you genuinely like is often the best bet.
A piece of gum
Chewing gum has long been thought of as a no-no while interviewing for a job or working in a professional setting. In fact, Business Insider rounded up a list of “annoying” small mistakes that could lead to you losing out on a job and, you guessed it, chewing gum made the cut. Despite it not being well-received in the workforce, gum can actually make both men and women appear more attractive. Well, except on a job interview, that is.
According to the Georgian Journal, the chewing gum company Beldent set up a live art exhibit at the Buenos Aires Museum of Contemporary Art. The installation featured a pair of identical male twins and identical female twins. Nearly 500 museum patrons were asked a series of questions about the twins. During the questioning, one sibling chewed a piece of gum while the other held a “neutral expression.” The questions ranged from “which one do you think is the bad cop?” to “which one do you think has a better sex life?” In the end, a whopping 73 percent responded positively to the gum chewers. So, while your favorite gum might not help you score a job, it might just help you score.