Gimme more, more, more, MORE.

I just came home from town after getting a cute new white t-shirt in the Topshop sale (I can hear Grandad in my head – it’s not a bargain if you don’t need it!). Whilst putting it away I realised I own eleven white t-shirts in one form or another, be it plain, striped or slogan. It hit me how downright ridiculous this is and I got to thinking about why we buy so many things barely different to eachother. Why not buy one or two good quality white t-shirts? Why have I felt the need to accumulate ELEVEN? E – L – E – V – E – N!?!

Truth is, marketers are really good at convincing us we need ten gazillion versions of a white t-shirt. Literally. (Not literally, that whole sentence is my opinion. Maybe they’re only trying to convince us we need a million.)

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Find the t-shirts here:

I have a battered white t-shirt I love so much I’ve sewn it multiple times rather than throw it out. Sometimes I think it might be the best t-shirt on Earth, but the cynical side of me thinks I’ve seen it so many times that I like it because it’s familiar (this is the mere exposure effect) But a new t-shirt will always favourite for a week or so after I buying. Novel items activate reward systems in our brains, making us feel good and attribute that to buying the top. That t-shirt gives the brain a hit of dopamine which positively reinforceing the purchase and making future purchases more likely. Baaaaaasically, I want to buy another t-shirt because I last time felt good. Stimulus generalisation can then occur, meaning that good feeling is generalised to similar items (in this case white t-shirts).

Ok so this starts to explain the impulse to buy more t-shirts, but why more similar ones?

Humans prefer to stick within their comfort zone, straying from what we know can be scary. For me (you guessed it) this white t-shirts and when I’m in stores I find myself gravitating to them. This makes sense, humans are attracted to familiarity, which is reassuring for me – I thought I was just boring. Perhaps this is exactly why we buy very similar things  – to feel safe in what we wear but since we don’t want to feel as though we’re boring, we choose something a teeny bit different.

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People talk about wardrobe staples, items every wardrobe should include,  a little black dress, well fitting jeans, a white t-shirt etc. By labelling them as essentials, purchasing them feels more is justified. You know that feeling after buying something, you feel good but also guilty? If you do, you’re not alone, purchase guilt is common among many people. This creates cognitive dissonance in our mind (conflict between thoughts/behaviours) creating a sense of discomfort. Marketing techniques like wardrobe staples, convince us we need something, not just want – preventing guilt and thus cognitive dissonance. This makes purchasing more pleasurable, reinforcing this type of purchase and increasing the likelihood of similar purchases. We’re not only encouraged to own ‘wardrobe staples’, but find the perfect piece. But perfect doesn’t exist, as consumers we’re never satisfied, so in the search for the perfect garment we continue purchasing very similar items with slight differences.

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Get the t-shirt here:

Despite all of this, I doubt I’ll stop anytime soon. Maybe now I’m aware of how many white t-shirts I’ll start collecting black ones …

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Read this next: Limited Edition, Who Cares?





  1. Adam Bradshaw

    Hi, I found this post really interesting to read. I basically wear the same style of blacktop almost every day of the week so it was nice to understand why.

    One thing I thought of when reading was how advertisers may influence what we wear through our Self-concept image and brand personality congruence. In a paper by Azvedo and Farhangmehr (2005) they looked at the notion of self-image congruence on brands of clothing with self-concept and the number of advertisements the companies did. They found a significant positive correlation between a consumers self-concept and brand personality congruence and advertising response measures. Suggesting that the brands with higher ‘excitement’ such as Nike, Diesel or Levi’s could be popular as well because of the amount of advertising and brand image. Which could also explain the need to keep buying more clothes with specific companies.
    Looking forward to the next blog post!

    Azevedo, A., & Farhangmehr, M. (2005). Clothing branding strategies: Influence of brand personality on advertising response. Journal of Textile and Apparel, Technology and management, 4(3), 1-13.

    • beckyloubuttonBlogger

      Hi Adam,

      That’s such an interesting concept – I’m going to give that paper a read now, thanks for mentioning it!

  2. Carmela Iannotta

    Loveee your blog and your storytelling method. So easy to read and stay interested! This post is so me, except all of my white tshirts are plain, is that even weirder? But I 100% get the familiarity concept, so easy, so comfortable.

    Another thing that hit me was the concept of self-identity, and human tendencies to sometimes play ourselves down when we’re feeling low in self-esteem, make ourselves feel ordinary and not draw attention to ourselves. It’s crazy how much my current self-esteem effects my clothing choices when I think about it, there’s an interesting paper on this here:

    Thanks for the great content 🙂

    • beckyloubuttonBlogger

      Hey Carmela!

      Hahaha I think all plain t-shirts actually makes more sense than lots of similar ones, they’re more versatile!

      That’s such an interesting concept! Going to have a read of that paper in a moment. I couldn’t agree more about the self-esteem being affected by my look. I always make sure I put on a cute outfit and makeup before exams for this exact reason!

      Have a lovely day! Becky x

  3. Sonja Milano

    Hello, I really like your blog and they way you put together your passion for fashion and psychology theories! It is really easy to understand and apply the familiarity concept in the real world as you have mentioned it, however I think that another link to this blog could be the concept of compulsive buying. It is characterised by an excessive buying cognition as well as buying behaviour and one of the factor that may lead to is the decrease of self-esteem. Moreover as it is classified as a disorder, usually typical items purchased by persons with CBD include clothing, shoes, compact discs, jewellery, cosmetics, and household items. Individually, the items purchased by compulsive shoppers tend not to be particularly expensive, but it has been observed that many compulsive shoppers buy in quantity resulting in out of control spending, in order to feel better about theirselves. I suggest you check out this paper, very interesting!
    thank you for sharing this information with us! 🙂
    Sonja Milano

    • beckyloubuttonBlogger

      Hi Sonja,

      Thank you! This could definitely be a contribution to why we buy so much! I’ll check out that paper now 🙂

      Have a great day! Becky x

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