Researchers at Nottingham Trent University have revealed how wearing a plain white t-shirt with a black letter 'T' on the front significantly improves the appearance of the wearer's waist: chest ratio (WCR) a major signal of masculinity and attractiveness to females.
The study is being presented on Wednesday (June 26) at the London College of Fashion's Better Lives 2013 lecture series, which looks at the relationship between psychology and fashion.
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.
"WCR is one of just a number of body measures that humans use to judge attractiveness and health. Our ability to detect, process and use this information appears to be implicit. The brain and sensory mechanism underpinning this are probably evolved and are almost certainly managing what we look for and how we respond.
"Clearly there are individual tastes and preferences, but we can see here how fashion could have an implicit positive or negative effect on perceived attractiveness and health. We think the findings could be of use to fashion designers and tailors who create bespoke clothing for their clients."
It's not all good news though - while attractiveness and health both improved with an upright 'T', the perceived intelligence of the wearer remained the same.
Nottingham Trent University
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