A new study says you shouldn't aspire to look like this if you want to make friends. A new study says you shouldn't aspire to look like this if you want to make friends. A new study says you shouldn't aspire to look like this if you want to make friends. (Photo: FXQuadro/Shutterstock)

Leave the designer purse at home: Modesty is best when it comes to making friends

A new study says flashy cars, clothes and other items actually repel potential friends rather than attract them.

This just in, fashionistas: Your Louis Vuitton purse and Gucci pumps aren't helping you win friends. In fact, they may actually make you less approachable, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel, the University of Michigan and the National University of Singapore.

The sociological study found that people are more likely to seek out friendships with those of modest means, i.e. those who don't associate luxury items with high status.

“When trying to make new friendships, people think that high status symbols will make them look more socially attractive to potential friends," says Stephen Garcia, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of psychology and organizational studies at the University of Michigan. "However, it turns out that potential friends are repelled by the high status symbols on others.”

In one study, a group of people from an affluent town were told to choose between a luxury car or a basic car to drive to an outdoor wedding where they could meet new friends, while another group of people evaluated the partygoers' arrivals.

sign in front of Gucci Do designer duds attract attention? Maybe, but not the kind of attention you're really looking for. (Photo: oleschwander/Shutterstock)

Nearly two-thirds of the first group believed the luxury car would be more effective in making friends. But their prediction backfired; the other group expressed significantly less social interest in the people who chose the luxury car and said they preferred the people who chose the more conventional car.

Another experiment in the study asked people which of two plain T-shirts participants would wear to a picnic in their efforts to make new friends. One T-shirt had “Walmart” written on it, and the other T-shirt had “Saks Fifth Avenue” written on it. Seventy-six percent of the participants who were presenting themselves chose to wear the T-shirt with “Saks Fifth Avenue,” whereas 64 percent of the would-be friends chose the person wearing the “Walmart” T-shirt as a potential new friend.

The researchers emphasized that their findings apply only to new friendships, not business or family relationships.

"... To the extent friends are important to well-being, those looking for friends may unwittingly be hindering – not promoting – their own well-being,” said Kimberlee Weaver Livnat, a co-author of the study and senior faculty member in marketing at the University of Haifa.


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