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Charity steps up to present findings of MP poll at academic conference

Research exploring political leaders’ perceptions of clothing choices has been presented at a leading academic conference.

The research built on a poll of over 100 MPs, commissioned by learning disabilities charity Hft, that quizzed politicians on their footwear preferences and how likely they were to judge someone by their shoes. Hft hopes that the study will help grow existing knowledge of how clothing choices affect how people are perceived by others. To the charity’s knowledge, it is the first time a major study of British MPs has been conducted in this way.

The charity originally conducted this research last June to mark the one year anniversary of its Walk In Our Shoes campaign, which calls on MPs to spend time with adults with learning disabilities to understand more about the issues that matter to them.

Findings were presented at a London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research conference, Fashion Body and Culture, last Saturday (15 February) at the University of Oxford. The conference was attended by researchers from institutions around the world. Themes sparked debate on how people use fashion to express themselves, and how power can be asserted through clothing choices. Hft’s research paper is now awaiting publication in an academic journal.  

Billy David from Hft steps up to present findings of MP poll at academic conference

Billy Davis, Public Affairs and Policy Manager at Hft, commented: “From Theresa May’s kitten heels[1], or Angela Rayner’s lust for a pair of Star Wars shoes[2], through to Nick Clegg’s choice to forego shoes and socks altogether[3] – politicians are just as likely to make headlines for what they put on their feet as they are for the policies they champion.

“Our research has put the shoe on the other foot and instead looked at how MPs judge others by the shoes they wore. Existing research confirms what a powerful impact shoes have on first impressions[4], so it was interesting for us to find that almost a quarter (23%) of MPs surveyed admitted to being likely to judge someone by the shoes they wear.

“We received great feedback from the other researchers in the room, and it was great to see how our research is contributing to ongoing conversation on the overlaps between politics and fashion. It was a privilege to be able to present our findings in such auspicious surroundings, and we are now looking forward to publishing the final study in due course.”

The charity was able to attend the conference thanks to a Research Activity Grant from the Pasold Research Fund. 

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