In a recent study, researchers from the University of North Carolina and Duke found that the most fashionable outfits are "moderately matched." The best outfits are neither too bland nor too bold, perfectly balancing over-coordination with disastrous clashing, an aesthetic principle we at Esquire simply call "classic."

This doesn't mean that you can't match your socks to your tie (as long as they're different patterns, of course), but instead that you should avoid monochrome outfits or, say, pairing chartreuse with fuchsia (but you already knew that), lest you be too boring or too bold. The researchers claim this upholds a psychosocial theory known as the Goldilocks Principle, which other studies have also found pertinent to things like facial attractiveness. Basically, the science says we don't want to stand out or blend in too much, or, in academic terms "that when developing a sense of self, we strive to strike a harmonious balance between similarity with others and individual distinctness."

Which all seems like it should be just sort of apparent to anyone paying attention. But this study is important mostly because it's the first study to apply an empirical analysis to the aesthetics of clothing, something most designers would tell you is simply unquantifiable. The study is also notable for its open acceptance of fashion as "an essential part of the human experience" and something that extends beyond "mere vanity" to influence "perceived and signaled social identity, employment outcomes, romantic success, and even cognitive processes." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

If you want to test the reproducibility of the findings yourself, may we suggest you start with the below looks from recent men's runway shows. Which would you rather wear?



None of these things is quite like the other: Agi & Sam, spring/summer 2015/Getty; Berluti spring/summer 2015/Getty; Dunhill spring/summer 2015/Dunhill.