The Human-Animal Bond: Matchy-Matchy Fashion is Growing in Popularity

The human-animal bond improves lives. The mutually beneficial, dynamic relationship between people and animals is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological and physical interactions of people, animals and the environment.

Pets and companion animals have been present in all cultures of the world since ancient times. Today, 85 million households in the U.S. are enjoying the benefits of the human-animal bond.

Spending 10 minutes interacting with a furry friend has the potential to reduce our levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, by a significant amount. In fact, strangers offer more smiles and friendly glances to people with dogs and are more likely to approach and have a conversation with someone with a canine companion. Moreover, a fashion-forward pup will catch the attention of just about everyone.

Our four-legged friends are leading the fashion industry and setting trends. The human-animal bond has officially entered the fashion world. They’re strutting down runways, on the covers of fashion magazines and on billboards. Not to mention, making millions on television, Instagram and TikTok. Of course, our obsession with our pets is nothing new, but it’s reached new heights amid the pandemic. To wit: The global dog clothing and accessories market hit $9.74 billion last year and is expected to balloon to $16.61 billion by 2028, according to market research and isn’t expected to slow down any time soon.

Dressing up our dogs is a form of self-expression and drives our emotional connection with our pets. You could go as far as saying its science, in the form of anthropomorphism, which is the tendency to map human traits and emotions onto animals and inanimate objects. And it has an evolutionary purpose. For centuries, we’ve assigned human characteristics to non-human things to make sense of the world around us. Plus seeing our pets as human-like fulfills a social need — hence the rise in popularity during the past few years.

Although adorning our companion animals in pet apparel dates back millennia, modern dog fashion took off in the early 2000s. Pets are people’s children and owners who twin with their dogs are no different from moms or dads who coordinate clothing with their kids. The trend of “matchy-matchy” is indeed a real thing. In fact, the first known use of matchy-matchy was in 1957. However, in the pet industry, we view this term as humans matching with their pets. New brands are popping up with matching apparel and accessories that are made specifically for people and their pets.

Since people are waiting longer to have children, they’re raising pets instead. We buy them clothes. We feed them the best food. We bring them with us when we travel. We even tuck them in at night before bed — and if you’re like me, they share your pillow at night (and steal all the blankets).

Millennials and Gen Z are two of the most fashion-conscious generations as they care a lot more about aesthetics, and that applies not only to their clothes and homes, but also to their pets. Many young dog owners dress up their pets to reflect their sense of style, and they have no qualms about investing in dog outfits and accessories. According to recent data, 35 percent of pet parents consider product design when choosing pet accessories. Moreover, 59 percent of dog parents have coordinated their outfit with that of their pet at least once, hence the matchy-matchy trend.

Indeed, putting clothing on your pooch can do more than just keep them warm and cozy. Dressing them up can also help them stand out so they’re more identifiable, and if you “matchy-matchy” your clothing to that of your pet, you can create a stronger bond while having lots of fun.

Even if your dog doesn’t really like wearing clothes, one can still coordinate, and match looks with your pet by matching your dog’s accessories with your clothing. For instance, if you’re wearing jeans and a turtleneck, a cute denim leash and a matching brooch pin on your pups’ harness is all you need. You can also let your dog wear a scarf or booties that’s in the same shade as your dress or shirt.

Even if the matchy-matchy trend seems absurd, there has been a surge in engagement for matching with your pet, and this trend is supported by the popular belief that fashion is more delightful when it’s on four legs. This pet fashion popularity is good for business, and it’s good for your psyche.

 A successful fashion model for 25 years, Ashley Carestia also is founder/CEO of Bark Fifth Avenue, a luxury retail boutique and brand. She has earned the respect of her colleagues through arduous work and dedication, being awarded the Small Business of the Year Award by the Atlanta Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the Women of Influence award from Pet Age and Entrepreneur of the Year by Women in The Pet Industry.