Tugging at clothes (What Does It Mean?) Body language

Body language tugging at clothes

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Tugging on clothes can be an indication of insecurity, need for attention, or not having enough time.

While there are many different variations of how tugging on clothes can be interpreted, it is generally seen as a sign of insecurity.

Tugging might also be a way to get the attention of another person or to call for help if someone is in distress.

If someone is feeling rushed and stressed, they may tug on their clothes as a way of pacifying themselves. These are called “pacifiers,” and are a way of removing excess energy from the body.

For answers on specific questions about tugging at clothes, please see ‘Questions and Answers’ at the bottom of this page.

Understanding the basics of body language

Body language is a fascinating science that has been studied for years. In the modern world, it has become even more important because we are always surrounded by people from co-workers to friends and from strangers to family members.

There are a few key areas we must understand before we can read someone’s body language correctly and with confidence.

As with any new skill it takes practice and time to really get it down, but the best thing about learning body language is we have been reading nonverbal since the day we were born.

The first thing we must take into account when reading body language tugging at clothes is the context.

Context is key

Context is where we see the body language being displayed in our case the tugging at the clothes.

We need to take into account where we see the behavior, who is around them, the environment they are in, and the conversation that is happening. This will give users the context to work with and from.

Once we understand the context of a person, we then need to understand if tugging on clothes is a daily habit or a sign of stress or anxiety.

How to get a quick read on someone

The first thing we must do when analyzing anyone’s body language is to get a baseline on someone.

A baseline in body language terms is how they behaviour in a normal nonstressful environment.

This is not always possible, however, there are some ways you can get a sense of a person’s baseline quickly by asking relatively straightforward questions.

An example question could be “How was your day yesterday?” or “What was that film like last night?” Anything that is non-confidential that takes no mental capacity to answer will do.

Once we know how they act in a non-stressful way, we can look for signs of deviations from the baseline in order to give us clues about how they’re feeling.

Reading in clusters

The best way to read body language is to read clusters of information.

When we see a shift from the baseline and see some tugging at clothes and then rubbing the head, this gives us clues that they are feeling stressed or under pressure.

We can never just take tugging at clothes as a sign of being under stress or seeking attention. There will be other body language cues to support or discount our thinking.

If you would like to read an in-depth article on reading body language correctly, check out his post here

The most common areas we see tugging at clothes

Tugging at clothes is never ok. It’s an indication of some dissatisfaction within the individual.

It has been seen that people will tug at their clothes to indicate they are feeling some kind of stress or discomfort. Whether it’s due to anxiety, or anger, or just stress in general.

Men tugging on a shirt

It is a well-known fact that humans can sense fear through facial expressions. But, it’s not just our face that gives away what we’re feeling.

Our body language affects how others perceive us and hence, our interactions with them too.

There are many examples of body language that changes due to one’s emotions or situation. One such example is the tugging at the top of a shirt to release.

This is a natural behavior to release heat from the body. If we see this behavior, we know they are feeling the heat and feeling under pressure. It is a way of cooling down, known in the body language world as an adaptor.

Pulling a t-shirt over their belly

If you see a man pulling his shirt over his belly, it tends to mean he is concerned about his weight.

This is a great nonverbal display of someone who is self-conscious about their appearance.

Woman tugging at a skirt

A woman tugging at her skirt is a sign of insecurity. It can be because she feels too exposed or that the length is too short.

However, we could see her tugging at her skirt as a way of trying to cover up if she feels she is getting the attention she doesn’t want.

It is interesting to think about whether or not someone can be embarrassed about getting the attention they don’t want.

We must remember that there are no absolutes in body language and we must read in the context of the situation.

What should we do when we see someone tugging at their clothes

When we see someone pulling at their clothing, it is usually a sign of a social anxiety disorder.

The person might feel that they are not wearing the right clothes or that something is wrong with how they look.

They may also feel under pressure at work or from a conversation they are having.

The best thing to do when you see someone tugging at their clothes is to reassure them if they are feeling under stress or ask the person how they are feeling.

Tugging on the others to get someones attention

Children are most likely to tug on their parents’ clothes when they can’t get their attention.

Children will tug on their parents’ clothes to get their attention in a variety of circumstances. They will reach out to a parent when they want to tell them a secret, ask a question, or just want to be held.

It’s not always about needing something from the parent, but rather the child’s need for reassurance and love.

Adults know that tugging on someone’s clothes is disrespectful and well stay away from this as they don’t wish to offend others.

However, children are unaware of the power of their actions until they are told that this behavior is not appropriate.

Children need to be taught these social skills in order for them to be able to interact with other people in the future.


We have to remember that there are no absolutes in body language, which means that we need to take into account everything we see before we can make a judgment on whether or not tugging at clothes really means something.

To learn more about body language and to get the edge over others please check out our other posts here.

Phil Taylor
Phil Taylor Body Language Expert