Back then, I was a pretty involved raider (still am, but probably a step or so less) and almost all of my effort in-game was dedicated towards improving my gear's stats. I didn't give much thought to how it looked. Occasionally I'd make fun of myself for looks like the one above, when I simply couldn't get a hat or shoulders to drop in the first tier of Cataclysm raiding and had to settle for ones from Zul'Gurub or Zul'Aman. I wore them, because they were the best I could get, and every week I cursed the bosses in Blackwing Descent and Bastion of Twilight for not dropping better. But I always thought it was the stats that were important, not the fact that I looked like some demented tauren clown pretending to be a murloc to scare tauren children.
It took me a long time to understand how important a feature that allows you to customize your character's look can be to get you invested in that character. My groaning bank and void storage, filled to bursting with transmog items, can certainly attest that I quickly learned that lesson. But it shouldn't have been so surprising to me, considering I played in vanilla -- and back in vanilla, it was the fact that the tier raiding sets were such stark visual improvements that was half the motivation in pursuing them.