You've probably heard the old adage about dressing for the job you want. Everyone knows that clothing choices play some role in professional success, but just how deep do these effects go? Here's what you should know about the connection between what you wear and how successful, productive and self-confident you are.
How Can Your Clothes Affect Your Career?
One way the clothes you wear affect your career has to do with how others perceive you. Though you might think that the effect of perception is a small one, a 2014 study undertaken by Yale University showed it to be quite significant. In that study, a series of mock business negotiations were undertaken between buyers and two different groups of salesmen. One group of salesmen wore suits, while the other group wore sandals and sweatpants. Amazingly, the group of poorly dressed men generated an average of $680,000 in profit, while those who wore suits averaged over $2 million.
The way you dress not only affects how others perceive you but also how confident and positive you are about yourself. Far from a simple self-esteem booster, this can have considerable effects on performance in the workplace. A 2015 study found that wearing a suit considerably enhances abstract thinking capabilities. In other words, research subjects were found to be smarter when wearing suits. The researchers concluded that the effect was due to the feeling of social power that comes with wearing a suit, which in turn promoted better abstract thinking.
What About Casual Clothing?
It's fairly clear that wearing a suit has a profound effect on success and performance. But what about the casual clothes you might wear in less professional occupations or in your time off? Intriguingly, research on the subject has found that casual clothing can have positive impacts on your confidence and performance in much the same way as formal wear.
One prominent example of the effect of casual clothing on self-confidence was produced by Professor Karen Pine of the University of Hertfordshire. In researching the impact of different clothing choices on how people viewed themselves, Professor Pine had university students wear T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of the comic book superhero Superman. Those students reported feeling more confident and even believed themselves to be more likeable, demonstrating that even one of the most casual pieces of clothing can produce the enhanced confidence that is so critical to career and personal success.
How It Works
If you're observant, you might already be wondering how it is that wearing a suit can measurably improve performance, but the same is also true of far more casual pieces of clothing. The answer lies in how the person wearing a piece of clothing thinks and feels about it.
A notable experiment involving basic white coats showed just how important perception is in this area. Test subjects were asked to wear white coats, but some were told that the coats were those worn by doctors, while others were told that they were worn by painters. The subjects who believed they were wearing doctors' coats showed noticeable increases in focus and attention. Those who believed they were wearing painters' coats displayed no such improvements. Even though the coats were identical in both cases, the perceptions of the people wearing them produced radically different results.
Ultimately, this is why it's so important to wear clothes that you think look good on you. You'll feel more confident and be able to work more productively on a daily basis, thus improving your career success over time. Of course, since the perception of others also plays a role, it helps to wear clothes that other people will react to in a positive way. Find an outfit that satisfies both criteria, and you'll be amazed at how well you'll be able to work while wearing it.