Allow me to bring you into a conversation with my husband Tom
Candy: Are you wearing that to your client meeting?
Tom: Yes, what’s wrong with it?
Candy: I think it’s too casual.
Tom: No, this is what all the guys in the meeting will be wearing.
If you are shaking your head right now thinking you’ve had this same conversation with your husband, wife or significant other, you are in good company. The business world has done a 180 when it comes to dress codes, especially if you work in the technology sector. Many industries have decided that casual Friday is now casual everyday. But recent studies by leading behavioral psychologists suggest that what we wear to work actually has an effect on how we THINK while we’re there.
Case in point: When we wear the same kind of outfit to work that we would wear on the weekend, our brain has a hard time differentiating between work time and play time. “Dressing casually could cause an employee to feel less focused and alert, says Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and an internationally known fashion psychologist. When we put on an item of clothing, we adopt the characteristics associated with that garment and we prime the brain to behave in ways that garment makes us feel.”
To test her theory, Dr. Pine asked participants in her study to wear a doctor’s white coat for a day. The results were stunning. Participants reported feeling smart, being more attentive and most importantly, feeling powerful, with a heightened sense of self-esteem. This theory supports the notion that we might stay more focused and cognitively more alert when wearing more formal work clothes. “
There can be no denying that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was able to create something that changed the world and made him billions of dollars while wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, but he is probably an outlier and the exception to the rule by virtue of his genius.
I think we all agree: what we wear is a reflection of who we are. Our clothing communicates our intentions. So tomorrow morning, when you’re deciding what you want to wear to work, ask yourself: do I want to blend in, or do I want to stand out at work?
It’s fair to say that we don’t want to be judged by what we wear, but rather by the contributions we make to our employers. But if this research is valid and dressing for success actually stimulates our brains to think more effectively and to accomplish more while we work, bring on the power suit in the back of your closet or that fitted dress and heels that make you feel like a million bucks. Consider your clothes another valuable tool in your career toolbox.