We have all heard the phrase “dress for success.” What if I told you that it works? What if I told you that sharply dressed people generally outperforms the ones that just puts on whatever is on top of the pile?
People sometimes ask me why I prefer wearing a suit to work. The answer is always the same – “Because I like it, and It’s a practical attire.” If pressed, I will ask why he or she is wearing that particular shirt or sweater. The answer is mostly something like “Because I like the design and/colors” or “It fits into my style.” I could have said the same thing about my suits.
There is one thing I normally don’t mention: “Because it works.”
All people judges others based on the way they are dressed. Anyone who tells you differently is lying or not realizing their unconscious actions. But there is more to dressing sharply then just making a good first impression.
If you want to influence – look like an influencer
Having worked as a consultant for seven years, I had plenty of opportunities to experiment with my visual appearance in different industries and different roles. Generally speaking, If you dress to look your best and dress a bit sharper than the rest, you will achieve the following:
- People pay more attention to you and to what you have to say.
- Dressing sharply, and being confident doing so, makes you look and act more confidently – it is easier to get your way.
- People remember you.
- It shows that you have attention to detail.
- You stand out in the crowd.
In the professional world, none of the above is negative, provided that you live up to people’s expectations. It turns out that dressing sharply can help you with that too.
If you dress to look your best, you will also do your best
In a study conducted at Yale in 2014, male participants donned clothing that signaled either upper-class (business-suit) or lower-class (sweatpants) rank before engaging in a modified negotiation task showed that men wearing suits are better at negotiating than those wearing casual clothes. The researchers also found an increased level of testosterone in the males dressed in suits.
Another study conducted at Columbia Business School in 2016 suggests that sharply dressed people are better at abstract thinking and tend to look more at the broader picture, not getting lost in the details. The study also found that dressing formally has the best effect in environments with a relaxed dress code.
My own experience is that when I know I stand out in the crowd, I know that people might have higher expectations from me. This makes me put in some extra effort to not disappoint them – or myself.
How to success in dressing for success
There is a reason why I have been using the expression “dress to look your best.” The most important thing is to find clothing that makes you look sharp, has a good fit, feels comfortable and looks good on you. Then, when you know what you have to play with, you can start developing your own style.
Dressing sharply does not necessarily mean donning a suit. If you work in an environment where most people wear a hoodie and jeans, start with getting rid of the hoodie. I would argue that unless you are still living with your parents, there is no excuse for even owning a hoodie.
Buy cotton shirts and learn how to use the iron. If you live in a colder climate, add v-neck sweaters. Drop the sneakers and go for leather shoes. If you want to take it up a notch, replace your jeans with chinos.
If shirts and chinos are the norm, drop the sweaters in place of a suit jacket. Don’t be afraid to use a pocket square in your breast pocket.
Even if suits are the daily attire where you are working, you are not out of options. Be the guy with the best shoes – or the one that has a ton of elegant ties or bowties. Lapel pins are back in fashion. The options are countless.
Take your time when building your wardrobe. Invest in quality over quantity. Do not forget the small details. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Most important of all: Always look your best and remember to enjoy the process.