Does it Matter How You Dress?

A man preparing to go to work

I dress up rather formally for work with a tie, dress shoes, and dress shirt, although I don’t usually wear a suit jacket. When I look around, no matter where I go, including the office, dinner, schools, or even at Church, dressing more formally seems to be the exception. But does this really matter?

In the book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” by Robert Cialdini, he elaborates that clothing does have an effect on the likelihood of people to be influenced. To summarize, a person’s clothing has a lot to do with the expectations and authority that is perceived by others. He notes that it is important to dress at a level that matches one’s expertise and credentials. I have noticed that when going to a restaurant, if I am dressed more formally, the servers seem to be more attentive towards my guest and I, and also tend to focus more attention on the person who is dressed more formally (which means that the bill is usually given to me, so maybe I should take off my tie).

As for the study, it seems as though expectations play a large role in how others perceive you. For example, you expect a police officer to be in a police uniform, a doctor to wear a white coat, an attorney to wear a suit, and a fast food worker to wear the same embroidered shirt as all of the other workers they are with. There are numerous other studies about how you dress that you can read in psychology journals, but if the studies have too many variables or not enough participants, then the studies will carry less weight.

A big thought to ponder is how your clothing makes you feel, your attitude and expectations for yourself, and your performance. For example, a school uniform signals to yourself that now is the time to be a student and focus on studies. Work attire means that it is now time to be productive and get to work. Pajamas mean that it is time to relax and go to sleep.

The way you dress is just one factor with how you are perceived, your performance, and how you feel about yourself. It seems as though you are a maverick if you dress up nowadays vs. the trend of dressing more and more casual.  Experiment and see if it changes your life.

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