It’s always interesting when research uncovers a connection between the mind and body. Over the last few years, a growing collection of research has shown that there’s a distinct correlation between what you wear and how you perform in different areas of life. Understanding this relationship could help you, as well as others, find more success in different areas of your life.
So much research has been done on the relationship between fashion/clothing and performance that there’s actually a phrase used to describe it. Psychologists call it “enclothed cognition” – i.e., the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes.
Dozens of studies over the past few years have looked at enclothed cognition. While there are too many good ones to mention in this article, here are some highlights from a few of the more interesting ones:
- A study done in 2015 asked participants to change into formal or casual clothing before taking a set of cognitive tests. The subjects wearing formal business attire showed increased abstract thinking – an important component of creativity and strategizing. The belief is that this effect is tied to a greater perception of power.
- A study published by professors at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University shows that subjects wearing a white scientist’s or doctor’s lab coat perform better on the “Stroop Test” than those wearing normal clothing. In fact, they made only about half as many errors as their peers – indicating greater care and attentiveness.
- A similar study has found that people feel more authoritative, competent, and trustworthy when wearing business attire. (Though it should be noted they feel friendliest when wearing casual attire.)
You could look at any number of other studies, but they all seem to indicate a rather direct and significant relationship between what you wear, how you feel, and how you perform. Plenty of other factors – including competence, experience, and skills – are in play, but it’s interesting to note just how concrete this connection is. And for those who are interested in boosting performance, output, or success, it’s something worth paying attention to.
The term ‘dress for success’ has been used for years, but it’s only just recently that science and research have proved a concrete connection between fashion/clothing and confidence and performance.
Styles change and individual preferences vary, but here are a few general suggestions you can use to ensure a positive correlation between what you wear and how you perform.
Incorporate a Few Designer Pieces
You don’t want to go broke building your wardrobe – and there are no shortcuts to the top – but there’s something to be said for having a few designer labels in your closet.
“Designer labels are connected to financial success. And we tend to directly correlate financial success with the characteristics that help achieve prosperity, such as discipline, hard work, and intelligence,” says Jennifer Baumgartner, a clinical psychologist and owner of a wardrobe-consulting business.“Due to these subconscious associations, we may give the person we believe to be successful a higher salary or more opportunities.”
To maximize your results, consider wearing your designer pieces to job interviews, important meetings, or sales appointments with VIP clients.
Wear Properly-Fitted Clothing
It’s not all about wearing expensive fashion items from designer labels. In most cases, it’s how you wear your clothing. This is especially important with business suits. Going too big or small is not only unflattering, but it also indicates a lack of attentiveness to the details.
“When choosing a suit, remember that shoulder pads should end at the shoulders, the jacket should fit close to your body, and the sleeves must end where your thumbs meet your wrists,” says Brian Zeng, CMO for OWNONLY.“For women, pants that are too tight and pucker in the front are a big no-no.”
Not only does properly fitted clothing impress others, but it also makes you feel better. It permits you to feel bold and confident – which can’t be purchased or replaced.
Embrace Your Favorite Features
The idea of enclothed cognition is based on maximizing confidence so that you’re able to perform to the best of your ability. It would stand to reason, then, that you would wear clothing that emphasizes your favorite features and subdues the ones you’re less comfortable with.
For example, if you love your long legs and height, find clothing that embraces this. If you believe your legs are too long, play down your height. Whatever the case may be, you have options. Choose fashion statements that make you comfortable in your own skin and your performance will improve.
Success is in the Details
In the grand scheme of things, what you choose to wear is a minor detail in your life. But don’t confuse minor with insignificant. As the research shows, what you wear has a direct impact on how perform in multiple areas of your life (and particularly in your career). The more seriously you take this relationship, the greater your chances of success.