They say "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have" but does how you dress really impact your career? We took a deeper dive and found it's a pretty complicated relationship. Fraught with bias and ethical dilemmas.... Although we are all different, and certainly not defined by something so simple as the materials we wear, there are certainly some benefits to taking a closer look at your work attire. Here is what we found:
1. When you dress well others perceive you as more successful, authoritative, trustworthy and intelligent.
A study by the National Research Council of Canada (NRCC) found that your appearance strongly influences other people’s perception and in turn their behavior. What you wear communicates both your current standing and your future potential to others, and as a result can directly feed into your career advancement. This research also found the power combination was appearance + communication skills. This combo had a significant impact on access to decision makers, salaries, hiring decisions, and sales.
2. When you dress well you perform better
A study from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that dressing a certain way can actually make us "feel" smarter. For one experiment, the researchers dressed half of the participants in lab coats and the other half in their usual clothing. They then asked them to perform a series of tests. Those who wore the “doctor’s coats” made significantly less mistakes than those wearing their normal clothes. In a similar experiment, researchers gave all participants lab coats to wear during the test. However, they told half of them the lab coats were painter’s coats, and told the others they were doctor’s coats. Interestingly, those who thought they were wearing painter’s coats made a lot more mistakes.
3. Dressing like your boss could help you get promoted
It's not a perfect world. People are still people and they make judgements and decisions with all kinds of bias. Whether right or wrong people do tend to hire and promote people who are similar to them. We assume if they're "like us" they must be good. In a fairer world these would be unbiased assessments based on performance alone. Unfortunately that's not the world we live in. If you're trying to advance your career then conforming in your attire might help with your career progression.
See what we mean by "complicated"... It can be heavy stuff, morally and ethically. Know that we don't have to agree with "the way that it is" to benefit from knowing. You always have to consider what's right for you. Ultimately, we believe that your attitude, work ethic and confidence is what will help your career, so if updating your clothing will help with any of these, what have you got to lose!