I think it’s common knowledge that successful people tend to dress very nicely. I have one friend that is incredibly fashion-forward. He always put time and effort into piecing together his wardrobe, even when I knew him in college. When we would go out, it always seemed like he had a group of ladies following him. Who knows… Maybe that’s why he cared about his clothing so much!
Admittedly, fashion is not a passion of mine. If I could remain in t-shirts and basketball shorts, I’d be a happy man. Dressing up for me is wearing khakis and a polo shirt. Looking back, I’m pretty embarrassed to admit that my friend had to help put outfits together for me from his closet because I had no clue how to dress myself.
I wish I had paid closer attention to how he did it because he is one of the most successful business people that I know today. I know some of his success is due to him looking the part. He is always immaculately dressed when I we meet for lunch. He has so many prospective clients that he can’t even call all of them back. I believe that between his hard work, intelligence and looking the part, that clients truly do trust him.
Again, I’m embarrassed to admit, if it weren’t for my mom and now my wife, I would be a mess. I never picked up on any tips from my stylish friends over the years. So now, I can barely coordinate my ties with my dress shirts. Heck, I barely know how to tie a tie. So, I usually just loosen my tie at the end of the day and keep it tied when I put it back on the hanger. I even keep the ties matched up with the dress shirts that have already been coordinated for me by my wife. Some may call it lazy; I call it genius.
I remember when I was working in the private sector that the most successful sales people would get custom-tailored suits. They would tell me that they needed to look the part, which is why they were willing to hash out the big bucks for their apparel. I thought the focus on clothing would be diminished when I moved into the public sector, but a lot of the executives still dress really nicely.
A published report by Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Panner explains, “We find that attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness, but this gap is reduced when controlling for grooming, suggesting that the beauty premium can be actively cultivated.”
As much as I hate shaving, I don’t think my beard scruff draws attention to my strong work ethic. Instead, it probably suggests laziness. Because of that, I know I need to stay on top of grooming.
Recently, I read that researchers from the University of Chicago and UC Irvine found that well-groomed men earn an average of $14,000 more than their scruffier counterparts.
The difference in paychecks really becomes noticeable when women are analyzed separately. It was revealed that unattractive yet well-groomed women earn an average of $36,000, while unattractive and unkempt women earn around $14,000.
My First Impression to my Neighbor
When I come home from work, I really don’t care what I wear. That is when my love of comfort really becomes evident. Some of my oldest undershirts are my most comfortable. They also have holes all over them from years of use and washings. To add insult to injury, the armpits are stiff and discolored from deodorant stains. I guess you could say that I need some new undershirts… *cough* Christmas present *cough*.
One particular day, I came home from work, changed out of my dress clothes but kept on my hole-y undershirt and threw on some basketball shorts. On top of that, I was pretty scruffy from partaking in a challenge at work to grow a mustache. Don’t ask me why I decide to participate in dumb team-building activities. My wife, on the other hand, looked like a Nike model, coordinating her shoes with her running outfit.
My wife and I decided to go on a walk through the neighborhood with our dog. For the record, when I reference “my” dog, I really mean is my sister in law’s dog that we somehow are responsible for. We take pretty good care of her, and she shows her appreciation by barking wildly at anything outside right as we put our baby down for his naps.
But I digress. A new neighbor that had just moved in on my street came up to us to introduce himself, and I thought that we had a nice chat about the neighborhood. However, afterwards, my wife was mortified because she saw the look of horror on his face when he came up close and saw me. I was clearly not paying attention and thought he was just scared of the dog. In hindsight, who’s really afraid of a miniature poodle? Of course he wasn’t scared of the dog. He probably thought I was actually an unemployed hobo. No wonder he didn’t ask me about my job.
Thankfully, I have had a few occasions to redeem myself to this particular person, but my wife and I still laugh at the thought of the first impression I gave him. Yet, I still sometimes wear hole-y shirts on our neighborhood walks…
A recent study by California State University psychology professor Abraham Rutchick reveals another benefit of dressing nicely. The study found that formal clothing made people think more expansively and abstractly — more like a leader. The study found that men and women who dressed less formally often thought about the immediate future versus long-term thinking.
“When you need to think creatively, about the bigger picture, that’s when dressing formally will increase your productivity,” says co-author Michael L. Slepian, a postdoctoral research scholar and adjunct assistant professor at Columbia Business School. “People who wear that kind of clothing feel more powerful,” he says. “When you feel more powerful, you don’t have to focus on the details.”
Impact of Dress in Negotiations
The Wall Street Journal in February of this year reported on the impact of clothes. The study involved a role-playing exercise of 128 participants that agreed to engage in mock negotiation sessions with each other.
These participants were split into three groups: one dressed in leisure wear like sweatpants, a T-shirts and flip flops; one in formal business wear like a suit and dress shoes; and the last group wore clothes that they had arrived in.
Participants that wore clothes that they arrived in were considered the neutral group and always played the role of “seller” during the negotiation. Those dressed in the business wear and those dressed in the leisure wear also took turns being the “buyers.”
The participants were told during the negotiation to get the other side to make concessions and leave as much money on the table as possible. The authors of the study found the group that “dressed for success” only conceded $830,000 on average compared to their opening bid while those dressed in leisure clothes were willing to give up a whopping $2.81 million on average.
All of the aforementioned studies clearly indicate that dressing the part is important, especially in relation to finances. We can see how valuable the perceptions of others are. One could even further argue the impact of dress on our own perceptions of ourselves.
So what do you think? Are you dressing for success, or do you think this is overblown? Share your thoughts below.