Are You Dressed For Success?



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!


My Style

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.  I’m embarrassed to admit, my friend had to help put outfits together for me from his closet because I had no clue how to dress myself.


dress for successI 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.


Well-Dressed Employees

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.  



dress for successA 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.


dress for successRecently, 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.  Research shows 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*.


dress for successOne 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.


Scaring Our Neighbor

dress for successBut 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…


Formal Attire

dress for successA 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

dress for successThe 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.”  Researchers told participants during the negotiation to get the other side to make concessions and leave as much money on the table as possible.



dress for success

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.

Mustard Seed Money

Welcome to the website. A mustard seed is a very small seed but astonishingly grows very large over time. My hope is that through your financial journey that your small investment in time, money and faith will grow beyond anything that you could ever imagine.


  1. Fascinating post. I think many people wish that dressing well didn’t matter, but in many places it still does. Even in start-ups where jeans, hoodies, and sneakers rule the floor having an unkempt appearance, or something dirty/stained/worn is frowned upon. In my corporate job, the most successful men and women are always the most put together. They don’t necessarily spend the most on clothes, but they stand out. Their clothes fit correctly and aren’t worn out looking. They coordinate their outfits, shoes, etc. Often people will form their impression of you when they meet you, and if you want it to be a good impression you need to dress well.

    I’ve gotten better at it over the years, ,although I’m by no means a top-dresser. I got the book “Dress Smart Women” and watched a lot of What Not to Wear, because dressing well doesn’t come naturally to me. I like to think I’m better than I used to be, at least. 🙂
    Liz@ChiefMomOfficer recently posted…Raising Financially Confident Kids by Mary HuntMy Profile

    • I definitely think that it would be harder to dress in the workplace for women than for men. At least for me dress slacks, a button up and a tie is super easy to look professional. I can’t even imagine all things that you need coordinate.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. I think dressing for success is very important when you’re making first impressions. When people don’t have a lot to go off of, one of the initial things they’ll judge you by is your appearance. I first learned this when I was younger and doing cold calls for my dad’s business (hated cold calls!). I hadn’t shaved one morning (I could barely grow facial hair then) and my dad noticed this while I was preparing to go out and call on businesses. Even though it was barely noticeable, he made me go home and shave. You definitely need to look the part when dealing with clients or potential customers.

    At home, I’m like you. I throw on something comfortable and don’t really care what I look like.
    Go Finance Yourself! recently posted…How Trump’s Tax Plan Impacts YouMy Profile

  3. I work at a casual dress work place and up until a few years ago wore jeans and a long sleeve shirt to work. This is common attire. 3 years ago I was promoted to management and the first part of management training was how you should dress up. What does that tell you? It is though a far cry from my first professional employment location. They issued a memo that holey shirts do not work for casual Fridays.

  4. Interesting! I suppose we’re still all about who’s ‘Alpha’ in any given situation.

    I had a friend who tried dressing in business casual for a month straight even when he was of work. One thing noticed was how much faster he’d be seated at a restaurant…
    Daniel Palmer recently posted…3 Reasons to Skip on Prepaid CardsMy Profile

    • I had a friend that use to dress up to ride planes. I asked her why and she because she received better service. That’s always struck me in terms of how much better nicely dressed people are treated.

      Thanks for sharing your friend’s experience!!!

  5. Love this post! I’m more like you…I don’t really have a fashion sense. It doesn’t help that our office has a casual wear policy so I wear jeans and flip flops to work every day 🙂

    However, I’ve been trying to dress a little more sharply. I actually use a friend to help me pick out clothes. She’s great and I pretty much follow all of her advice and picks blindly haha!

    Overall, I think you’re right that dressing up certainly makes a better first impression. However, in our defense, there are some pretty successful people who rarely dress the part….Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg to name a few!
    Andrew recently posted…7 Big Money Mistakes To Avoid In Your 20sMy Profile

    • If it weren’t for my wife I would be totally lost. She knows designers and fortunately knows what fits be correctly. Who knew that a large was a different cut among the different brands?

      BTW…I would love to work somewhere wearing flip flops and jeans all day. That sounds AWESOME.

      You are absolutely correct. They definitely march to the beat of their own drum!!!

      Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. True – I think dressing for success helps to get you to a certain position…after that, it’s all frosting. Thankfully, I wear a uniform to work. But even with our uniform, some people look great and others look frumpy. I try to ride the road in between – I want to be comfortable at work but not look like I just rolled out of bed. Once I get home I am frupalicious all the way until I know someone is coming over – then I shape up! And then there is what Andrew said, Steve Jobs, Mark, Cuban – they all dress in “uniforms” and seem to be doing just fine after having already proved themselves.
    Miss Mazuma recently posted…The Year is Ending -Did You Do All You Could To Meet Your Goals? I Didn’t…My Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

      Wearing a uniform has to feel like a blessing at times. Not having to worry about coordinating your outfit must feel nice especially when you are in a hurry to get to work.

      Now if I was a billionaire my uniform would be a white t-shirt and jeans 🙂 (shoes optional)

  7. I am all about comfort on most days – currently sweat pants, t-shirt and fleece jacket. I can pull it together when I need to though. And, I admit, I feel more confident and people do tend to respond better when I actually try. I’d say it definintely does seem to make a difference, particularly with first impressions.
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…Overwhelmed by Debt? Here’s How to StartMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Amanda!!! I have had the same impression with the way people treat me.

      While it makes me feel like an old man at times, I definitely get dressed up when I feel like I need to receive better service.

      Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

  8. I definitely think that people need to be groomed at work, not necessarily stylish. I’m female and one thing that drives me nuts is when females come into the office with nail polish half chipped off. On my own time, I will let certain things go and not fuss so much, but in a professional setting, it is so important to at least look clean. And you are right, the little things can make a difference in our confidence.

    I used to be a mobile work program coordinator and we would discuss our preferences to work at home in pajamas/work out clothes vs showering and dressing nicer. I personally would wear work out clothes, because I would do exercises every hour, but others said that they feel incredibly less productive at home without wearing ‘work’ clothes. Interesting…
    Primal Prosperity recently posted…Feasting and FastingMy Profile

    • One more thing, I wouldn’t worry too much about the shaving. I work with some guys who are super smart and hard workers and they dabble with their facial hair, and the scruffy look can actually be very stylish on a man!
      Primal Prosperity recently posted…Feasting and FastingMy Profile

      • Thanks for sharing Primal. I try to tell my wife that all the time. She says it’s not the right look for me and feels like sandpaper 🙂

        I can’t wait to share this comment with her!!!

    • That’s so interesting that you bring up nail polish. A woman that is always put together and gets her nail done every week showed up and I noticed her chip nails.

      It distracted me the rest of the meeting and I kept thinking I wonder what’s going on that she didn’t have time to do her nails like usual.

      Amazing how small things like that jump out.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!!!

  9. Interesting! I think you can really make a different impact depending on what outfit you’re wearing. At my job casual is the norm, (even the CEO is wearing jeans) but you can spot some differences between the levels of management.

    I try to wear items that makes me feel comfortable yet still looks presentable. It doesn’t has to be expensive to be able to look stylish or sharp. It’s more about combinations and dress to what fits you as a person as well.

    Like the way of thinking that It’s not only about dress to impress, but also dress to feel better (or more powerful) yourself!
    Divnomics recently posted…Tips & tricks on how to negotiate a lower price when buying a homeMy Profile

  10. Thankfully I have my wife to help me in this department now. It’s a wonder I’ve made it this far (so she thinks) when I dress myself for events. The hardest transition for me has been upgrading from lightly worn clothes that look professional for a new college graduate but look rugged for a 30-year professional.
    Josh @MoneyBuffalo recently posted…How to keep your house warm and save moneyMy Profile

    • For Christmas every year I end up buying three new Charles Tyrwhitt and then getting rid of three dress shirts. That way my wardrobe is constantly being updated and getting rid of frayed shirts.

      But like you if it wasn’t for my wife. I would be a complete mess.

  11. Fortunately for me, I don’t need to dress up for my job. All I need are a clean pair of scrubs and I’m good to go. Although I can see how being “dressed for success” can be important for other professions where first impressions can end up being last impressions. I will say, though, that I’m move cognizant of my grooming. I just feel different if I’ve gone too long without a shave or a haircut.

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing SRGO!!! I know what you mean about shaving or a haircut. I know I definitely get treated differently by people if it’s been too long.

  12. I’m lucky that I wear glorified pajamas at work every day (scrubs) but I do absolutely believe how you dress not only gives you confidence but changes the way people look at you as well. I’m in the middle of reading a book by Fredrik Eklund, the #1 real estate agent in NY, “The Sell…” and he spends a huge section on the book on the specific details of how to dress. At first I was going to skip that section but I realized it’s a good lesson and something I should be mindful of when I meet people in a business setting. Outside casually, I somewhat also follow the Steve Jobs, Zuckerburg school in dress in picking one or two shirts and pants and just wearing those hahah. As a guy it’s easier to do that.
    Passive Income M.D. recently posted…Taking Steps Towards a Better LifeMy Profile

    • Wow that sounds like a really interesting read. I’ll have to check it out.

      I too am like you. I have my standard “uniform” when I get home. It’s really nice after a long day when you don’t have to think about what you have to wear 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

  13. How you look certainly makes a big impact on first impressions. For many years I did the khakis and polo shirt. But once I got closer to FI, I started wearing jeans and sneakers. Probably not the best for moving up, but at that point I was trying to put the brakes on my career and cruise into FIRE. Since I worked in engineering, my skills were more important at that point then how I looked, and it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Still not something I would recommend if you’re starting a career though 🙂
    Mr Crazy Kicks recently posted…Fighting the Fear In Costa RicaMy Profile

    • Oh man…I’m a couple years away from FIRE so I definitely look forward when I can start scaling back at work. Glad to hear that it didn’t negatively impact you.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  14. Love this! I think dressing for success is a real true thing. On the otherhand, I definitely appreciate people who are clearly very successful, but who choose to dress however they want. As for me, I know I work harder when I feel better about myself. I feel better about myself when I look sharp. So, I’m team dressing for success. (but for the record, I definitely spend too much time in my workout clothes. I can appreciate your neighbor thinking you were likely a hobo. I’m sure its happened to me)
    Amber from Red Two Green recently posted…GET PAID FOR CHRISTMAS SHOPPINGMy Profile

    • There is definitely something to be said when you dress nicely and how it makes you feel.

      I remember a baseball player named Carlos Baerga who used to shower and wear cologne before the game because he said if he smelled good, he played good.

      I didn’t get it when I was younger but it makes more sense to me now.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

  15. I’ve always followed the ‘business casual’ approach – dress shirt (no tie) with khakis for Mon-Thu and a polo with jeans on Friday. Although I’m a software engineer (manager now), we aren’t a startup so we’ve never allowed the stereotypical flip flops and shorts attire that is common with tech startups.

    I do sometimes wear a tie on my work anniversary and end up getting ‘Do you have an interview today?’ questions. So put me in the dress for success camp 🙂
    Mr. Need2Save recently posted…3 Things That Would Make HSAs More AwesomeMy Profile

  16. Loved the story about meeting the new neighbor lol! My fashion is a ball cap, hooded sweatshirt, and jeans. Sounds like we are pretty similar. Granted I can’t pull that off at work but I don’t get too carried away there either. Polo shirt and khakis for that. You are probably right about the successful people looking the part. That can be the case. Talent will usually shine through though as long as you don’t look like a complete bum 🙂
    Mr Defined Sight recently posted…Everybody has Stress Regardless of the OccupationMy Profile

    • I totally agree with you. Talented people will almost always rise to the top.

      Glad to know I’m not the only one that likes to be casual away from the office 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

  17. I do not think that only clothing plays a role in success. Although certainly creates the appearance of a first impression. But when a person begins to articulate their thoughts beautiful clothes does not save you from stupidity. Everything is connected to everything else, education, appearance, ability to conduct business negotiations… Out of this total is folded success.

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing Deborah.

      You are absolutely right. There has to be substance behind the exterior otherwise the clothes make no difference.

      I definitely think at the end of the day cream rises to the top!!!

  18. Haha, I have those undershirts with holes in them as well. We live in a co-op apartment and sometimes I go down to do the laundry or throw out the trash in them. I try to remember to look somewhat respectable though because I can look a bit like a bum. I believe in the “dress for success” motto but working in government for over a decade has made me not care as much since promotions are mainly due to seniority or political connections. I still look presentable though, but no custom suits.

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

      Glad to know I’m not the only person that has trouble throwing out comfy shirts with holes in them 🙂

      Sorry to hear about work. That’s unfortunate that promotions in your organization is based on seniority and political connections. Sounds a bit demoralizing to me 🙁

    • Thanks T, you are absolutely right. It’s amazing how first impressions really stick with us. I don’t think I realized how important it was when I was younger. But now I am much more cognizant of it 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  19. You are right, clothes do make the difference. I try to adjust as much as possible to the situation. To be honest, thank god, my wife corrects me when needed.. What is wrong with a hoodie, old jeans and baskets when being 40 and going to a formal family party?!? right, noting and everything at the same time.

    I am grateful to have worked for a boss that forced me into formal tie/suit each day… I now can easily switch to that when it is needed.
    Amber tree recently posted…I want to break free…!My Profile

    • I definitely agree I find that I get much better customer service when I am dressed up after work than I do on the weekend when I’m wearing comfortable clothes.

      Plus on top of that my wife said that she’s glad that I had some of the pieces of clothes that I did because I definitely caught her eye 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge