How What You Wear to Work Influences Your Performance


Threads to slay your workday.

Don’t know what to wear today? Let science help you pick an outfit. It could go a long way to helping you slay your workday.

A magic coat helps with focus

The symbolic meaning you give to an outfit can have a significant effect on your mental performance, scientists have found. In a study published in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, participants were given identical white coats to wear. The only difference was that some were told they were wearing a doctor’s lab coat while others were told it was a painter’s coat. After doing a set of tests, the researchers found that the participants dressed as doctors showed a great improvement in their ability to pay attention.

We’re not suggesting you play dress-ups and stride into your workplace with a stethoscope dangling from your neck, unless that’s what you want to do, but somewhere in that wardrobe of yours is an outfit that you associate with feelings of focus and success. On days when you need to access those traits, wear that power outfit.

Wear your favourite colour for confidence

There’s a reason major cities are swarmed in a sea of black attire during the work week. It’s the colour most people associate with confidence and intelligence, according to a UK survey of 1,000 respondents. The colour least associated with intelligence was pink. But does this mean you have to bury your favourite pink frill-sleeved shirt in the bottom of your closet? Nope. Because, according to experts, if you believe a certain colour can lift your mood or make you feel more confident, it can. It’s similar to the magic coat effect. “When people believe in the symbolic meaning of their clothes, it can affect their cognitive processes, and part of those are your emotions,” psychologist Carolyn Mair of the London College of Fashion told the Guardian.

Suit up for better negotiation skills

Wearing trackies or leggings all day can be a blessing in comfort for those of us who work from home or in a casual workplace, but US research shows that it’s disastrous for negotiation skills. The study, co-authored by Yale School of Management assistant professor Michael W. Kraus, found that men who wore tracksuit pants and T-shirts during a negotiation role-playing exercise only made $680,000 in profit versus those wearing suits, who made an average of 2.1 million in profit. Kraus said suiting up sent signals of success and confidence.

Dress well to think about the big picture

The clothes you wear can also affect whether you’re approaching a subject at an abstract level or if you’re only concerned with the little details. A study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science showed that university students who dressed smartly favoured big picture thinking when completing cognitive tests, while those who dressed casually focused on small details and literal explanations.

Showing a little skin can (unfairly) make you appear less competent

…but only if you’re in a managerial position, according to this study by the University of Hertfordshire in the UK. The interesting thing was that there was only a slight variation of skirt length or the difference of a couple of undone shirt buttons that would make a woman seem less competent to the other women in the study judging her photo. Unlike the other studies previously mentioned, this research was more proof of gender bias rather than anything else. So if you’re good at your job and you feel powerful in your chosen outfit, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether your blouse is buttoned all the way to the neckline.

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