As often happens, Shakespeare said it first and best.
In Hamlet, Polonius advised his son Laertes:
…the apparel oft proclaims the man
To which Mark Twain famously rejoined:
Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
New York Magazine explains that these great creative talents were on to something:
And modern research has borne this idea out, suggesting that clothes indeed influence self-perception. People who feel dressed-up are more likely to think of themselves as competent and rational; in contrast, those who are dressed casually tend to describe their personality accordingly, as friendly and laid-back.
Obviously, this implies that if you want to improve your confidence on the job, forget about all the mental exercises and enhanced self-awareness. Dress the part!
The research might force us to reconsider the value of casual Fridays.
I am sure I don’t need to tell you, but there must be a mountain of studies showing definitively that when people dress down on Fridays they are more creative, more efficient and more engaged in their work.
Suits and ties are for chumps, don’t you know.
Thus, one is somewhat surprised to read the results of a new study that suggests the opposite.
From New York Magazine:
A recent paper in Social Psychological and Personality Science argues in favor of dressing up, finding that when people felt more formally dressed as compared to their surrounding peers, they tended to think more creatively.
One needs to question what the researchers mean when they say that people who dress up think more creatively.
In principle, they mean that dressing better signifies a higher level on the corporate hierarchy. It derives from the fact that men’s clothing derives from military uniforms. In the military rank and responsibility correspond directly to attire.
You may or may not want to see it as creative or abstract, but those who are higher on a corporate or military hierarchy are more likely to think in big-picture terms—in terms of strategy more than details:
Specifically, they found that people who felt more formally dressed than the people around them were more likely to think abstractly. “And by that we mean, basically, holistic or big-picture thinking — so not focusing on the details but seeing bigger ideas, seeing how things connect from a more high-level perspective,” said Michael Slepian, first author on the new paper, which was recently published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Slepian said. “Someone who is a leader has a big picture of where they want their team to go, what they want their team to be working on,” he explained. They have the big picture, and they have to figure out how to implement it. That’s why power leads to abstract thinking — when you’re in a position of power, you don’t have to focus on the details.”
Of course, the authors of the study seem to conflate creativity with abstract and holistic thinking. I consider that to be a sign of sloppy thinking. Apparently, they wrote their study while lounging around in their pajamas.
Now we need only explain how it happens that for Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the titans of high tech, every day is casual Friday.