YOU WILL BE JUDGED ON WHAT YOU WEAR AND HOW YOU WEAR IT
Sometimes the research undertaken by academics comes up with conclusions that are so in tune with what my grandmother said, that you have to wonder why they bothered. Professor Karen Pine, a developmental psychologist from the Universities of Hertfordshire and Istanbul Biligi, has said that what we wear can make us more confident. This research is from Professor Pine’s new book; Mind What You Wear. In an interview, the good Professor says; ‘We know that our clothes affect other people’s impressions of us. Now, research shows what we wear affects us too. Putting on different clothes creates different thoughts and mental processes.’ Professor Pine allegedly asked a group of students to wear a Superman T-shirt, and found that not only did it make them more confident, but it also made them think they were physically stronger.
I don’t know many mature manly men who would willingly wear a Superman T-shirt, and I don’t know anyone who would believe that wearing a Superman T-shirt would make them physically stronger.
In another test, women were asked to do a maths test in a swimsuit or wearing a sweater, with the swimsuit attired girls performing worse than those dressed in a sweater. Meanwhile, wearing a white coat was found to improve a person’s mental agility.
I think this idea that; You are what you wear, is a bit more complicated than that. I would like to bet that motor racing drivers get a surge of adrenalin when they suit-up in their Nomex fire-proof overalls and put their helmet on. I would like to bet that these motor racing drivers start to get their race-face on as soon as they are dressed for speed. I would also like to bet that this surge of adrenalin and increase in mental acuity is attenuated if they are merely getting dressed for a photo-shoot, as opposed to going out to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix. The same is probably true of astronauts, fighter-pilots, firemen, nurses, television news-readers, footballers…
From bitter personal experience I am able to state, with total confidence, that people treat a guy dressed in a grey silk suit from Armani, (complete with white shirt from New York, silk tie from Sienna, shoes from London), differently than they treat the same guy when he’s dressed in torn and stained jeans, sandals with no socks, a dirty sweater, and a four day growth of untidy stubble. The one is a successful businessman, the other is an alcoholic bum. Which would you rather have in your store? I also know which version of those guys feels like he wants to step in front of a moving truck, and it’s not the one in the Armani suit. Looking and smelling bad has a direct effect on mood, and when a guy looks and smells bad he will feel bad anytime he’s sober.
In fiction, Mr. Sherlock Holmes would oft-times disguise himself as a disreputable tramp, the better to blend into the alleyways and back streets of turn-of-the-century London, and in that disguise even Dr. John Watson didn’t want to know the great detective. It’s a Western Movie cliche, but when the down-and-out town drunk decides that he needs to stand up against the bad guys, it turns out that bathed, shaved, dressed in smart black, and with his pearl-handled Colts strapped around his waist, the ex-town drunk is also a feared gunfighter. (Cat Ballou, and Rio Bravo, for example.) In the film Pretty Woman, the Julia Roberts character, (prostitute Vivian Ward), is treated very differently than the way a cheap hooker is usually handled by head waiters when Richard Gere, (corporate raider Edward Lewis), dresses her in Rodeo Drive’s finest.
In myth and legend, the lowly shepherd boy suddenly becomes a great warrior when some goddess gives him a sword, shield, helmet, suit of armour…. Not only does everyone he meets now treat him as something more than a goat-herd, he believes it himself.
What has this got to do with ‘real life.’ Well, I would say that if you want to be allowed to meet with the CFO of a Fortune 500 company, its probably better not to look and smell like an alcoholic bum. I have no idea if the same rule applies to women who look and smell like a call-girl. However, I would say that if said woman wants to be taken seriously on the topic of say; International Trade Finance, then a sharp business suit may give her better credibility than being dressed like a stripper.
Here’s the thing. First Impressions Are Important. People make up their mind about people in a very short time. It’s seconds rather than minutes. What you look like has an impact on what people think about you. If you slouch, wear scruffy shoes and a tattered pullover, then most guys are going to think you are a nerd and most women will think you are a waste of time, (or that could be the other way around). And, deep down in our souls we all know that. We know that when we’re dressed like a bum we’re out of place anywhere except under a hedge. That knowledge tends to give a guy very little confidence in his own abilities.
Women also know that dressing well, smart make up, new hair, manicure, expensive shoes…, will give them an inner confidence. If that wasn’t the case, why is it that the first thing women do after being dumped is go and have a complete make-over? All women know that if they look good, dress appropriately for the occasion, smell nice, have great shoes, then they will feel better about themselves. If that wasn’t the case, why is it that all women always need more shoes?
There is a tendency in some areas of life for people to dress down. To think that jeans, a Def Leppard T-shirt, and trainers is acceptable attire. In most cases it just about is, but not at work unless you are a genius who never has to meet ordinary folks. At work, a shirt and tie is just about the uniform for a man, skirt, or slacks with a smart blouse for a woman. In some cultures, it’s different. In London you need to wear a business suit unless you’re the water-cooler guy. In Southern California, most guys don’t wear a tie to work, but then again do you want to be just like most guys? Anything too casual and not very clean or smart gives off a strong signal that not only don’t you care about your job, you don’t much care about yourself.