While some of us like to turn our noses up at the emphasis people place on fashion—you know, those of us who see the collection of designer handbags as merely a hobby without much value—your personal appearance has a greater influence on your success than you may think.
It starts with the signature aphorism that “when you look good, you feel good.” Not only does our choice of attire have an effect on how we feel for the rest of the day, but our mood before we got out of bed affected what we threw on in the first place. It makes sense: If I’m not liking how I feel, I’m probably not going to care much about how I look, either.
This is where it can be used to your advantage: if you pay close attention to your daily appearance—being conscious of what looks good together, what’s in style and trendy, yet professional—it shows your co-workers, boss and potential employers that you are confident, happy and thoroughly enjoy your job, even if those things aren’t necessarily true.
But who says they don’t have to be? In 2012, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology published a study from researchers at Northwestern University who found that students who were told they were wearing a lab coat were more attentive than those who were told they were wearing a painter’s coat. Bear in mind, it was the same coat. The study supports the idea that sure, maybe the actual clothes don’t directly affect performance and attitude, but the symbolic meaning behind them does.
If you wear a suit to work, you’ll likely perform better at work than you would if you were wearing a button-down and khakis. And while this may be a “well, duh” moment, here’s the kicker: those designer bags actually do hold some value as well.
According to a series of studies published in Evolution and Human Behavior in 2011, designer brands and logos affect the impression you make on employers. In one study, participants watched a video of a man being interviewed for a job. Those who watched the man in a shirt with a designer logo rated him as more suitable for the job than those who watched the same man with the logo photoshopped out. They even felt he deserved a 9% higher salary.
The researchers believe the results stem from the subconscious belief that only the best can afford the best. And while labels are directly associated with quality in a way that maybe they shouldn’t be (think: Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness), it’s still probably best you aim for above-average quality in your outer appearance in addition to what’s on paper.
Designer logos may be a bit specific, but I’m sure you can infer the same goes for anything you put on. You want to wear an outfit that says, “Hey, I take my appearance very seriously, so therefore I take my profession very seriously. I look good because I feel good, and I feel good because I look good.” You can do the bear minimum, or you can look absolutely amazing, feel amazing, and do amazing things.
Develop an interest in fashion—even if it’s small—and watch your success thank you for it.