9 to 5 Couture

Suits to work – The Pros and Cons

Its easier not to wear suits to work, but once you realize the impact a blazer can make, more often than not, you will tend to be partial to them.

The Pros 

Its easier not to wear them, but once you realize the impact a blazer can make, more often than not, you will tend to be partial to them.

When you slip into a formal suit, you give off an increased sense of being competent, assertive and professional. At least that’s the general thinking when it comes to how a suit can alter the way others think of you.

But that’s just half the story.


As it turns out, wearing a suit can also change the way you think about yourself. And it can even alter the way you see the world around you.

In a study carried out by researchers at Columbia University and California State University, it was found that wearing a suit changes the way you perceive objects, events and other people. “Clothing formality was associated with abstract processing, including higher levels of action identification, greater category inclusiveness, and more favoring of global over local perceptual processing,” the authors concluded.

In simple terms, this means that you’ll have an increased ability to view a situation more broadly. Essentially, you’ll be more likely to look at a complete scenario in its entirety, rather than focusing in on the small details.

To reach this conclusion, a series of five experiments were carried out involving a group of students. The first set of experiments asked students to grade the formality of the clothes they happened to be wearing that particular day. The second set of experiments specifically asked them to come along in more formal wear.

In each case, a number of cognitive tests were conducted to assess the students’ processing style. What the researchers identified was that there was a noticeable shift in the way the test subjects were thinking and processing information.

So, in a very real sense, the way they were dressing altered the way their brain was responding to the world.

 

The Cons

Formal suits aren’t always the way to go. Research shows that people who wear more daring outfits are perceived as more attractive and individual, which could be advantageous in more creative industries. Casual dress can also be more persuasive, depending on your audience. In 2010, a female experimenter reported that students were far more diligent in following her detailed instructions when she was dressed casually (like they were), as opposed to smart and professional…

If you need to be persuasive at work, the lesson from these studies is that there’s no single rule for how to dress. You need to balance the power of authority, which you get from smartness, against the allure of camaraderie, which comes from dressing like your audience, and may require going more casual.

The fact is, what you wear to work changes how people view you. According to two different studies, it also has an effect on how you view yourself. So, when you’re getting dressed for work, take a few seconds to consider the psychological impact of what you’re wearing, how it fits with where you’re going, and who you’re with.

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