Make it count.
The first impression we get of people is something that we usually think of as being a gut feeling, but it’s actually due to a process called “thin-slicing” where the brain makes quick judgements based off visual information that we may not even be conscious of. Because of this process, the visual cues we give through our appearance can affect the way people perceive us, and how they interact with us.
In addition, a 2014 study found that formal clothes can not only change other peoples perceptions about the wearer, but it also boost one’s own confidence.
“You cannot climb the ladder of success in the costume of failure.” Zig Ziglar
The idea that our clothes can affect our moods and cognition is referred to as “enclothed cognition” in psychology. Enclothed cognition is in part due to the symbolic meaning that we as a society have ascribed to different pieces of clothing, or the way clothes are worn. Suits could mean business, rolled up sleeves could mean a hard worker, watches could mean someone who is meticulous about time, etc.
Casually creative and confident
A casual, relaxed dress code can even help us be more creative and friendly. This is why casual Fridays in more formal offices can be really helpful: people find it easier to socialise, relax, and build better relationships with their colleagues when they themselves are feeling more relaxed. Even wearing underwear we find attractive can boost our confidence levels and make us feel more assured.
On the flip side, a paper in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that people wearing formal business attire while performing cognitive tests had increased abstract thinking compared to those who wore casual clothing. Abstract thinking is the ability to think about objects, principles, and ideas that are not physically present, and is a critical component when strategising for the long-term. Thus the clothing worn, influences cognition broadly, impacting the processing style that changes how objects, people, and events are construed.
Another study reported in December 2014 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, found that people dressed in suits achieved more profitable deals in a game that involved negotiating with a partner, compared to their sweatpants-wearing counterparts.
Look the part to play the part
It’s therefore really important, especially for sales and service personal, to look professional. Not only does it increase trust and familiarity with customers (you’re not going to buy a luxury sports car from a man wearing pyjamas), but it can actually increase your cognition and negotiating skills.
For those wanting to be highly creative, feel free to keep it casual, but just remember that when it comes to selling your ideas to others or entering into any form of negotiation - it will be helpful to be a little less casual and a little more smart.
Either way, it couldn’t hurt to make an effort and dress the part for your next Zoom meeting.