Stylish men are perceived as being ‘significantly more competent’
Time and again, researchers show that perception of competence is linked to dress. A study in Princeton University from 2019 tried 9 varied techniques to encourage judges to consider everything but the clothing, however, the same results persisted in favour of the better dressed. Even when told that clothing was not to be used as not a measure of competence, judges favoured the better-dressed man. (Better dressed meant the participants wore either richer or more formal clothes. Only the torso was visible and the faces were blurred out.)
You might think that being comfortable aids productivity, but a second piece of research which indicates that clothing can enhance our psychological states, tests that. Known as ‘enclothed cognition’, psychologists from Northwestern University have been examining the psychological and performance-related effects that wearing specific articles of clothing have on the person wearing them. When you need to work, regardless of the environment, you’ll be more productive when wearing ‘work clothes’.
“As much as we say it's not about the clothes, it's still about the clothes.”
What does that mean for men, particularly those who no longer have dress codes at work? Here are six tips, to help you make an informed decision about how you want to “package” yourself.
Dress with authenticity
Individuals who feel comfortable showing their personality in some aspect of their dress, even if it may be perceived as quirky or odd, inherently feel more confident, distinguishable, and set apart from the crowd. When you feel like you’re dressing for someone else you undermine your confidence. Don’t allow yourself to feel like you’re playing a part in someone else’s movie. Ensure you look like “you” and not like “everyone else.”
Check the environment and understand the expected dress code
If you’re moving into a new environment, know what is expected. Find out from the HR team or your manager what the dress code is. Where there isn’t a documented dress code, observe and watch what those around you are doing. Even when those around you are dressed very casually, make an effort to elevate your look by wearing a polo shirt rather than a simple t-shirt or a long sleeved casual shirt. Appropriate dress is also a way of expressing respect for the situation and the people in it.
Have a jacket and tie, or a more formal shirt, handy for meetings where you want to be perceived as more credible or competent, eg with clients or customers.
Buy the best you can afford
It is better that you buy one good shirt than two or three mediocre ones. There are plenty of pre-loved options around which make buying better quality more affordable for more people – and you’ll be helping the planet.
There is a resurgence of relaxed tailored styles. Look for menswear collections aimed at that middle space between ultra-casual and ultra-luxury. The most popular are those that combine suiting silhouettes with lighter colours and more casual fits. You can wear less structured suit jackets and hybrid shirt-jackets in more playful colours like yellow and coral and materials like linen.
Pay attention to the details
The details and accessories we wear, from tie to watch to cufflinks, all send out messages to our audience. They elevate a look, not only adding to our own confidence but changing how we are perceived by those with whom we communicate. Where you know you’ll be presenting online or participating in online settings check your cameo area and ensure you have impact from the waist up. If in doubt, add one more accessory; a tie, a collar, or a jacket.
If you feel confident in a certain colour, wear it!
The colours you wear are a huge consideration. Neutral colours offer gravitas. When you have a colour analysis, you’ll understand whether your best neutrals are navy, brown, grey, beige, white, black or cream.
Certain colours will be more flattering on you than others. In addition, wearing colour makes you feel a certain way. For example, red is perceived as a power colour. Athletes who wore red worked harder during a match than athletes who wore blue. You will differentiate yourself from those around you.
You will be seen, heard and valued.