Up until this point, "dressing for success" meant donning a tailored pantsuit or crisp blazer on the day of an important meeting. But new research suggests you should do the exact opposite if you want to be successful: Dress to the beat of your own drum. Like when Hannah Horvath cut her camp T-shirt into a halter top, adding a little sartorial flair to your office ensemble—even to the point of sacrificing etiquette for a touch of personality—can make you more confident and competent while on the job.
Dubbed "the red sneaker effect," three Harvard researchers conducted a series of five studies in order to come to this conclusion. Intrigued by the casual dressing habits of powerful CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, who often wear jeans and sweatshirts to formal interviews, the trio sought to uncover the connection between flouting the dress code and competence. As it turns out, standing out from the crowd through subtle, deliberate sartorial choices connotes a positive sense of "status, confidence and power." There is one rule, however: Your outfit choices must appear intentional, not a result of negligence or a lack of social awareness (like wearing gym shorts to a client meeting, for example).
"While unintentional violations of normative codes and etiquette can indeed result in negative inferences and attributions, when the deviant behavior appears to be deliberate, it can lead to higher rather than lower status and competence inferences," reads the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research. "It could just be wearing a colorful tie, or colorful socks, or you know, different shoes. It has to be very clear that it's deliberate."
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