office wear

4 Ways Your Clothes Can Impact Your Career

You’re undoubtedly already aware that showing up for work in the right outfit can help you make a good impression on your colleagues, employers or clientele. However, there are many ways in which your style of dress and clothing preferences can affect your professional life. 

Research suggests that your clothes not only impact how others perceive you, but can also affect how quickly you move up the career ladder, how well you perform your job, and even how you perceive yourself and your abilities. 

So if you don’t currently pay much attention to your work wear, here are a few important things you should know about how your wardrobe choices can impact your career for better or worse.

This is how your clothes can impact your career

1. The Right Clothes Can Increase Your Chances of Being Promoted

Do you want to be promoted? You need to pay attention to your clothes. A survey by OfficeTeam revealed that  80% of executives say that an employee’s clothing choices will affect his or her chances of earning a promotion. 

Of course, dressing well doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a suit. A survey even found, and this result was choking for me, that only one in five executives consider business suits typical office attire. Many opt for business casual instead of business formal, but they tend to stick to neutral colors like black, navy blue, and gray. 

Not idea how to dress for the job you want? Start paying attention to what your higher-ups are wearing. Don’t forget details like your shoes, briefcase or purse, and other accessories. Because sometimes, details matter. 

2. Deviating From The Standard Dress Code Could Help You Seem More Capable 

Most of us quickly learn to conform to the accepted standards of dress, particularly in the workplace, and according to the (un)written dress codes. 

However, a study by Harvard Business School researchers shows that in some cases, deviating from the standard dress code can actually make you seem more confident and competent. Why? It signifies a higher level of autonomy and control. 

Of course, wearing sweatpants to the office every day, wouldn’t make you seem more competent. You need to make a conscious decision to stand out in some way. For example, bold colors, prints, fashion-forward items in combination with formal attire, etc. You will send the message that you’re a capable and confident person because you dare to stand out. 

3. Clothes Can Both Hinder and Help Your Performance 

Not only the perception of others is influenced by the way we dress. Your work attire can also enhance your performance at work. 

For one experiment, the researchers dressed half of the participants in lab coats and the other half in their usual clothing. They then asked them to perform a series of tests. Those who wore “doctor’s coats” made significantly fewer mistakes than those who wore their normal clothes. 

In a similar experiment, researchers gave all participants lab coats to wear during the test. However, they told half of them the lab coats were painter’s coats and told the others they were doctor’s coats. Funnily enough, those who thought they were wearing painter’s coats made a lot more errors. 

Why? The researchers explain that while dressing a certain way can indeed help us feel smarter, it’s not just the clothes that matter. It’s their symbolic meaning. So, for example, if you associate business suits with positions of power, wearing one could help you feel smarter and more confident. As a result, your performance could improve too. 

4. The Clothes You Choose to Wear Can Affect Your Self-Image Too

Besides other people’s perceptions of you, your clothes can also affect how you see yourself. In fact, different types of clothing may provide different benefits, depending on the symbolic meaning you associate with them. 

For instance, casual clothes may help you feel relaxed and calm, while formal clothes could help you feel more confident and intelligent.


Did you already have the moment you felt clothes improved your career?

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