Can Dressing Sharply Improve Your Mindset?

You put on your favorite bespoke suit, your best Italian leather shoes, and all the right accessories. Of course you know you look good, but you also feel good. Could it be all in your head? 

Sure it is, but in a good way.

A recent study found that putting on clothes we deem as “formal” can make a man feel more powerful and change the way we look at the world. When you dress sharp, you encourage your mind to utilize abstract processing which allows you to look at the world with a better mindset. People who use abstract processing tend to think about the big picture, which frees them from focusing on the unimportant, minute details.

So how exactly does that help you? There are many benefits of thinking with a broader mind. Being able to see the big picture allows for less anxiety and stress in the workplace and helps you complete tasks with more creativity. People who think abstractly are less likely to be affected by harsh criticism or be distracted by the details of office politics. Furthermore, it makes you a less impulsive person. Being less impulsive is great for many things, not the least your pocketbook. With an abstract mindset you are more likely to avoid impulse purchases and practice smarter spending and saving behaviors.

The California State University Northridge study performed a few tests before coming to this conclusion. First, they asked student subjects to rate the formality of their dress before performing normal cognitive tests. Since college kids these days are more likely to stumble to class in sweats rather than slacks, the researchers eventually switched gears and instructed subjects on how to dress before showing up for the tests. Students who dressed in “clothing you would wear in a job interview” performed with a less restrictive mindset than the students who wore “clothing you would wear to class.” 

While you may assume that the change was due to the polarity a college kid may feel while dressed up, the authors of the study suggest that the feeling is maintained for businessmen who are required to wear suits daily for their work. By putting on more “formal” clothes we signal to our brains that it is time to think like a boss, and in turn we act like it.

“Putting on formal clothes makes us feel powerful, and that changes the basic way we see the world,” Professor of management at Columbia Business School and co-author of the study Michael Slepian told the Atlantic. “Whether you wear formal clothing every workday, or only every wedding, my prediction is that we would find a similar influence because the clothing still feels formal in both situations.”