Dressing for Success

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Looking good is important, right? Students, teachers, parents, and everyone else cares about looking good; it’s only natural. What many people may not know, however, is that numerous studies have shown that the way we dress has a significant impact on how successful we are at work, in school, and everywhere else.

For many adults, the truth in these findings are obvious, but students often find it harder to see the benefits of making the effort to dress well. Whether it’s due to immature fashion choices or simply because of lack of effort, many students show up to school daily in jeans and a sweatshirt (assuming they attend a school without a uniform). What the research has shown, however, is that clothing choice not only affects how other people see you, but also your own behavior, confidence, mood, and attitude. Scientists refer to this effect as Enclothed Cognition.

The reasons behind Enclothed Cognition’s role in the way people behave are not clear, but many researchers ascribe it to the different ideas and values that we place on certain items of clothing and styles of dress. Regardless of the cause, the effect of Enclothed Cognition is undeniable both in and outside of a school environment.

This effect is especially relevant when it comes to dressing up. Dressing in either a more formal or structured manner, such as following a uniform or dress code, has been shown to increase confidence as well as abstract reasoning abilities. Moreover, being dressed better changes the way students are treated by both peers and teachers, which, has a major impact on how they carry themselves.

Gym class is a prime example of how this reasoning applies in other contexts. Many schools require students to change for PE or outdoor activities; this is not only to prevent students from being in their sweaty exercise clothes for the rest of the day (although this would be plenty of reason alone). Just like dressing up for special occasions makes us feel more prepared, students are more likely to succeed athletically if they feel prepared for the activity in which they are engaged. The act of changing into gym clothes (and back afterwards) can be like flipping a switch between “learning mode” to “active mode.” This applies to more than just students in gym class. Studies have also shown that having dedicated workout clothing can make adults both more likely to exercise and more productive when they do so.

What is most important to consider in all of this is not the clothes that students wear per se, but rather the way in which they are worn. Anyone who works in people-centric environments will be quick to tell you that someone wearing cheap clothes that are clean and well-fitted makes a better first impression than someone wearing expensive clothes that are dirty or ill-fitting. Something as simple as making sure that shirts are tucked in and free of stains can make a world of difference when it comes to looking and feeling good.

Ultimately, there may not be one specific way of dressing that is “correct,” but no matter what the uniform or dress code in question is, being put together and neat goes a long way towards both making a good impression and feeling confident enough to succeed.

We want students consider all aspects of success, not just academic ones. Impression management is a pillar of our program at SAOTG. We help students become more aware of the impressions that they leave on others. To learn more about this unique aspect of our program, please visit our service page.

Evan Weinberger

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