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Dressing Up for Work Can Make You Better at Your Job


They say that clothes make the man, but can they make the man (or woman) more successful at work? Recent research by the Kellogg School of Management suggests that it can. It’s something called the lab coat effect, and you can use it to make yourself more confident in your job.

Generally, when we think of dressing to impress, we think of the effect our clothes have on others, but this study reveals that we’re also impressing ourselves. Christian Jarrett at 99u explains:

“[The findings] showed that students were far more accurate on tests of attentional focus and sustained concentration while wearing the white lab coat of a scientist. Crucially, spending time thinking about the lab coat didn’t have this benefit, it had to be worn.”

Participants were unaffected if they thought the white coat was a painter’s jacket. Only when they thought of it as a symbol of success did the jacket have the desired effect.

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So how should this affect our clothing choices for work? Obviously, we’re not going to start donning lab coats for jobs that don’t place in a lab, or even business suits (also found to boost confidence in another study cited by Jarrett) for jobs at startups. But dressing to impress both others and ourselves can help us be more successful at work.

Anyway, it’s another good reason to skip the sweatpants, no matter how relaxed your company dress code is.

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Do you dress up for work? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #MakeItHappen.


(Photo Credit: thetaxhaven/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Let’s not mistake “dress for success” with stiff, uncomfortable clothing. You can easily find work attire in materials that don’t need ironing…we are way passed the era where every piece of clothing had to be soaked in starch and pressed every single time you want to wear it.


During the booming ’90s as an IT Consultant, the dress for success code was: dark 2-piece suit (thin pin strips OK), white (or light blue) shirt, conservative club or striped tie and always black dress socks and polished shoes. This dress code did impact expectations and performance in a very positive manner. It also offered both higher self-respect and respect received from peers and client managers. These attributes outweighed comfort by a long shot, and actually became a tool of… Read more »


I believe it’s best to “dress for success”

Dressing really well is good for framing your own mind on how well you are going to focus and accomplish the challenges at work.

I also believe that sloppy clothing or shoes, is an indication of what kind of output you will produce.

In and office environment, clean and even shined (as per type of) shoes is important.

Jennifer Agrazada-Schreiner
Jennifer Agrazada-Schreiner

Dressing up when there is a special event, a party or when guests are expected in your office is a must. However, one of the reasons why I love my job and the company where I work (Yalwa) is because I can be myself and be comfort. Comfort means productivity. I can keep my style as long as you don’t cross the borders (no shoes showing your toes, no jogging attire, dresses or skirts must be of respectable/decent length, no… Read more »

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