Friday, 6 January 2017

Why "Casual" Clothing (Not "Business Casual") is Hurting Your Performance at Work

What NOT to wear:
How exactly did "Business Casual" turn into "Anything Goes"?
The ‘New Normal’ is a deeply problematic aspect of human nature. It is our innate tendency, born of ego and tribalism, to quickly adapt culturally to whatever circumstance we find ourselves in AND feel genuinely ‘offended’ when anyone challenges our assumptions about what we believe to be our ‘new normal.’ However humans also have a bunch of other innate, instinctive, hard-wired reactions we cannot ‘wish away,’ like the reality that what we are dressed in actually effects our performance — studies prove that wearing a lab coat makes people more effective at work.

Attractive people get better jobs and higher salaries because our brains are hard-wired to want to have them around us (i.e. in our ‘tribe’ of fellow workers) because their appearance instinctively conveys superior health/genes/survival. Similarly we don’t want to be surrounded (trigger warning for Social Justice Warriors!) by people who do not convey superior health: those who are too thin or fat, look sick, act anti-socially, etc. As humans we have a vast array of inherent, uncontrollable reactions to other humans and what we see in casual dress in the office is not simply a ‘trend,’ but tribalism, the desire for everyone to dress in a similar fashion and a STRONG desire to dress like the most successful people out there, most of whom no longer wear suits.

I’m an old fart and wear a jacket and tie every day to an ad agency bereft of these ancient symbols of professionalism. Since I began doing so 4 months ago there has been a gradual shift in the office, with the senior guys beginning to wear suits without ties some days and the younger guys sporting the occasional jacket. We humans react to our tribal norms unconsciously, and seeing others wearing symbols of professionalism cause us to desire to step up and want to also look more professional. It’s not ‘stifling creativity,’ it’s a demonstration of a willingness to ‘represent’ that we recognize what we are being asked to do in this place we call an office is quite different from what is expected of us outside of the office.

Humans function on the basis of cultural ‘signals’ to each other, and formal dress is just such a signal, hence the reason that we feel very different walking into a formal wedding or gala ball than we do walking into a basement house party. Get a clue and emulate not those very rare entrepreneurs or rap stars, but the professional businessperson you wish to be.

Hey, don't listen to me!  Listen to this Shark Tank business mogul:

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