Dress Code: How Much Could That Hoodie Be Costing You?
It’s an unfair reality of life that being exceptionally good looking can have outsized benefits for your career. Which is annoying, of course, because short of drastic surgical measures there’s little you can do to change the essential assets your parents gave you. But you can invest in less or more personal grooming and upkeep. Is it worth it to fuss over these details of your appearance?
From a business perspective, yes, according to a new series of studies out of Stanford that was recently written up by the university’s GSB news under the hilarious headline: "Researchers: A Few Bad Hair Days Can Change Your Life."
Mean Girl Syndrome?
The research conducted by professor Margaret Neale and doctoral student Peter Belmi of Stanford Graduate School of Business is good news for hairdressers and suit salespeople and provides food for thought for any schlubby, hoodie-clad entrepreneurs out there. The team found that feeling good about how you look gives you a very real confidence boost and feeling of power.
The results paint a familiar if less than hugely flattering portrait of human nature. Feeling attractive gives both men and women social clout and a feeling of superiority.
"If you believe you are attractive, you tend to think you belong in a higher social class yourself and believe, accordingly, that hierarchies are a legitimate way for organizing people and groups. You also are more likely to believe people lower down in a hierarchy are there because they deserve to be," explains the writeup, confirming a reality most of us experienced first hand in high school.
Putting the Research to Use
That might not make you the nicest person, but it can come in handy in business, according to researchers, and entrepreneurs shouldn’t stick their heads in the sand about the power of appearance. As our self-perception about our looks matter so much in how we carry ourselves, investing in feeling good about what you see in the mirror in the morning might not be as frivolous as it first appears to the practically minded. "Small changes can give me an edge. My perception of my looks matters," said Neale. "That could have an impact on how I present myself."
There’s nothing too surprising about the idea that looking your best can help you feel your best (and most powerful), but Neale even goes so far as to suggest that even thinking about looking good can give you a confidence boost. So if you can’t change clothes or comb your hair before that big meeting, try visualization instead.
"Next time you're facing a situation that calls for you to present yourself in the best light - and perhaps a few notches up on the organizational ladder from where you normally perceive yourself to be - you might try a new strategy," Neale suggests according to the GSB writeup. "Just before the meeting or interview, remember a time when you felt attractive, and then let that memory change how you interact with others by reframing what you see as your place in the social hierarchy."
Have you felt this connection between feeling like you look your best and projecting power?
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.