It’s a big deal that your clothes impact or influence others. But what about choosing the right clothes so that they best impact you?
A recently published study by two students of Northwestern University’s Kellogg Business School provides insights into how to get the right mindset by choosing the right clothes. They created the term “enclothed cognition” to describe a process that affects your mindset based on the symbolic meaning and the physical experience of wearing your clothes.
They did a series of experiments to test their theory, by using a lab coat garment. In one trial, participants wearing a lab coat were observed to have a sense of heightened attentiveness. A second trial had participants wearing the same lab coat, which was described as it being a doctor’s coat. In the third trial, participants were told that the coat was a painter’s coat. Those wearing the doctor’s coat showed a higher level of sustained attention as compared to those thought to be wearing a painter’s coat, or those who were shown the lab coat as a doctor’s coat without wearing it.
So, one takeaway from this experiment is that if your doctors are wearing doctor’s coats, they are more likely to be more attentive, and even more careful.
Most of us don’t wear lab coats, or any coat for that matter. How can this experiment help you to get the right mindset by choosing the right clothes?
One common denominator for nearly everyone I know is denim. Let’s look at an example that you will easily relate to.
One of my clients, a successful entrepreneur, told me just last week how he is in denim seven days a week now. He wears jeans to business meetings, to church, and everywhere in between. But he needs a certain kind of denim jean to wear when he works on his car or while enjoying yard work. He wouldn’t wear those jeans to lounge around in the house. So those jeans need to have a different look and feel so he can wear them in a relaxed way. Then, for business meetings and for church, a different level of jeans would be more appropriate.
If you needed clothes to wear for similar situations in your own life, and if wearing denim was to be central to your day-to-day wardrobe, each different kind of denim would help you to be in the right mindset. When my client is wearing the kind of jeans to work on the car or in the yard, he can feel like he can get into his work and can get those jeans as dirty as necessary. He wouldn’t wear them to lounge around in the house or to business meetings because they could be soiled from that work. Even if the car and yard jeans were clean, he’d know that those are strictly for doing more laborious work. That’s why it’s important to his mindset to have a different selection of jeans for those meetings and for church. More than being disrespectful to others to look like he just crawled out from under his car, wearing those grungy jeans would very likely affect his thinking and conduct at a business meeting or at church.
Here’s my tip: When looking at the clothes in your closet, stop and consider how choosing the right clothes will help you get the right mindset first, then decide what you’re going to wear, and why you’re going to wear it. Your clothes don’t just telegraph messages to others. You choose one item over another because of your mission for that day. Making positive wardrobe choices prove that choosing the right clothes influences your energy level and your thinking.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps high-profile individuals revitalize, manage, and be secure in their personal visual brand. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.