According to a recent Harvard study, wearing casual clothes and flouting the office dress code could make you seem more competent.
The study looked at examples of successful businessmen such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and their style of dressing. Results found that intentionally starting out from the crowd can send a positive message of status, confidence and power – called the ‘red sneaker effect’.
According to the study’s findings, higher status and performance within a given community is correlated with a stronger tendency to deviate from a conforming dress code (e.g. wearing jeans and a t-shirt, instead of a suit).
Researchers did note that in order to lead to higher status, the lack of conformity to dress codes must be deliberate; those who did so unintentially were more likely to be viewed negatively.
The study stressed the importance of making the casual clothes choice appear intentional so it becomes a power statement rather than an image of laziness.
Although the results may sound surprising, if Bill Gates an Mark Zuckerberg are anything to do by, these findings ring true. Both the Microsoft CEO and the Facebook CEO have been known to appear without ties or even wear sweatshirts at formal events. Evidently, the casual look has not lessened their status or power.