Don’t underestimate the power of clothing. It’s so much more than just one of our basic human needs along with food and shelter. It can impact how we feel about ourselves, and in turn how we perform.
As former football and baseball star, and current Jackson State University (my mother’s alma mater) football coach Deion Sanders likes to say, “Look good, feel good. Feel good, play good. Play good, they pay good.”
There is plenty of good advice telling you to dress well in order to make a positive impression on others. And with good reason. Your appearance plays a significant role in how you are perceived, which can impact opportunities that come your way. However, you should also dress well for yourself.
What is Enclothed Cognition?
Enclothed cognition illustrates how clothing impacts human cognition based on the co-occurrence of its symbolic meaning and the physical wearing of the attire.
There is a well-known study from 2012 that tested the effect of clothing on performance. The researchers, psychologists Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinsky from Northwestern University hypothesized that wearing a lab coat and its symbolic meaning would enhance the participants’ performance on tasks requiring high levels of attention, and then demonstrated it through a series of experiments.
» Related: Why Care About Your Style?
The research suggests that the principle of enclothed cognition depends both on physically wearing the clothing and on the symbolic meaning associated with the clothing.
Making Enclothed Cognition Work for You
So how can you make enclothed cognition work for you? Consider what you are trying to accomplish and dress accordingly. Be intentional about what you wear. If you feel like you look the part, you are well on your way to doing it.
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Here are a few scenarios where you might dress to give yourself a physical and mental advantage:
In Professional Settings
Perhaps you have an important meeting, or a job interview and you want to give yourself a mental boost. Assuredly, you feel like you are going to crush it. Maybe it’s a regular work day and you want to put yourself in a mindset to do your best work.
Dressing in a professional way can help you feel like a professional. Ever hear of a “power suit”? It is all about a confident look. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a suit, but step up whatever professional attire is for your workplace.
In Recreational Settings
Depending on the activity, certain clothing may be deemed appropriate. The activity might have a dress code or traditional attire. Take golf for example. When I put on a typical golf outfit I feel like a real golfer, even if I am not actually that good at it.
The golf polo shirt helps me get my mind in the right place to play my best golf. I often wonder if this mental edge helps me to save a few strokes on my round. Consider wearing the “uniform” for the activity to help you to feel ready for it.
» Readers’ Favorite: You might enjoy this article on the Dressing for Your Age.
Of course you want to wear clothes to the gym that are practical for a workout. Although functional, the right exercise clothes can help you feel ready to burn some calories, pump some iron, and get (or stay) in shape.
Sure, you could grab any old t-shirt and shorts you have lying around. Or, you could step it up with a coordinated exercise outfit from items designed for the specific purpose and made from performance materials.
In Social Settings
The way you dress can help you feel good about yourself in social situations. If you are dressed well for the occasion, you can spend less time feeling self-conscious about the way you look and more time mingling with others and enjoying yourself.
Think about wearing your favorite outfit that you feel best in, or treating yourself to something new for that party, special event, or date.
While Working From Home (WFH)
Many of us are working from home more these days, especially over the last two years. In addition to the benefits to quality of life, many people enjoy working from home because they can dress more comfortably instead of wearing office attire.
Consider stepping your WFH clothing game up a bit instead of staying in your pajamas or sweats which can make you feel lazy. Try dressing at home as you would in the office, or at least somewhat close to it.
There is something about getting up and getting dressed for work that helps you to mentally prepare for the work day, even if the office is just down the hall from your bed.
» Related: You might like this guide on how to work from home effectively (for high achievers).
And if you are going to dress up your top half to appear on camera for virtual meetings, you might as well put on some real pants while you’re at it. Besides, what happens if for some reason you need to stand up while you are still visible on your coworkers’ screens?
Take care of your personal grooming
An important step that helps you feel good about yourself. Get a haircut. Shave or trim your facial hair. Brush your teeth. Splash on some cologne. It all makes a difference.
» Related: You might like this guide on essential grooming tips (for healthy & stylish men).
Use color to impact your mood
Shades of green or blue can bring about a sense of calm, while red, orange, and yellow can boost your energy. I have personally found that wearing pink helps me feel confident, because many men do not wear pink and it takes a degree of self-assurance for a man to pull it off.
» Related: You might like this in-depth guide on how to mix and match clothing colors.
Wearing a watch can help you be more punctual as a subtle reminder of time. Putting on a tie can help you feel more powerful, while losing the tie can help you feel more relaxed. Donning some colorful, patterned dress socks can help you feel fun and playful, especially in an otherwise formal setting.
Wear a sentimental item to give yourself a mental boost
Something that someone special gave you as a gift, an item that a late loved one passed on to you, or something that reminds you of someone meaningful to you can make you feel like that person is there with you giving encouragement.
The tie your kids gave you for Fathers Day. Your grandfather’s watch. The shirt that your significant other likes best on you. Whatever has personal meaning for you.
The clothes that you wear can go a long way toward you achieving your goals and getting the most out of life. Not just for the way others see you, but also for the way you see yourself. Remember the concept of enclothed cognition and dress with purpose!
Thanks for reading all the way through. I hope that it was helpful in some way and that you now have a full understanding of the power of enclothed cognition and the role it plays in our everyday lives.
DeJuan is a husband, father of an 11-year old son and 4-year old daughter, and a chemical engineer. He enjoys watching sports, reading, playing and listening to music, and of course men’s style. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio and works as a project engineer at a chemical plant. See more of DeJuan’s style on his Instagram.
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