As much as all of us who work remotely relish the joy of wearing pajamas to the “office” (meaning, bed workspace), you may be better at your job if you gussy up a little bit. A paper in the Social Psychological and Personality Science says that that people who dressed up at the office thought more creatively than their more casually-dressed cohorts. In other words, there’s a mental advantage to busting out your fancy duds just because it’s laundry day and you have nothing else to wear.
The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing, written by Michael Slepian, Simon Ferber, Joshua Gold, and Abraham Rutchick, cites a study performed at Columbia University and California State University, Northridge which found that dressing formally may encourage abstract thinking. A team of researchers had half of their college student participants attend the study in job interview clothing, and half in clothing they’d wear to class. Each participant was given a questionnaire asking them to rate how formally they felt dressed in comparison to the other students. Students were also given questions that asked them to place things into categories. These were engineered to gauge their “cognitive processing style” as either abstract or concrete. The Science of Us gives an example of abstract thinkersclassifying a camel as a “vehicle,” while the concrete thinkers would probably call it an animal.
As it turned out, students wearing job interview-appropriate outfits tended to think more abstractly and gave out-of-the-box answers. However, the students wearing the clothing they’d wear to class tended to think in more concrete terms. Take that as an argument in favor of wearing all of your summer dresses to the office.
As the paper says, part of this effect may have to do with the fact that dressing up tends to make people feel more powerful, competent, and confident. Also, as The Science of Us points out, when one is in a position of power, they feel free to think more about the big picture because it’s someone else’s job to think about concrete details. The novelty factor of making oneself look special may also reportedly have something to do with the increased creativity. Not to mention, it’s pretty heartening to catch a glimpse of oneself in the mirror looking fly as hell.
But if you’re really attached to wearing jeans and tees, there’s no need to fret. At least from what the paper says, the correlation between dressing fancily and thinking creatively doesn’t mean that dressing down limits a person’s ingenuity. Basically, as long as you feel like yourself, you can feel confident, competent, and free to think your special-snowflake ideas.