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Do clothes matter to our success at work?

Gone are the days of going to work in your black power suit and tailored white shirt, dressed for high powered job success.

Nowadays, and partly due to our more flexible and hybrid work environments, we pride ourselves on our casual and comfortable outfits in the office. But when entering any professional context, your appearance, attitude and behaviour can play a key role in the way people perceive you. Often giving you a competitive advantage.

It’s easy to dismiss this as superficial and only applicable to the hospitality industry where a luxury image often applies. However, perhaps we should look less at how our clothes let others perceive us and more at how our clothes make us feel about ourselves and behave at work.

Look good feel good

Workshop17 recently conducted a series of informal discussions with some of their 5000 members, including 745 companies in their 8 locations and identified three main aspects of our clothes that impact our self-image:

Aesthetics – Does the clothing appeal to the senses?
Conformity – Is the style of clothing similar to what coworkers wear?
Uniqueness – Does the wearer view the piece as special?

Out of the three, conformity has the most social influence, so the more contact you have with other employees, the more this forms a sense of belonging and can give you a boost to interact with more people. The more you work alone or from home, the less this applies.

The characteristic that most impacted productivity was uniqueness. When members felt like they looked good and that their clothing was different in some way, this improved self-esteem and made them more confident and goal oriented.

Surprisingly aesthetics, that includes how comfortable and breathable your clothing is, and how it allows for free movement, came last both on work and social performance. (So it can’t just be any old jeans and a t-shirt)

If the Veldskoen fits

Workshop17 took their findings on the connection between one’s clothes, productivity and self-esteem and elevated this to put together a set of well-styled organisational branded clothing that should hit the mark on all aspects.

This includes a partnership with Veldskoen Shoes, who are well known as the entrepreneurial casualwear brand of South Africa, in a way that is sustainable and trendy, and aligns with Workshop17’s social and environmental values.

Penelope Meniere, Marketing Director of Workshop17 says, “We are big believers in offering our members opportunities to benefit from our many partnerships through networking or discounts. So it makes sense that after we saw the correlation between confidence and clothing that we designed something unique and appealing for our staff. Working in a beautiful workspace should only enhance how you already feel.”

While it might not be possible for every business to provide a stylised team kit, traditional managers would do well to remember the significant connection between feeling good in one’s threads and a more positive, proactive mindset.