How Dressing For Success Can Further Your Business Career

Are you putting your best foot forward when it comes to succeeding in your career? If so, hopefully, that foot is paired with a polished shoe to go along with a business suit. The old advice still rings true: The more profesional you dress, the more likely you are to succeed.

Study after study shows that dressing right can help you get through the door at your dream company. It enables you to move through the ranks as you impress clients and improve your work ethic. With that in mind, consider this wardrobe advice before going out to purchase your next work outfit:

What You Should Be Wearing

The first step to furthering your business career with the proper dress attire starts at the interview. Of course, having answers prepared for the most common interview questions is essential, but having sharp and professional attire might be even more important. In fact, 80 percent of managers say that the interviewee’s clothes will greatly affect their hiring decisions. Dressing correctly at this stage shows that you are taking the opportunity seriously. It allows the interviewer to focus on your skills and fitness for the job.

During the interview, wearing a suit is a must for both men and women. For men, go all in with a suit that includes the dress shirt, tie, matching jacket, pants, coordinating socks and dress shoes. Avoid flashy colors and ensure that your outfit is clean and pressed. Proper grooming is also important, especially when it comes to facial hair. If you have a beard, follow some basic professional trimming guidelines: maintain your neckline, even out the hair on your upper cheeks, and avoid extreme beard styles.

For women, go for a suit with pants or a skirt, usually in a darker color and with a comfortable fit that will allow you to look and perform your best. You’ll want to impress, but don’t make too loud a statement with flamboyant colors or excessively provocative dressing. Once you have landed the job, you will want to continue to impress by wearing attire appropriate for your company. If you are not sure what is acceptable, then consult the company guidelines or try the “plus or minus one” rule, which says to always dress up a notch better than the company standard. If everyone else is wearing button-up shirts, then consider wearing a blazer in addition to that.

Proper Attire Changes How You Are Perceived

Following the dress code is not only necessary but can also change how you are perceived by managers and customers alike. You have probably heard that people gain their first impressions immediately they see you. In fact, our brain can get an idea of how a person acts based on an interaction of fewer than five minutes. Studies show that the people you meet or work with can accurately judge your age, political inclinations and income based on how you look.

In a Yale study, researchers gathered 128 men who were between the ages of 18 and 32 and had them participate in mock buying and selling negotiations. Once they were done, the researchers tallied up the theoretical profits of those dressed in sweatpants and flip flops versus those wearing suits. They found that the difference was over $1.4 million, with the suit wearers evaluated significantly higher. They also observed that the poorly dressed participants were often unsure and would defer to the suit-wearing participants for help. Those wearing the suits could detect this and, feeling that they were more respected, backed down less during the negotiations.

The dress code tips you have heard all your life still stand true today. People who see others in suits see someone who is confident, flexible, and a higher earner than their less well-dressed counterparts. If your job entails meeting external clients, then you want to create this positive impression. A suit also conveys to the customer that you have something meaningful to say — and that they should believe your offers and claims.

Your Attire Improves How You Work

In addition to impressing those around you, donning the proper attire can result in increased productivity. During one study, it was found that professional dressing can increase your abstract thinking and give you a broader perspective on your work. Other research shows that wearing a suit creates the proper mindset for conducting business, which can help employees focus on long-term thinking and how they hope to see their career grow.

Studies have also found that how we dress can essentially make us smarter. During another investigation, a group of research assistants went about their routine tasks while half of them dressed in regular clothes and the other half wore lab coats. After their work was reviewed, the researchers found that the group wearing lab coats had fewer mistakes. It is all about dressing for the part. If you feel like you are in an important role doing important work, then that will show in your performance.

In many cases, we wear particular clothing based on what we are doing and sometimes, we can actually adapt to the characteristics of what we are wearing. So, if you usually wear shorts and a T-shirt on weekends, you may unknowingly be more relaxed and work with less urgency if dressed in the same manner while in the office. It is the opposite with your suit — most people associate it with work, so when they are wearing it, they are in work mode.

The idea of dressing for success is not just a catchy phrase; it is a rule that should be followed when working in any business environment. Think about how you want to be perceived and how you want to meet those perceptions, then dress your best.


Devin prides himself on being a jack of all trades; his career trajectory is more a zigzag than an obvious trend, just the way he likes it. You can follow him on Twitter