If you had to "dress to impress," what would your wear? A nice Italian suit, a figure-hugging silk dress, perhaps those killer heels? Certainly not a pair of sneakers or yoga pants. Or so you'd think.
But research carried out by Harvard Business School suggests otherwise. Turns out those sneakers and yoga pants might just do the trick.
Take Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and co-founder of Facebook, as an example.
In the early days of Facebook, when Zuckerberg showed up in front of a bunch of well-dressed bankers and investors rocking his signature hoodie-and-jeans-look, it sparked some controversy. But some believed that this bold move was one of the reasons behind Zuckerberg's success.
"By giving up the social benefits conferred by conformity, individuals show that they do not need these benefits because they already possess high status," the researchers explain.
In other words, if you rebel and do not dress the way you are expected to in particular situations, this can actually reinforce your status.
The researchers further explain:
We find that, in certain cases, nonconforming behaviors can lead to inferences of enhanced status and competence in the eyes of others. And that this is because of—not in spite of—these behaviors' deviance from the norm.
One of the experiments, which was carried out in luxury boutiques in Milan, provides further proof.
Shopping assistants considered shoppers who wore gym cloths or a Swatch to be more likely to make a purchase than the ones dressed in fancy dresses or wearing a Rolex. Meaning, if shoppers dressed down at a super fancy store, they gave the impression of being "too cool to care" about their outfit.
So does this mean that we can wear tracksuits or ripped jeans 24/7 and have people think we are rockstars?
Well before you storm the stores to buy ripped jeans and sneakers to impress everyone...
... you should know that this formula does not apply to every situation.
"Wearing gym clothes is a noticeable aberration in a luxury boutique with an expectation of nice attire," explain the researchers. "But not in a discount store where casual dress is the norm."
So while your gym clothes or used up Chucks might get you special treatment at Tiffany's, it will most likely not impress anyone at Target. And while Zuckerberg being an actual CEO can pull of his "CEO Casual" look at the World Economic Forum, it does not mean that shorts and sandals will not be frowned upon at a job interview at a law firm.
So think about whom you are aiming to impress.