1. If you dress poorly, people will not ask you for money.
Once, in Seattle, I received one of the most brutal lessons about clothes. It was late on Wednesday evening, and I was getting off the bus on my way back home from a soccer game. I was wearing sweatpants that were sagging quite casually (I was wearing shorts underneath), a hoody and a beanie. I get off the bus in downtown Seattle with 5-6 other people at the same stop. We are walking in pretty much single file, when we pass a man who seems to have some financial woes. He asks each person if they can help with a monetary contribution, but when it’s my turn to be asked, there is only silence. This (probably) homeless dude looked at me, did a quick mental assessment based on my appearance, and decided it wasn’t even worth asking if I had money to spare. I can’t get too mad at him, because I didn’t have any money. But he shouldn’t have assumed that. You know what they say.
2. If you dress nicely, people think you belong there.
Last year, I went to a friend’s apartment in Manhattan for New Year’s Eve. It was a fancy one with working lights and a doorman. When I walked in the first time, I was wearing a jacket, jeans, and a pair of Vans slip-ons. I was hit with the classic, “Can I help you?” said with the intonation that really means “there’s no way you are supposed to be here.” After going up to the apartment, I changed into a suit and fancy shoes. I exited the building to get a slice of pizza, and returned where another doorman, who had not seen me before, did not say a word as I walked right past him in my disguise.
3. Your clothes display your intentions.
If you show up to a date wearing a tuxedo, you will not impress anyone. Even after explaining that you were doing it as a joke, she’ll insist you change before going out to dinner. Apparently this is “too formal” for Olive Garden. Dressing too fancily (apparently that’s a word) in the wrong situations is just as bad an error as dressing too casually in others.
The opposite, dressing too casually in formal situations is actually a “power move” that can make your peers or potentials mates both fear and respect you. Take the typical startup dude: Messy, unkempt hair, eternal 5-o’clock shadow, jeans, and the standard-issue American Apparel hoodie that everyone apparently gets when they buy a Macbook Pro. Mark Zuckerberg, who is now making a reasonable living, still dresses this way. When he is in the big boardrooms, shooting the shit with a bunch of suits (I have no idea how business works), he puts himself in a power position by saying “I don’t care about the rules” with his casual dress.
This strategy doesn’t just work within the confines of your professional life. You can also show up to a “date”, dressed in sweatpants and a college sweatshirt, to let your potential mate know that there is absolutely no potential that you will be mating. This does a great job of making your intentions clear, managing their expectations, and you’ve done all this without saying a word.
4. Dressing better makes you feel better
It has been proven scientists and scientific research, that the physical act of smiling can elicit a positive emotional response. A similar way, I’ve found that dressing well can make you feel better and positively affect your demeanor. If you’ve just gone through an heart-wrenching breakup, or watched Toy Story 3, why not throw on a suit? Your brain will think “hey wait, we need to get it together. Based on his attire, something important is happening.”
This relates to the saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Obviously, this is a weird piece of advice with more caveats than applications (e.x. aspiring astronaut currently working as receptionist), but it does sound nice in theory.
If you’ve learned anything from this list – wow. I’m just as surprised as you are. I’m glad you were able to ascertain useful information from my random (but not inconsequential) experiences with “fashion.” But I’d encourage you to take off that fedora, and conduct some further research before going out into the world.