Have you ever considered swapping your everyday office attire for something different, something that feels more like you? Do you worry about appearing unprofessional if you try a new look? What if I told you that this could actually benefit your career?
Not conforming to the traditional office dress code could pay dividends, according to a study conducted by The Harvard Business School. The “The Red Sneakers Effect”examined how nonconforming behaviors can infer elevated status and competence among coworkers within the work environment.
As women, we are programmed to believe that “following the crowd” is required in order to be socially accepted. In the workplace, that may mean conforming to the usual workwear attire of dull colors, button-down shirts, and staid suits. It is believed that embracing this dresscode conveys professionalism and competence that allows us to be taken seriously, that deviating from the norm could be deemed as risky, potentially resulting in social disapproval or rejection from peers. It requires confidence and power to step outside the parameters and experiment with something different.
However, standing out, being visible, and having presence in the workplace is crucial, particularly for women who continue to be under-represented and under-valued in the corporate world. A report from Zippia, the Career Expert has found that women take up only 35% of the senior US management positions and earn 47.4% less than their male counterparts despite having the same qualifications.
What’s interesting about the “Red Sneakers Effect” is that engaging in nonconforming behavior actually elevates the perceived status and competence of the individual. Ordinarily, judgements are based on appearance, verbal and nonverbal behaviors, attitudes, and communication choices. However, in this study, it became clear that adopting a nonconventional approach is a major factor when it comes to crafting and creating a personal brand. It demonstrates autonomy, confidence, and fearless determination to try something different, which consequently infers increased status and competence in the eyes of coworkers, particularly among those who yearn to be unique and individual. And isn’t status, presence, and recognition what we all strive for in the workplace? Interestingly, the study revealed that nonconforming behavior was only considered as “powerful” if it was intentional, meaning that a “fashion faux pas” would not be viewed in the same light. Purposeful outfits that portray professionalism while showcasing personality require vision. This is why working with a PowerStyle coach pays. Curating an impactful, distinctive personal brand will ultimately give you the power to step up that corporate ladder.
So how can you maximize this concept to achieve your professional goals?
As a PowerStyle coach, there are many ways I help my clients to capitalize on this. Curating a purposeful, impactful wardrobe is key. Not only does it boost confidence, eliminate decision fatigue, and save time, it ensures that the right message is being communicated to the outside world. For example, color is powerful, easily injected to any wardrobe, and has maximum impact. So why not start with this?
Wear More Color
Color is powerful. It gives presence, increases visibility among a sea of gray, and can create a gut response in both the wearer and the observer. By this, I mean that it can psychologically impact perceptions.
Imagine this. You arrive at a networking event where everyone in the room is dressed in typical office attire. Think neutral blazers, simple dresses, or smart pants with a plain button-down shirt. You enter the room, dressed professionally and appropriate for the occasion. But your blazer is red. You’ve paired it with a beautiful, cobalt-blue, silk blouse and a fabulous pair of navy culottes. You’ve styled this with a fantastic pair of heels and a striking, colorful bag. What does this outfit say about you? It tells everyone there that you aren’t afraid to be visible. It infers confidence, guts, and a fearless ability to be unique.
But there’s more to it than that. In color psychology, red symbolizes energy and drive. It shows ambition and power. While too much can appear aggressive, when teamed with calming, reliable, and trustworthy blue, it sets just the right tone. Colorful accessories reveal more about your personality and demonstrate that you aren’t prepared to sit back unnoticed.
It should also be noted that wearing colors can benefit the health and emotional well-being of the wearer. Colors can trigger psychological and neurological responses in the brain which causes the hypothalamus gland to release feel good hormones. Orange is fabulous on days when you feel drained and tired, while blue releases oxytocin, which can alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety, making it a great color to wear to an interview.
Discovering your PowerColors through a color analysis session with me will equip you with the tools and knowledge to wear your best colors and create striking, intentional outfits that will boost confidence, increase visibility, and ultimately help you to achieve your professional goals.
Update Your Look
The workplace has changed significantly since 2020. Working from home has become the norm for many. As a PowerStyle coach, many of my clients have described the confusion around dressing for work. After dressing in traditional office attire for so long, they feel lost when it comes to power-dressing for this new world. The “Red Sneakers Effect” in a post-pandemic era, allows an opportunity for workwear reform. It gives scope for nonconventional dressing, therefore maximizing the potential of its associated power, status, and perceived competence.
Instead of opting for the typical office dress code, try injecting some personality into your look.
Try dressing down tailored pieces with more relaxed pants and sneakers. Replace heels with loafers and dressy trainers and swap shirts for a striped breton T-shirt, layered under a fabulous blazer or boucle style jacket.
Embrace styling options that are effortless and add texture to your workwear wardrobe. Texture will instantly update and add interest to your outfit, helping to create a signature look that is current and intentional. Velvet, suede, leather, linen, and cashmere can elevate any outfit and, when appropriately styled, can inject sophisticated glamor to every workwear closet.
Create a Capsule Wardrobe
Consider creating a capsule wardrobe where pieces easily transition between the different realms of your life, whether that’s client meetings, working from home, or relaxing on the weekend. With the right mix of versatile pieces, you can create a wardrobe that gives you presence, power, and individuality.
Think differently about your wardrobe. With fashion being the second most polluting industry in the world, making the most of what you already own makes sense. Buy less but wear every piece more by creating unique outfits that reflect you and your personality.
And if all of this seems too exhausting on top of the 35,000 decisions you make every day, invest in a PowerStyle coach who can curate a wardrobe that ticks all of the boxes. It will also take the stress, confusion, and decision fatigue out of the equation, meaning that you can spend quality time doing what you love instead of worrying about what to wear everyday.
As a PowerStyle Coach, I work with executives who are committed to investing in their wardrobe as a means to personal and professional success. You can discover more of my Powerstyling secrets by connecting with me on Instagram and LinkedIn, and if you’d like to learn more about working with me, you can check out my website here.