A while back, I helped out with a theatre production at a local school. They have a potentially great program and a gifted teacher with vision; I have a background in theatre. And what we all have is the ability to do our jobs out of costume.
As we packed up after the final show, in grubby jeans and dusty t-shirts, I talked to him about his dream. By the time we were ready to leave, he’d given me nearly free reign organizing what could have been an $8.5 million job. No button-down shirt or trendy bag required.
It’s not actually going to happen any time soon. I need to make that clear. The district and administration were thrilled with the idea. But there were (and still are) enough parents uncomfortable with high school kids wanting to do Little Shop of Horrors instead of Winnie the Pooh (or any serious piece that lets them develop talent instead of some bit of fluff), and they wanted a say in every stage of the process. So right now, officially, it’s not happening. But that’s not the point. The point is, it wasn’t an interview, I wasn’t dressed like a “professional”, and I got the job anyway.
Can you be productive without your normal “work costume”? In your pajamas?
If you’re like me, you’ve seen countless articles about how we need to dress “appropriately” when we work at home, which – aside from safety gear or uniform – mostly just means wearing what’s socially accepted as standard for our profession when we’re in public. Somehow, the costume keeps us focused and professional. There’s a hidden threat that if we don’t, the public will imagine us in our robes and bunny slippers and not take us seriously.
Does your wardrobe really matter?
It’s all in your head. There is no research to support the idea that certain clothes are some miracle-method for better performance. What there is, is the idea that if you look professional, you’ll feel and behave accordingly. If you are tied to a specific mental image of what the concept of professional attire should look like, you’re more likely to find yourself slacking if you’re not dressed the way you think you should be.
It’s another expression of cognitive dissonance. The brain has a hard time handling two opposing ideas at one time; it creates some mental discomfort and stress. The idea that “wins” is the one you believe, not necessarily the one the facts support.
Don’t misunderstand me – appearances matter. You need to give people the impression that you’re capable, confident, ethical, all that. And you can certainly do that when you’re in public, or in your profile pictures! But if you prefer comfortable to corporate, it’s really okay.
There’s never been a dress code for confidence, so if you have that down, you’re probably looking good already.
Likes and shares are always appreciated. If you have a minute, leave a comment and tell me about your typical work wardrobe!