The Subtle Impact of Physical Appearance on Productivity and Success.

Carl Pullein
5 min readMar 13, 2024

Most people believe that their success is down to their inner virtues and skills. After all, you can’t fake your way through college degrees and will come up short if you rely on charm alone during tests for jobs.

This week’s article is written by the wonderful Katie Brenneman. Thank you, Katie, for writing this for me.

However, you may be surprised to learn that your physical appearance also has an impact on your productivity and success. Put simply, when you feel good about the way you look, your self-confidence rises, and your productivity increases.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you are doomed if you aren’t buying designer clothes, but it could give you a motivational boost if you’ve been skipping the gym or wearing the same tired outfit for the last decade.

Dressing for Success

The idea of dressing for success has existed for decades. Recently, researchers took a closer look at this popular idiom and found that people who dress with intention experience increased productivity and are perceived more favourably than their peers. However, dressing with intention doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wear a formal suit and tie at the beginning of every workday.

Rather, researchers found that folks are perceived to be better at their jobs based on the context of how they dress. For example, when shown two images of a casually dressed college professor and a formally dressed professor, students guessed that the professor with casual attire was better at their job.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you can burn your blazers and shred your ties. Rather, it highlights the importance of making dress choices that suit you and are contextually appropriate. Folks will notice the subtle difference between you and your peers and will respond positively or negatively based on the context of your formal or casual wear.

Refreshing Your Wardrobe

Most people like the idea of dressing for success. However, if it’s been a while since you refreshed your wardrobe, you may need some help getting back into the fashion game. If you’re just starting your research, consider buying from a heritage brand over a fast-fashion retailer. The benefits of buying heritage fashion include:

  • Quality: Brands that have been around for a while are known for their quality and only use the best fibers available. This is crucial if you’re planning on regularly wearing a statement piece like a jacket or a pair of new boots.
  • Self-Expression: Heritage brands usually offer clothing that breaks from the norm around the office. This can help you stand out from the crowd while wearing high-quality gear to work.
  • Supporting Small Business: Refreshing your wardrobe costs a pretty penny. Rather than spending all your hard-earned cash on international retailers, buy American-made clothing to support small businesses in your area.

If you’re working on a tight budget, consider putting together a wardrobe that you use to meet with prospective clients first. This is crucial if you’re self-employed and are looking to boost your productivity. Putting forward a professional appearance when meeting with external stakeholders shows that you have a serious offering and can add real value to a client’s life.

Consider investing in a few work outfits if you work remotely, too. This may sound strange, but working remotely in your PJs can sap your productivity and make you feel lethargic. Even switching to leisure wear can help you feel like you’re “at work” when you’re working from home. This can help you set clear boundaries and improve your productivity when you sit down to start working from your home office.

Wellness and Appearance

Appearance isn’t all about new shoes and sharp suits. Instead of spending big on a new wardrobe, set aside some time and money for yourself and your own wellness. A strong self-care routine improves your productivity and helps you look like your best self. Self-care habits, like exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet, can boost your mood and increase your confidence, too. Over time, this leads to subtle improvements in posture and physical appearance that will help you lead a happier, more fulfilled life.

A robust approach to wellness can help clear up your skin and improve your self-respect. By setting aside time for your own needs, you teach yourself that you’re worthy of support and care. This can have a profound impact on your productivity and wellness if you’re used to putting yourself last all the time.

You don’t need to break the bank on a detox vacation or a home gym to enjoy the productivity-boosting benefits of wellness, either. Instead, start the day right by sleeping 7–9 hours and hydrating properly after you wake up. This will refresh your skin, clear up acne, and help you recover from a gruelling workout. It’s an entirely free way to improve your appearance while boosting your chances of professional success, too.

Conclusion

The way you look has a huge impact on your self-image and confidence. Failing to look after yourself can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem. Make a positive change today by foregrounding your wellness and investing in a new set of clothes. This will freshen up your look, help you connect with peers and prospective clients, and increase your overall confidence.

Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specialising in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.

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Carl Pullein

I help people learn to manage their lives and time better so they can experience joy and build a life they are truly proud of. www.carlpullein.com