There is a saying:

Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.

I have always understood this as implying that this is a way to help attain "the job you want".

This article references a fairly recent poll from executives, but I'm not sure how great it is.

Several comments and answers on workplace.stackexchange.comgiving opinions or anecdotes claiming it works:

I've had a little difficulty in finding any real research or evidence supporting or denying this approach works.

I would think this claim, that dressing as a certain rank/position would help one attain that position, could be tested.

Is this real wisdom?

I'd prefer more recent studies than older ones if possible, as I wouldn't be surprised in changes in culture over time affecting the results. I'm asking this from a white-collar U.S. context, but would love answers that apply to a more general audience.

  • 1
    Of course I've heard the saying, but it is very vague. It doesn't really make a claim of what will happen, why it will happen or what the boundaries are. Obviously it depends on the work environment (as the astronaut example shows), but that means we have a "no true scotsman" problem - for any occasion it isn't true, we simply exclude it from the data set. Can we find a more specific example? I looked here but it didn't seem to have a specific claim either.
    – Oddthinking
    May 25, 2018 at 16:02
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    To me, the implied statement was that if you want to be promoted by a rank within your organization, dress like one rank up. I believe that it was a somewhat old saying, and I suspect it was more true back in the day, when social class was more stratified to begin with. Regardless, both the question of "did it work" and of "does it work" should be answerable.
    – Ben Barden
    May 25, 2018 at 19:27
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    I believe the quote first appeared in the 1976 Dress For Success. It is apparently rich in research on what people wear to work. amazon.ca/Dress-Success-John-T-Molloy/dp/0446328510/… May 31, 2018 at 14:40
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    @zarose: Chapter 2: "you have to dress for the job you want, not the job you have, and you have to start doing the work you want to be doing."
    – Oddthinking
    May 31, 2018 at 17:24
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    (3) Correlation is not causation. People who wear more formal clothes are (a) likely to be more privileged which may affect promotions, (b) might be exhibiting other behaviours and/or maturities that match the superior role, (c) might be signalling to their bosses that they expect a promotion (which might also be achieved with other methods). The only way to test is with a randomised controlled trial where you supply clothes to someone to wear to see how their bosses react. (Would that pass an ethics committee?)
    – Oddthinking
    May 31, 2018 at 17:31


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