Being permitted to dress casually for the office, even if it’s just for one day, is a bit of a treat.
Subbing out your slacks for your favourite jeans, or switching your structured blazer for a more relaxed-fit jacket, acts like a subtle precursor to the weekend: those 48 glorious hours of the week where you can wear whatever you want. Hot pants, track pants, no pants… it’s all good.
Obvious comfort benefits aside, Casual Friday (or casual whatever-day-of-the-week) might actually be doing you a disservice — at least, when it comes to how you approach your work.
New research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science has investigated the cognitive effects of wearing formal clothing — that is, the kind you’d usually wear to an interview or to an office job.
It’s no surprise that what we wear influences how we perceive ourselves; previous research has established this. When you dress real fancy, you feel real fancy. (Post continues after gallery.)
When you get home from work and pull on your favourite jumper and tights, there’s a good chance you feel immediately more relaxed. Maybe it’s just because you know it’s not a big deal if you spill spaghetti sauce on that particular ensemble.
But how do our clothing choices affect the way we think, more generally? Researchers from Columbia University and California State University conducted five studies to explore this link.
In one study, 60 undergraduate students were asked to bring a set of 'formal' and 'casual' clothing to the study lab, and randomly asked to change into one set or the other before completing a task. They were also asked to assess how formally-dressed they felt as compared to their peers.
Overall, the researchers noted that wearing more formal clothes was linked to 'enhanced abstract processing'.
“By that we mean, basically, holistic or big-picture thinking — so not focusing on the details but seeing bigger ideas, seeing how things connect from a more high-level perspective,” the report's first author, Michael Slepian, told NY Magazine's 'Science of Us'. So basically, dressing formally might help you be more creative at work, and there are two possible reasons for this. (Post continues after gallery.)
One, being dressed more formally than your peers could make you feel more sure and confident of yourself, and therefore more powerful — which has been previously linked to abstract thinking. So, maybe if everyone in the office dresses casually on the same day, this effect would be diluted.
Slepian also speculates this abstract thinking could be a result of the 'novelty' of dressing up nice and fancy.
Apparently, your productivity at work can also take a hit from your wardrobe choices. According to fashion psychologist Dr Karen Pine, casual wear can make you feel less focused and alert throughout the day.
“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment," Dr Pine told Forbes.
"A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear’, so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”
Well then. Could this be a case for replacing Casual Friday with Fancy Friday?
How do you dress for work?