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What happens when you dress differently?

Ramit Sethi

Want to know the fastest way to find out what your friends think of you?

Change your wardrobe. Try it and watch.

If you’ve been wearing t-shirts and jeans your whole life, expect comments like these the first time you throw on a blazer:

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  • “Whoa. Who are you trying to impress?” (The coded message — “don’t get too big for your britches”)
  • “Where are you going dress liked THAT?” (The implication — “you need an occasion to look good”)
  • “Stick to what you know, dude.” (“You’re changing and I don’t like it”)

I know, because people said all these things to me! And many of us have said similar things ourselves. But it’s not selfish or shallow to look your best. How you dress is a huge part of living a Rich Life. Looking great and feeling great matters a lot.

In fact, dressing well improves your own feelings about yourself. A 2015 study from Columbia University found that dressing sharply “made people feel more powerful, which in turn made them more likely to adopt high-level, abstract thinking.”

My whole experience of life changed when I went from looking like this…


Clothes1
To this…


Clothes2
STOP! Notice the first thoughts that pop into our head:

  • “Oh, so I need to wear a blazer every day to look my best? Forget it.”
  • “Your wardrobe is the only reason you have a video crew and a successful business?”
  • “Must be nice to buy whatever clothes you want. I can barely make rent!”

Look — you’re an adult. Wear what you want. I’m not your mom and I’m not telling you what to do.

What I am telling you is that my mood, my confidence, and how I connected with others all improved dramatically once I dressed better.

Maybe the research is wrong. Maybe I’m delusional. OR maybe those objections are excuses for ignoring your appearance.

I’m curious: If you ever felt like clothes didn’t matter — like I used to — what’s one phrase you told yourself? How did it hold you back?

Let me know in the comments below.

-Ramit

P.S. Want to uplevel your look? Check out this interview clip with Amy Salinger, the stylist who helped me upgrade my wardrobe. I love 2:35, where Amy explains why your clothes matter (even if clothes didn’t matter to you growing up.)

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81 Comments

 
  1. Amber

    Is there a female/feminine version of jeans, button-down shirt, & jacket? I love the idea of limiting my wardrobe (choices?), but I’m stuck on the pieces. Advice?

  2. Carmen

    Growing up, I was never much of a make-up wearer. However, once I hit my early twenties, I decided to give make-up a try.

    Ooo, let me tell you, b****** couldn’t keep their mouths shut once I started to wear make-up:

    “Who are you trying to impress?” Yeah, because there’s no way I want to look good for myself.
    “Why are you wearing red lipstick? That’s for whores…” That ain’t what your man told me…
    “Well, you shouldn’t be wearing that much make-up; be natural, like me” Looking natural means looking like death, lets be honest here…

    It also spilled into clothing as well! When I went from plain Jane dressing to more “I’m too sexy for my shirt” dressing, even more questions and snide remarks abound…

    I personally think they were threaten.

    Anyway, I’m currently losing weight and so far, it has been nothing but compliments and praise. However, I also know the hating is coming soon as well. Especially from former peers I run into from time to time.

    Oh well.

    They.will.deal.

  3. Carmen

    “Must be nice to buy whatever clothes you want. I can barely make rent!”

    That’s a huge negative script people have when it comes to bettering themselves in life. I can guarantee you tho, that the same person has plenty of funds for things such as Comcast cable.

  4. Mike

    I just recently transitioned from a lab job where dressing up wasn’t really appropriate to a project manager job. I changed my wardrobe accordingly. It was many WEEKS before people stopped making comments to me – so you’ve really hit the nail on the head here, Ramit.

    I also find that still in my 30s, the amount of times I am called sir increases by about 10,000 fold when I have a suit on.

  5. Khadijah

    @Amber: the equivalent of jeans/button up/blazer for women IMO is slim/cigarette pants, basic tank/tee/shell and a blazer.

    The formula is 2 (structured/business) + 1 (casual). In the men’s example, swap the dress pants for jeans. For women, you can swap pants/skirt for jeans but pair it with a silk shell and a blazer and dressy accessories. Or you keep the blazer and pants, and dress down the shirt with a white (or black) tee.

    Shoes really make a woman feel differently. I have worn shoes that made me feel like I have superpowers.

    By the way I love those orange slippers they are so rad

  6. John Zientowski

    Check out the movie “Limitless” with Bradley Cooper and see the clothing and attitude transformation – it may be a movie but the change is astonishing nonetheless…

  7. Talia Koren

    I still feel this way – like I can’t pull off the clothes I really want to wear because of my body shape/type. I’ll tell myself that before even walking into a store.

  8. Tearyne

    I definitely noticed that the better I started dressing, the higher quality my romantic partners became in all aspects, not just something like looks. Better educated, better prospects for the future, better and more well-rounded people overall. I think it’s a result of signals I was sending myself and the signals I sent to others.

  9. Sally

    It is so true! Dressing up not only makes you feel more confident, but also, other people treat you totally differently! I tried an experiment with local shopping- dressing up to go to the local stores. Let me tell you, the sales associates rush to a well dressed lady. Staff in general treat you better. To me it was hilarious, as I was the same person who had been there in jeans and t-shirt a week earlier, and had been completely ignored!

  10. Lulu

    From a bona fide wallflower:

    Excuse #1: “I want people to judge me for my intelligence, not my looks!”
    Excuse #2: “Dressing up just isn’t ‘me.'”
    Translation: I’m scared of trying something new for myself.

    Excuse #3: “I don’t have time to dress up!”
    Translation: I don’t want to cut my internet browsing time by 5 minutes to make sure I don’t look like I just emerged from mom and dad’s basement.

    It boils down to two things: fear and laziness.

  11. Joe Dunn

    Thanks Ramit for this reminder, needed by me.

  12. Darshan

    I’m going to be straight up honest here – I’ve always viewed the whole point of fashion is to be able to manage perceptions – both self perception (how we view ourselves) and how we view each other during the course of social and professional interaction.
    So I ask myself – do I want my perception, opinion or feelings about myself or somebody else be gauged and set based on the cost of the fabric that they’re wearing ? Or what the “cut or sillehoute” of their clothes are today ?
    Surely, there are better ways of dealing and interacting with people !
    Note that I’m not saying that people who put extra effort in their appearance are shallow – if dressing up makes you feel great about yourself then more power to you ! But don’t always expect others to give you special treatment just because of that. Rather than being influenced by the vagaries of sartorial perception, it’d be better to base one’s interactions on more pertinent information and observations depending upon the context of the interaction (say professional acumen or social interactivity).

  13. Ro

    I only tell myself clothes don’t matter when I go shopping at Target (jeans and a hoodie. Hey, I prefer to look bummie sometimes!). Otherwise, whenever I feel like an outfit is a little too different but it screams “ME” I just remind myself (and others), “rock the look” aka, if you’re going to wear it, do it with 100% confidence that you’ll look good in it. If you don’t believe you’re going to look good in it, others won’t believe you either! I “rock my looks” at the office and it got me an invitation from the head of marketing (never interacted with them, but now I do!) to represent the company at a VIP event (I am from the finance team) based solely on how I dressed and interacted with others. Takeaway: “Rock the look!”

  14. Melissa Ringer

    I went from a Pre-K teacher to a Program Coordinator this year and have probably spent $300-$500 on my new wardrobe. One tailored suit and some consignment capsule pieces make me feel like my new position is truly mine. It wasn’t that I didn’t have other bills to pay, it’s that I consider these clothes an investment into my career. In all honesty, I could find a dress and heels at the thrift store and rock it because I am a picky shopper, I know my body type and what looks good on me, and I have a large amount of confidence to help me out. There are ladies at my new job that wear leggings and jumpers everyday and there are those of us who look like we run things.

  15. Laura

    When I was 23, I got a very responsible and well-paid job in a ministry of my provincial government by investing in beautifully cut, quality material, classic pieces (made by Ports International before they switched gears). People thought I was anywhere from 28 to 32, because I dressed like a power player for the environment (and had the skills to do outstanding work). If I had worn my university student clothing, that would never have happened. I also learned makeup and how to choose just a few perfect accessories. Never mind the haters – you will be amazed at the credibility boost you get if you nail this skill.

    And guys – some women may look past your terrible clothes to see the real you, but they’ll still be thinking that they can fix that. In fact, I guarantee that if you tell a platonic female friend that you want to improve your dating look and ask her for help, she will be thrilled at the chance to make you look outwardly like the great guy she knows you are inwardly. She knows it matters.

    I will just add that if you try to tell me that women should like men for their inner self and never mind the attire, I will laugh in your face. Makeup and clothing make such a difference to men’s perception of women that (as demonstrated by informal studies) sometimes a guy won’t even recognize that it is the same woman, just with better makeup. Pots and kettles, guys.

  16. Colie

    I agree! And the budget thing – I also agree is a cop-out. I know its not for everyone but I get all my good stuff from thrift shops and pay a fraction of the cost for high quality items. A classic blazer is a classic blazer no matter the “season.” Plus if you’re paying $5 for it, what’s another $10 to have it tailored? Then you’ve really upped your game. NYC thrift stores like Goodwill and Housing Works carry Banana Republic, LOFT, J. Crew, you name it.

    You can feel about how you look, you can be eco-conscious (no disposable crap clothes for you, you recycled clothing darling), you can support non-profits that have missions like providing housing for the homeless, and you can save money. Win-win-win-win!

  17. Melissa D

    I’ve found a lot of positive reinforcement when I take care of how I look.

    A couple of years ago, I watched 2 seasons of “What Not to Wear” and in the middle of it, I started looking at my wardrobe using the basic building blocks that they taught. I put together “an outfit” with something basic, something I loved, and an accent, and explained to my husband what I was doing.

    The next day the most amazing thing happened – my husband ditched his old t shirts and jeans and started wearing clothes that fit into the person he wanted to be.

  18. Ed Griebel

    Thanks for the reminder, it’s more visceral than “dress the part”. As mentioned above when wearing a suit I feel more engaged. Even if that’s confirmation bias, if it works then it’s good. Excuses for not dressing up: “I don’t need to conform to your rules”, “I don’t need to dress like The Man to do a good job”, “I’m a rebel”, “I don’t want to look like a tool”, “you should accept me for who I am”, “I’m a regular guy just like you”. I think only the last one is reasonable, if you are trying to fit in/mesh/gel with a team or group, dressing one or more levels higher than them can come off as arrogant.

  19. Kristian Kabuay

    Depends on what your goals are and the context you’re working in. In my example, as a culture bearer, a blazer would be a no no. The folks I work with don’t trust guys in suits. If a blazer makes you confident, cool. If a shirt and jeans, that’s cool too. Yeah, perception rules but you don’t have to conform to a western perception of a suit.

  20. Ahmad

    I’m in my late 20s. I usually go to coffee shops with t-shirts and hoodies to feel cozy and more comfortable while working or reading. From time to time though, I like to dress semi-formal and I do notice a difference in how I see myself. I feel more “important”, high achiever. I also notice people look at me differently. Since winter is coming, I will be wearing my topcoat which I have received many compliments from it such as “you look like someone who just made a huge sale.

  21. Morna

    Okay, so here’s the thing. I feel BEST when I dress a certain way, but that’s definitely NOT dressy or a suit. I know, I’ve tried. I’ve been working at a Big4 and wearing such clothes never made me happy.

    I’m currently discovering my style, and it mostly involves baggy jeans, t-shirts and blouses.

    I’m a woman, but I guess I like dressing like a man better.

  22. Daniel

    When I got my first job as a nurse, no one in the class dressed professionally for the classroom portion of our training which blew my mind.

    We were being paid for our time, and were being taught by the old guard who doesn’t believe in “business casual,” and people were showing up in sweatpants, t-shirts, and flip flops like they were still in college.

    I would show up in a button up / tie / cardigan every day. And I kid you not, I literally got invited to speak at the next cohort’s first class strictly because of how I dressed and based on no other information. They just assumed I was the most professional person in the class, and thus the best person to speak to incoming employees.

    They were right.

  23. Chieftain

    “I want to be judged for my character/personality/X, not my looks”

  24. Peter

    Actually, for a variety of reasons based on evolution and signaling theory, the way you dress is a very honest and accurate signal of a variety of traits and gives pretty reliable feedback, especially if you’re intelligent enough to dress well for your body type. Multiple studies have shown how accurate initial perceptions are in evaluating people as a whole. Honestly, to borrow a concept from Ramit, that viewpoint is a prime example of the “I, I, I syndrome” where everyone else should invest value time and energy “getting to know the real you” because your a special snowflake. Given two people, the one who is conscientious enough to dress well is going to be given the benefit of the doubt first.

  25. Keith

    My “look” has always been either a t-shirt or a polo shirt, with corduroy pants or “docker”-type slacks, and court (tennis) shoes. I seem to only wear suits a few times a year.

    I want to “up my game” a bit in the clothing department, but I live in a city (Eugene, Oregon) that is known for its relaxed, casual style. You even see people in jeans at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts … along side shorts, full suits, and more.

    Advice on how to be just a “little less casual” but still fit in everyday Eugene-casual life? Keep in mind, we’re in “track town USA,” home of Nike … where everyone looks appropriate in University of Oregon sportswear.

  26. Kelossus

    This is the total truth! It’s what one of the best and highest paid NFL cornerbacks used to live by: You look good, you feel good. You feel good, you play good. You play good, they pay you good. They pay you good, you live good. -Deion Sanders Boom! Truth!

  27. Chadwick Johnson

    For several years, I have found that making an effort in choosing my wardrobe had drastically improved the response I get from those I interact with, especially first impressions. People respect you more, are more open to your ideas and suggestions, and go out of their way to get your opinion on things. Don’t over-do it, but make a conscious effort based on the environment you’ll be in. And, it’s not a replacement for knowing your stuff. If you have no clue what you’re talking about, it will be apparent and you’ll lose all credit.

    For those who say you have to spend a lot of money to dress nice, that’s crap. I’ve picked up some really nice clothes at thrift stores, some with tags still on them for pennies on the dollar. If you’re starting out and low on funds, be resourceful. Don’t be wasteful.

  28. Alex

    It’s funny because when I dress well for myself, not for friends or to impress anyone, but because I enjoy it, my buddies would say “Whoa looking good bro! Dressing to the nines. I like it!” because I usually wear jeans and a t-shirt, like they do.

    My friends or previous girlfriends weren’t the ones to question it or wonder who I’m trying to impress, that would be my mom, dad or co-workers. They seem to like wondering why I suddenly dressed so well.

    Usually I wear a heavy metal band t-shirt (Because I’m a heavy metal nerd. Yep, but I do have many other interests), jeans, black hoodie, I used to wear my hair long but now it’s shorter, and a black or white belt.

    When I want to look a bit higher class or if it’s for a job interview, I’ll put on a casual or formal dark color collar shirt, a dark grey or black jacket, a good pair of dark blue jeans, formal black shoes, a black belt, and I’ll style my hair differently than normal. I still keep the black in my wardrobe because I love wearing it.

    However, I’ve noticed that sometimes looks can be deceiving. I might see a homeless guy who looks like a scrub, but is actually very respectful, honorable, honest and is considerate of others, and others like, whereas I might see a hotshot lawyer dressed up to the nines with a nice slick haircut and a $3,000 suit but is a total rude jackass as soon as he opens his mouth.

    Overall though, dressing well helps. It communicates your interests, where you hang out, who you hang out with, and if people are likely to want to engage with you, or sometimes your career. Plus dressing stylishly has others see you as more attractive.

  29. Julie

    The big lie I used to tell myself was that I couldn’t be productive if I wasn’t comfortable. HUGE lie!!!! (well, there is some truth, I can’t be as productive in very high heels, but cute and professional flats or boots? I can be SUPER productive!).

    when I started a new job, I decided I was never going to let myself slip back into a specific wardrobe. Both in and out of work, I have had much more success. Out of work, people were at first pretty snarky “big new office, huh?”, “still trying to impress the boss?” and other similar comments. But now, I’ve found that everyone in my life is treating me on a more mature and adult level with a higher baseline of respect. Friends who used to curse up a storm around me don’t any more. People who used to mistake my kindness for weakness suddenly realize that when I say something, I mean it and that being nice is a choice I am making.

    I also feel more productive in general. I am regularly setting large goals, breaking them into smaller chunks, scheduling deadlines for the smaller things and doing it!

  30. Chadwick Johnson

    Keith, nice shoes and a belt that matches. That’s a good start. Then, you can always pick up a blazer-like coat and throw it on with your jeans and t-shirt, with your nice shoes and belt, and you’ll be golden.

  31. Paulo

    Where can I shop for Looks? Looks easier to find some cool styles to wear

  32. AJ

    This is an area where I know I need to improve, and ever so slowly am purchasing pieces to help me get there. Historically, I was the “tomboy, don’t care” look – I’d do the bare minimum to dress up enough for work. I’m still huge about being comfortable in my clothes, however, and unfortunately a LOT of women’s styles are NOT comfortable to wear – they are tight, restricting, and have you ever tried to walk 2+ miles in heels (or carrying everything so you can change at work)…ugh.

    BUT, all my complaining aside, I’m finding that a few key pieces can really dress up an outfit. Blazers are huge. Some easy-to-wear, cute, versatile shoes have been a great find. Pants are my biggest struggle ATM, but I’m at least getting pieces to go with them once I find some good ones I like. Accessories are huge, and can take a plain, relaxed outfit and give it punch it otherwise lacks.

  33. Laura

    I’ve always felt that clothes matter and dress to the occasion. Most of the time, however, I am in workout clothes, tank tops, shorts, and barefoot. Most of those times, I could’ve dressed way better and felt great about it. I justified it by saying that this is comfortable, so I really don’t care. Well, I do care . When people compliment me, I LOVE it! I’m finding lately that I am dressing more often (even if I have a gym time for the second time in the day) and actually wearing make up.

  34. Jonathan

    My perception changed for me when I lost a lot of weight in college (70 lbs). It wasn’t an overnight shift, but I became the guy in my group of friends who dressed the best. I heard my friends always comment “well you like to dress well, I’d rather be COMFORTABLE.”

    That’s what I used to say, too.

    The question is, what’s uncomfortable about cotton shirts and pants that happen to look nicer? If you buy the right size and something that fits well… nothing about it is uncomfortable. I realized so many guys bought shirts that were too tight in the neck/shoulders/arms that they didn’t like dress clothes as a whole.

    Then I realized comfort was also a state of mind. They weren’t mentally comfortable dressing well, or at least believed they weren’t as comfortable dressing well.

    Personally… I’m going to continue dressing the way I want to, in both comfort and style.

  35. Ed

    I agree with you, Ramit. But what do you make of the successful people who wear the same outfit everyday so that they can focus their energy on other decisions?

  36. Mr.K

    Hi Ramith,

    Interesting thoughts !

    I’ll add one type of comment from friends reacting to your new clothes :

    – Any of the ones you said or maybe others, whatever, sometimes they just say the first thing that comes to their mind. They see it as a subject to engage small talk. I learnt not to over-react and judge these comments too seriously, just in case…

    You’re right about the change of mindset. Wearing suits always make me sit better on my chair, be more serious / focused on my work, and think about my surroundings (the way I connect/interact with others – this one’s weird I guess).

  37. Matt

    I’m currently in college, and just like Ramit I have been rocking the t shirt and jeans look for the past 3 years. I see people everyday who look like they spend tons of money on clothes and spend tons of time getting dressed and I think two things:

    1. I don’t want to spend tons of money on clothes.

    2. These people must really care what others think of them if they try so hard to look good.

    I can definitely tell that I would feel a little better about myself if I put some more effort into my wardrobe, as many of my friends and aquainatances have done.

    Thoughts?

  38. Steve Acho

    I’m TOTALLY guilty. My mantra was “I’m not trying to impress anyone”.

  39. Tara

    Oh Ramit! It’s so true! Dressing well counts for so, so, so much! When I first started working as a professional, I was young and a bit aloof. I didn’t fully recognize the importance of dressing well. I mean, I dressed well at work (dress pants and shirts, etc.), but my misstep was my to-and-go attire (aka my outerwear). I used to wear my skateboarding shoes to and from work as they were remarkably water proof and good for winter travels via public transit. I didn’t care if they got slayed by ice salt. (I’ve never actually skateboarded, but the shoes were popular at the time for my then-age demographic). However, they were high-school like shoes in an adult world. As soon as I transitioned into more fashionable winter boots, people noticed and complimented me on my new sole-mates.

    But here’s the even bigger point to note. I noticed a major difference when I invested in quality clothing. I dressed well for work from the start, but my wardrobe was more suited to my budget and the quality and fit wasn’t always great. Good, but not great. (I was paying off student loans and couldn’t afford expensive outfits). As soon as I could afford to start incorporating more expensive pieces into my wardrobe, I did. And people noticed. Because nothing says “I care about myself and how I project myself to the outside world” more than looking like a million bucks.

    My folks always said, dress for the job you want. They were right about that.

    I do have a question for you, though. I have a tendency to go a little bit hipster – a little bit out there with my attire – sometimes and I’m not sure how to manage this “me” within my professional image. I work with bureaucrats but I’ve got a slight artsy flair. E.g. I just bought purple glasses. I realize it might not seem professional, but I love style. and I don’t want to conceal it entirely. Any suggestions for how to how to keep a cool and trendy style while working with all peeps in their matching suits?

  40. James

    I never thought clothes mattered until my second or third year in college when internships became important. Once that time came around, I also started wearing nicer clothes all together. I never noticed back then, but looking back on it, I did always feel better and more confident when I dressed nicer.

    I didn’t get those comments mentioned all too often. Some people thought I was gay due to my appearance but I just brushed that off. Later on, my friends admitted they thought that way because I looked nice and I never minded that comment after that.

  41. Hilde Fossen

    Fashion is music for the eyes.

    You’ve barely survived your sweaty subway commute when the doors open and the angelic voices of a gospel choir lift you out of your misery
    .
    The music has no concrete practical function, but it inspires and enriches your life.
    Would you want to live without it?

    The same emotional richness can be found everywhere: a friendly smile, the art of nature, the beauty of fashion.

    I’m a Zero to Launch student and I have tried out many different ideas for my online business.
    As a former fashion designer I tested all kinds of art and design courses but decided to focus on fashion styling for one particular reason:

    Nothing made my students happier than when I helped them dress for their body type so they felt truly beautiful for the first time in years.

    Changing the way you dress is that fastest way to see yourself as a completely different person.
    Just like working out dressing well is a key-stone habit that leads to better things internally and externally.

    If you want to change your life you can start by changing your clothes.

  42. Dave

    I totally agree Remit. People love to stick us in boxes plus I believe more and more we care too much what people think about us – screw that – just go for it!

    I’ve recently taken some time off at home with the fam. I’ve been in chilled lounge wear, gym kits and smart cash for evenings and it makes such a psychological difference that allows me to get into character!

    Dave.

  43. wornaki

    I’ll be blunt. I’m too lazy to care beyond looking somewhat presentable for formal occasions. I can see it can be interesting, uplifting and more, but the ROI of it all I find too low when compared to other things in my life. Now, it may be different if I had customized assistance and mentoring, but then again, such would also be the case for bigger interests of mine.

  44. Cary

    Your world does not change by your clothes. Your mindset, character, and your personal swag / uniqueness do. The results people are sharing may be true a lot of the time, but it’s still shallow and an unfulfilling way to feel confident or valued. Some of the most successful people I’ve come to know (personally, financially, spiritually) have little to know qualms of what others think of them. In the end, this is what this message is about anyway.

  45. Ed

    The first thought I had was that the “After” photo looks much, much better. With respect to building a business, assuming that they have the same knowledge and skills, Ramit 1 is sending out the message that he is sloppy and careless. Ramit 2 is telling people that he is professional and pays attention to detail. Given the choice, and all other things being equal, I would hire Ramit 2 over Ramit 1, because it raises the question “what else is Ramit 1 going to be sloppy about”? So leaving aside what it might do for your confidence or the way you think about yourself, you also have to think about the message that you’re sending out to your potential customers.

    If you’re at a certain level, and for some industries, you can dress however you want, but most people are not Mark Zuckerberg or carpenters (you wouldn’t trust a carpenter that showed up in a suit, would you?), so a certain amount of investment in your appearance makes sense.

    “STOP! Notice the first thoughts that pop into our head:”

  46. Christine Taylor

    I believe that clothes do make a difference in how you feel about yourself, and thus probably project into your work. However, I have some mitigating circumstances: I’m freezing to death! I live in a chilly area and heating the entire house costs a fortune. My top and pants are cute enough: a pretty turquoise sweater and camel-colored leggings. Over that I have a cute sweater. Then it gets funny. Over THAT I have a stylish shawl — except I already look like Charlie Brown thanks to the layers. On my feet I have on giant wool socks and yes, leopard-print slippers. Which you can’t see because I have a blanket on my lap.

    I LOVE working from home, but woe is me!

  47. skeezo

    I used to not only not dress up, but almost dress down for multiple reasons. I’ll list them in no particular order
    convenience (laziness)
    comfortableness (laziness – in finding good looking comfy clothes that wont break the bank, hard to do)
    avoid comments (laziness to field comments)
    virtuous (in not dressing up, I thought I was virtue signaling my anti-elitist values and showing that you can be professional without looking good)
    I’ve since found that dressing anything but nice and well groomed is unprofessional, because it serves as a distraction to your profession/business, which is unprofessional.
    modesty (im already a good looking guy, I didn’t want to feel elite and make others feel bad about themselves)
    I’ve since realized, that this modesty makes others feel good by putting yourself down to their level, which forfeits your ability to bring them up to your level.
    false humility is not humility
    It’s worth noting, it requires much less effort to bring yourself down a notch, than to lift someone else up
    (laziness)

  48. Gretchen

    Dear Men: clothes are like condoms. If you think it’s uncomfortable, that means you haven’t found the right fit. Keep trying out different things. When you find your fit, stick with it. You’ll never again have that struggle about “wear it” or “don’t wear it.”

    Dear Amy and Ramit: It’s all due to your awe-inspiring eyebrows that strike fear into the hearts of your enemies and adoration on the part of your friends. I do like.

    Dear Me: You’ve been a good girl all year and Santa owes you some jewelry.

  49. Chrisa

    What I know for a fact is that when I don’t feel good I can’t possibly choose a good outfit…I feel like shit I dress like shit…! I believe it proves the opposite as well!

  50. Yoamny Feliz

    Growing up I was ashamed of how I looked and felt comfortable wearing bagging clothing
    Today I want to dress nice and like my ideal self….its just hard finding clothing where I actually like how I’m dressed.
    I also don’t have much of styling experience so I get frustrated trying to find something that I like cause I don’t always know how to combinate stuff….
    The few times I like how I look in a piece of clothing…I feel AMAZING, confident, beautiful and YES my self esteem does goes way up..I feel like a million dollars!

  51. Lucy

    Ha! I’ve been upgrading my wardrobe recently, and feeling guilty about it. Because I’m not doing it for my job, and I’m single and not actively dating, so I’m not doing it for a relationship. Thus it feels frivolous. It IS frivolous. I really am just doing it for myself. I’ve been pulled back and forth, telling myself that ‘this isn’t aligned with my financial goals, this isn’t even a lifelong passion I can’t do without, this is frivolous.’ Also ‘the last thing I need is a new thing to spend money on’. And ‘most people round here don’t bother outside of work, who am I trying to impress?’

  52. Nacho

    So effing true. Couldn’t agree more.

    Years ago, I used to just throw myself into the wardrobe and get out of my house dressed with whatever I first saw. Whatever, clothes/matching and all that nonsense is for girls.

    Now, I take a conscious effort to not just dress well, but also to grooming.

    And I don’t wear more than ~€150 in clothes anytime, by the way. I don’t have a full suit nor I like them. But I’ve learnt to dress smart nevertheless.

    I invest 1 hour+ a day to look good. It’s my preparation for whatever surprise the day might have.

    Unexpected meeting? Ready. Now.

    Boss/client is dropping by today unannounced? Ready. Now.

    Friends didn’t warn me that club is smart casual only? Guess what, READY. NOW.

    It is my responsability. It’s self-respect. And people (including myself) do see it.

    It’s not by any means narcissism; heck, I don’t even post on social media.

    I work hard to deliver results, so WHY THE HELL would I risk looking sloppy and downplay my work?

    “People should like me for what I am, not for what I look like”. Bullshit. Stupid Hollywood mind-numbing cliché.

    You ALWAYS take the best looking piece of fruit at the grocery shop, not the ugly, blackish one despite it might be sweeter.

    So why cover your potential? Are you playing hide and seek? Come on, don’t blame others for your mistakes.

    That’s what my 20-year old missed on and what I would tell him (I’m now 29, started dressing up at ~25).

    When I started dressing better, I went to bars with my friends on purpose to do two things:

    1. Get comfortable at being dressed to the nines and going from ‘invisible’ to ‘look at that guy’.
    2. Get used to the puns and the snarky comments from friends and acquaintances.

    Most used quote by my friends: “Hey, where’s the wedding?”

    Do your friends make fun of you? Good. You’re making progress. Hold the line and carry on.

    It usually ends up in admiration when you keep on doing this.

    And you don’t lose any (true) friend over that.

    Self-respect spreads.

    Ramit, thank you for bringing this up from a psychological point of view (as always). Hope many folks out there will follow your advice.

  53. JessicaH

    I can relate to Amy’s past style choice of “naked”. When I was dressing to kill I thought more skin and skin-tight was better. It suited my lifestyle at the time and I was in shape so it seemed to make sense to flaunt what I had.

    Then I changed, a lot. I withdrew and became less overtly confident and it shows. I’ve also put on a bit of weight so the things I used to wear don’t even fit my body much less my personality anymore.

    So, where to from here? Cue montage of me working out and getting fit again and shopping the thrift shops like an expert.

  54. seattle motivational speaker

    ha ha ha… Amy is so funny and smart. I’m also looking for this types of stylist who can rich my mind with elegance!

  55. Jonathan

    I’ll be honest, my clothing game has fallen off in recent years. I’m a software engineer so half the office where I work wears shorts and flip flops or even tank tops to work. Looking even remotely presentable is an afterthought. I’ve allowed my wardrobe to become sloppy as a result.

    I need to be a little more on point when it comes to fashion. It does make a difference in how you feel when you’re dressed nicely. I’ve allowed myself to become sloppy over the last few months.

    It’s time to step it up and hit the outlet stores to find some nice clothes on a budget. I’ve already started upgrading but I have a ways to go.

  56. Petros

    Well growing up, clothes didn’t matter so much in Africa. Then i came to USA and spend time east coast (DC, VA,MD). There I would try be stylish clothing. However, it was when i went to college in Midwest in WI did everything changed. I learned the Midwestwas are not as materialistic as east coast or other places (sorry to say). I would just tell myself myself” what’s the point of making an effort when nobody else does “.Of course, I was better dressed then the average Midwesterner but when i go visit east coast later, i would always feel left behind in style.So the environment affects how i adapt.

  57. Arwen Rogers

    Clothes are one of the easiest ways to put on a character. It is similar to changing from Clark Kent to Superman. We are not always affected by the things we consciously think about. If we sit around in sweats and baseball caps (which is unfortunately the uniform of most of the men I would like to date but can’t quite get around the 12 year old appearance) it really does start to affect our behavior, speech, and also influences what we think about ourselves. I’m sorry to say that if men think women are making poor judgment calls based on whether or not a man is in grown-up clothes or sloppy kid’s clothes, they are absolutely wrong. We are often more affected by subtle impressions and clothing helps reveal your true self. I’ve noticed that when I wear professional grown-up clothes I treat myself and others with more respect and confidence. I feel on equal footing with others. Contrast that when I am running to the store after teaching the 3rd yoga class of the day and I feel almost like hiding than engaging with others I meet. Clothes matter.

  58. Maja

    VERY true! The responses I get from my surroundings when dressing sharply is very different from the clothes I usually wear.

    Unfortunately, what held me back from looking my best back then is the same as what holds me back right now – it is BLOODY IMPOSSIBLE to find nice-looking women’s clothes that also live up to my standards of comfort and practicality, and that fits me and my body type (I am tall, wide hips, skinny waist.. few shirts are made to fit that and even fewer pants in the one-size-fits-all era). I guess those standards might be high, but damn it that I can’t seem to find ANYTHING in stores? Ever?

    The expensive clothes I’ve owned seem to have ended in very similar ways. Some, I’ve ripped a seam from, like, bending down. Other times the fabric was super flimsy, got caught on something, and ripped without mercy. Most don’t allow for any more movement than basic walking, moving your arms around a little, stuff like that – it works for most people but feel really limiting to me, and these are huge issues in my book. As well as warmth, which is an issue with a lot of the fancy stuff. I don’t exactly live in the tropics. And seriously, shoes. I can’t seem to find shoes at all that ACTUALLY FIT MY FEET – except for maybe those horrifying pink and yellow shoes in the sports stores.. but I refuse to wear those narrow, foot-claustrophobic narrow fits that seem to be the only ones actually for sale, because I just find them to be so horrifyingly uncomfortable… *shudder*

    /Complaining feminazi rant over.
    But yeah, unfortunately I’ve weighed the pro’s and cons, and most days of the week I still choose to wear my comfy, not-porcelain-fragile jeans and t-shirts. I’m an active person, what works for most people simply does not work for me. *shrug* Wish I could have both, but until the day I can afford to have my wardrobe and shoe collection tailor made from scratch according to my own measurements and specifications… t-shirts, please.

  59. David R Munson

    I have largely not done well with caring about my clothing. I’ve had various excuses for it over the years, including financial reasons and not really having a sense for what my style was and being unsure of how to figure it out. I have started to do better, though, for a few reasons. For one thing, it finally occurred to me that my history of chronic depression and low self-worth was definitely affecting how I presented myself, and that, in turn, how I presented myself impacted how I felt. The other big thing that has pushed me in the direction of actually giving a shit is having moved to Tokyo. People here dress well. Like, really well, even if they’re just in jeans and a t-shirt. They look better because they take better care of their stuff and they pay attention to what they wear. I became self-conscious about looking like a slob and started to give it more of an effort.

    As a photographer, I tend toward casual, but even so I’ve upped my game. My default is good denim, cool sneakers, and a plain black v-neck tee. Not so different from usual for me, except that all the components are of better quality and I’ve started retiring things before they start looking too tired. Even just this small shift has had a positive impact on how I perceive myself and how others respond to me. And if I add an oxford-cloth shirt and blazer, I’m ready for a date or to go shoot a job.

    I used to think that dressing well meant custom suits and spending a shitload of money on expensive things that were just out of my range. I’ve realized it means figuring out your style and dressing that way with confidence and good execution.

  60. RP

    “I ain’t wearing it if I can’t kick head height in it.” – I still observe this rule, but when I got a job, I went out and found nice jeans and shirts that don’t restrict my range of motion.

    Eventually though, I’ll go with the Steve Jobs method: I’ll pick my favorite set and buy loads of the same model(s), so that I don’t have to make decisions about this aspect of my life – two birds with one stone, because not only will I be well dressed, but I’ll also avoid having to deal with this matter for a few years (which is great, because fashion/clothing is very low on the list of things I give a fuck about).

  61. Fran

    I agree, how you wear does influence the way you act every day and also your performance. Couple of personal examples are:
    – When I was in college, I started wearing suits for phone interviews (even though I took the calls from my room) and it completely improved my performance. I was much more confident and felt like it was a business call rather than an interview.
    – When I exercise, I prefer to wear tighter t-shirts (vs. loose ones) because the fact that I am more aware of my body gives me extra motivation for busting my ass.

  62. Ghislaine

    Interesting post and comments.
    I used to always be the one over dressed, everywhere, because I was brought up that way. Over the years I have adapted to different working environments and learn to dress down but still with care…and then, 3 years ago I discovered sewing and more importantly textiles. The quality of the fabrics of our garments, the colors, the textures have a big influence on how we feel, what we project. I am careful not to reproduce a fashion throw away mentality with the fabrics I buy and therefore carefully pick beautiful, communicative fabrics that speak to me and sometimes for me.. I am lucky that I can make any outfit I want in any fabric I want and adapt to the occasions very subtly.

    I appreciate that sewing is not for everyone and is very time consuming. If one wants to make an impact, consider having a couple of interesting pieces tailor made in outstanding textiles. It is a great boosting feeling.. If tailor-made is not an option take extra care of the fabrics you choose for your high street buys. I think jeans and t shirts are fine if they are of good quality. Taken care of your clothes is also important

  63. Jeremy

    My go to outfit throughout highschool, and for the first few years after I graduated was: baggy sweatpants and a T-shirt (or hoodie if it got cold). Only after changing my regular winter outfit to jeans and a classier long sleeve shirt did I realize how much the way I dressed affected me subconsciously.

  64. Jacqui S

    Clothing & hair has always made a difference in ones look & style.

    I have seen and experienced how a person is treated from the way you dress. It is an important element of what you feel about yourself and your confidence level!

    I get comments about my small frame all the time being called “little” (like I’m a kid ) and told that I can wear anything! Not true! I can pull off many styles but you have to be careful and I would use a stylist because they are your second set of eyes!

  65. D

    I grew up in men’s clothes… literally! My dad used to own a men’s clothing store… In fact, he was the best dressed person i knew! He always wore a suit and a tie, pocket square and all. From a young age I saw the difference a nice suit made on men and how their views changed trying on a ‘had to be tailored suit’ with the hem hanging on the ground to sporting the finished tailored look. There was great pride and confidence in his customers… While I definitely understand the intellectual nature of dressing up, mostly I don’t. However, I will never underestimate the power of a nice, button down white shirt…

  66. A

    A good exercise in this, particularly if you are a guy in your 20s is to go to a car dealership.

    Wear something nice (even just business casual, let alone a jacket/dress shirt/jeans) a few times and then go wearing t-shirts and shorts/jeans/hooded sweatshirts and you will be amazed at how different the salespeople treat you.

  67. Sonu@bhutantrekkingtour.com

    Agree with you, I have really enjoyed reading all of its posts. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great work

  68. Will

    Ramit – love the bottle of lotion in the first pic!

  69. Morgan Stemberger

    I always felt like clothes mattered. My family however, didn’t. Money was tight, but that wasn’t the crux it. Worrying about clothing was for those kind of people, shallow people, vapid simpletons who weren’t nearly intellectual enough to realize how unimportant style was.

    Last year, I spent about 3000 creating an amazing wardrobe for myself. All of my stuff was old and slowly falling apart, and it made it really hard to feel positive or put together. It was a lot of money, but I got a lot of amazing, versatile pieces. Getting it ask at once was so worth it – not only do I feel like a million bucks every time I get dressed (because now all my clothes make me feel like that), but because I got it all in one season, everything is meant to go together!

    Number one tip if this post of Ramit’s inspires you to do a closet update – invest in getting a bunch of pieces all at once. A lot of people don’t realize how much fashion cycles through colors and textures seasonally. Seriously, by shopping at once, I had matching color palettes and even sometimes found the same fabrics in different stores! It makes everything so much easier.

    Last thought – what I was shocked by most after the closet update was it wasn’t just that I felt better. People actively treated me better. Any time you look polished – even if it’s in a weird or eclectic way – people automatically take you more seriously. I’ve had a couple of fun moments where people assumed I was teaching (at a conference) or performing (at a variety show) because of how fantastically I was dressed. There’s this assumption of skill or power that goes hand in hand with looking on point.

  70. John Harrison

    I really enjoyed this video featuring Amy Salinger- thanks for bringing it to our attention Ramit.

    Personally, I’ve always felt cursed with an attention to the way other people dress. I can’t help but glance at everyone’s style as they walk past me. Busy shopping streets in London are a nightmare for me.

    In fact, when asked by my mother what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said “I don’t care- I just want to wear a suit” How limited I was back then…

    For the last 10 years, after graduating the London College of Fashion, I worked in men’s fashion, measuring thousands of different body types and co-founded my own brand which lasted 5 years.

    When we took the painful decision of ending it I felt very lost having spent my time in an industry I had come to loathe. I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile. I was adding nothing.

    But soon after I changed my mind and decided that clothes still have 2 functions. Primarily they are practical so they need to keep us warm, dry and cool. Most of us know that when it rains we need a coat.

    The second application for clothes is perception. How do others perceive us?

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could all withhold judgement. But, its wired into us to judge. It might aid us. It might save us.

    Ideally, we should all be judged on our actions. Then I propose we be judged on our words. Only then should we be judged by our clothing. However, perversely, the reverse is often true. People often see us before they hear us and they experience what we do for them much later on.

    The importance of style is all the more compounded by how quickly a first impression is made and how sticky it is. We judge people in seconds and even when confronted with opposing data retain our initial reactions.

    So, we should all strive to make the clothes we wear work for us. We have to wear clothes anyway (or so I’m told) so why not engineer them like a tool that benefits rather than betrays us?

  71. Jackson

    Great article Ramit, and so true

  72. John

    Thanks Ramit, this resonates. Growing up I was always taught to dress one level above others. This is one reason why I could never do the Jobsian “where the same thing everyday”, simply because I will chronically feel either over or under dressed at every single occasion.

    By dressing one step above others (if I’m working with developers then wearing a button down plaid shirt, that sort of thing) then I’m instantly the one in charge of the room. When someone comes in, they’ll speak to you as you look like you are in charge.

    I think maybe a better way to put it is to dress one step above your current position. If you’re a manager level, dress like the Director does. If you’re a Director, dress like a VP. Don’t look like you don’t belong in the room if you are meeting with the C-suite – dress to impress them. You don’t have to go crazy and buy super expensive clothing, but you might want to think about investing in a nice pair of dress shoes (my $250 Cole Haan wingtips make me feel like a badass).

    Thanks for the reminder. As a self-employed entrepreneur working from home, I’ve definitely started wearing a lot more t-shirts out and about than I used to!

  73. Jay Inamdar

    Defo agree with look good = feel good = perform good. I did this since high-school. Most students would walk in half dead, unshaven and blear eyed in their sweat pants – it was almost as if people wanted to prove how hard they worked by saying ‘I’m so hard-working, I didn’t even have time to look alive’. I made it a point to, shave, dress well (or normal compared to the standard) – I felt fresher, more alert and would often hear comments about ‘wish I looked so awake’.

    It gave me a boost and whilst I certainly was never the highest grading student, I personally had more drive and energy – almost as if I had to live up to the image of being so full of zest by simply dressing better.

    I live in London and it’s drilled in early – people size, weight and judge you in a glance by your appearance – and they often say here, “dress for the job you want, not the one you have”. People certainly take you more seriously when you are looking focused and sharp as opposed to looking disinterested.

    I would go so far as to say that even on company dress-down days don’t rock up in your torn jeans and goth outfit – keep it smart casual – people will always notice and it keeps your professional image at work intact.

  74. Elizar

    Whenever I wear clothes that I love I walk around like I own the world.

  75. Beckie Moriello

    i dream of the day when we’re judged by the content of our character and not by the cloth that covers our skin

  76. Beckie Moriello

    there’s no question that many people treat others differently based on how they’re dressed. a million examples are listed in the comments. and if you choose to dress in order to get positive reactions, great, you do you.

    but i think we should also remember that we’re in control over how we view and treat others. i personally make a concerted effort not to fall into the trap of treating people differently based on how they’re dressed, and i challenge all of you to try to do the same

  77. Bill

    Some of you guys need better friends. If people don’t support you and they cut you down – get rid of them.

  78. yosef ferdinand

    hi Ramit nice articel,i will use better clothes , i only wear t shirts in my client office.. so i can’t hardly wait for their comments…

    thank you
    yosef

  79. Tomoko

    Almost 2 decades ago, my friend and I had a nice dinner on Valentine’s day in NYC. At that time I didn’t have a confidence about how I looked. I dressed a simple sweater and pants. Right before we were about leave a restaurant, a staff handed a rose to my friend. The staff clearly thought me as a guy so that he didn’t hand me a flower. I still remember I was so shocked by it. From my advice to my old times, dress up if you want to be treated like a lady:)

  80. strugglingwithstyle

    This topic is something I’ve been thinking about a lot! I grew up with mixed messages about clothing. We could not afford nice clothing, but I feel like my mother did encourage us to have our own style. (and until I attempted to cut my own bangs, my mother cut my hair.) She was a great seamstress also, and so some of my favorite memories are of the amazing dresses she spent tons of time making for us. But there was also the message that it was shallow to focus on looks.

    Fast forward, I’m a working mother, with a gagillion things on my plate. I can afford to buy nicer clothes, but I get overwhelmed! I also feel guilty spending the money on myself. I still have voices in my head that say its shallow, which I still think is partially true. BUT I know my look impacts how people perceive me and how I’m regarded, as well as my confidence. I think as with just about everything in life, it’s a balance.

    My husband, friends and family are very supportive when I dress nicely. My husband encourages me to buy stylish clothing. The problem is me.

    I think it’s ok to simultaneously think that there is a shallowness about being concerned with our style, but to recognize its importance in our culture, pay attention to it, and even enjoy the ability to express yourself. Just how to get there!?

    Thanks for the timely post and interview!

  81. Natasha Sharma

    I talk about this with therapy clients a lot. Even though how we feel about ourselves internally is fundamentally most important, to say that it is not linked to how we feel when we make changes to our ‘outer self’ has always struck me as shortsighted. After I had both of my kids, there was nothing more rejuvenating than taking that first, long hot shower, putting on some nice clean clothes, and doing my hair and makeup. Felt like a new person! And that “feeling” is a great starting point for us all; it leads us to create even greater positive changes in our lives. Nice post!