While we were away on holiday hiatus, the New Yorker ran a story that is relevant to our interests (jobs, casual dress, the rich and powerful, using casual dress to trick people into thinking you’re rich and powerful). Called “Why Mark Zuckerberg Gets Away With Hoodies,” Matthew Hutson walks us through recent studies showing that “deliberate nonconformity shows that you can handle some ridicule because you’ve got social capital to burn.” I buy it:
Silvia Bellezza, a doctoral candidate at Harvard Business School, and Francesca Gino and Anat Keinan, two professors there, first studied the link between accomplishment and informality. They found that scholars who dressed down at an academic conference, eschewing blazers for T-shirts, had stronger research records, even controlling for age and gender. Then, they explored why and when this sartorial tactic for announcing status—if that’s what it is—succeeds.
Bellezza went to Milan and asked some clerks at luxury boutiques (Armani, Valentino, etc.) to imagine a woman entering the store wearing either gym clothes or a fur coat. Others were to imagine a woman in flip-flops and a Swatch, or in high heels and a Rolex. Clerks then judged her likely financial and celebrity status. Of the hypothetical shoppers, the casually attired were judged wealthier and more important. One clerk said, “Wealthy people sometimes dress very badly to demonstrate superiority,” and that “if you dare enter these boutiques so underdressed, you are definitely going to buy something.”
Other experiments found that people like your PowerPoint presentation more if you don’t use the standard template (livin’ on the edge), and if you wear a red bow-tie to a black-tie party, people will think you’re better at golf. No results yet for perception of bloggers who work from home in pajama shorts, but I’ve got my fingers crossed.