Science Says If You Want To Be Smarter, Dress Better

Of course, we already knew that

We've always known dressing well makes you a better man. Just ask Esky, Esquire's mascot from the 1930s, who's never been seen without his natty double-breasted suit. And it's not just superficial. Slip on a tailored suit, fine shoes, and perhaps a bespoke shirt, and it will transform you – it just feels good. Now, science has a reason for that.

Recently, scientists from Columbia University and Cal State Northridge published a study that examines how clothing may affect abstract and concrete thoughts. The results found wearing formal clothes can free people from concrete thinking while boosting their ability to think more abstractly.

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As the paper explains, abstract thinking "facilitates the pursuit of long-term goals over short-term goals," while concrete thinking "often leads people to prefer smaller immediate gains relative to larger future gains." For example, consider turning off a light. A concrete thought might be, "I'm flicking the switch off," while an abstract thought might be "Flicking the switch off saves money." The concrete thought limits ideas to what's taking place in the here and now, while the abstract thought takes a broader view, accounting for the light switch as part of a system in time.

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The researchers proved this in a series of experiments that asked undergrads to wear a variety of clothing – some formal, some not – and rank how they felt in their outfits, and then perform a group of tests. The students who ranked themselves as more formally dressed unanimously scored higher in abstract thinking than their casually dressed counterparts. And it was all because of one reason: Power.

According to the study, "power significantly mediated the relationship between clothing formality and the number of actions identified at a high level." In other words, the formally dressed students felt more powerful, which allowed them to think more abstractly.

Remember that next time you get dressed. It might make all the difference.

This article was originally published on


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