“Dress for success” isn’t just an overused catchphrase thrown around by older generations. It actually does work.
In a study done at Yale back in 2014, researchers found that men who wore clothing that signaled upper-class (business suits, for example) prior to a negotiation made much more money than those who wore “lower-class” clothing (such as sweatpants).
The study recruited 128 men ages 18 to 32 to play mock negotiations in a factory purchase scenario. The men were divided into three groups: one group wore business suit, one group wore sweatpants, and the third group wore neutral clothing and acted as the “seller.”
In each round of negotiation, the “seller” would try to sell the factory to the “business suits” and the “sweatpants” for as much as they could.
When researchers tallied up the final offers from everyone, the differences were telling. The “business suits” on average only conceded $830,000 from their initial offer, but the “sweatpants” on average conceded almost $1.8 million from their initial offer, giving up more profit on the sale.
According Michael W. Kraus, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Management and co-author of the article, the study underlines that the “sweatpants” would often give into the seller on negotiations, while the “business suits” could sense this heightened respect and encouraged one to stand their ground.
It’s important to note that the study only focused on men. So far, there hasn’t been any study that explored whether a well dressed woman can beat a sloppily dressed woman in negotiations.
Don’t knock the “dress for success” rule just because it’s cliche. Just don’t overdress for the occasion.