You Are What You Wear

Beyond the Suit and Tie | Walter Yeo


(The dynamic duo in Suits – Harvey Specter & Mike Ross)

There have been numerous articles and books written about how the clothes we wear reflect our personalities and to some degree, our emotions. Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner explains in You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You, what she calls “the psychology of dress”, how psychology determines our clothing choices and therein lies the power to overcome psychological issues. It is most certainly a great read and more importantly, it substantiates why dressing is so important. I would trust her scientific evidence more than anything I would be able to put forward.

However, critics often say that to focus on looks is but a superficial mode of assessment. In fact, many would further the age-old idiom, “it’s what’s inside that counts” and I do not disagree. It is of the highest order that every person should perfect his internal image, intellect and character. But, I would encourage everyone who has ever had to sit for an interview, audition for a part or attend a meeting to consider these three simple arguments in favour of dressing your best.


It is common sense that everyone should dress appropriately but unfortunately as a friend once told me, common sense is not very common. Perhaps that is why, those who possess it naturally tend to be ahead of the curve. Dressing appropriately accords whoever you are meeting the proper level of respect in tandem with you wanting to impress him or her. More importantly, dressing appropriately often helps set the mood and tone of the meeting just like how we dress differently for different occasions and settings. You will not expect to see someone wearing flip-flops going for an interview so on the most basic level, it is just about common sense and professional courtesy – for those who already know this, I apologize but it had to be laid out there.

State of Mind

This is where it gets better. You are essentially what you wear because beyond reflecting your personality, what you wear influences how you think as well. For example, and I am sure many of you who have served National Service before, will agree with me. When you are decked out in your favorite outfit and asked to get down in the dirt, we naturally resent the idea because we fear getting our clothes dirty or ruining a part of the material. But, have you ever noticed when you don those green fatigues, somehow you feel invincible? No amount of dirt, mud, sweat or even blood will bog you down and you keep charging forward. That is because in this case, the uniform empowers you to think like a soldier and ignore the elements that work against you. It is the same reason why schools in Singapore enforce a strict uniform rule, in order to instil an organic sense of discipline in students. Therefore, the desire to impress in an interview should be no different. You are what you wear because dressing well naturally fosters a sense of wanting to be professional and polished.


And this change in mindset will lead to an advantage. More often than not, interviewers are faced with the difficult decision of having to choose between two equally good candidates. They are matched in every way, be it grades or curriculum vitae so how do they decide? Rightly or wrongly, this is where dressing comes in. Interviewers are humans too and they are biologically inclined to be more amenable to pleasant-looking things so by dressing well, you set yourself apart from the get-go because when it comes to a split-decision, your suit and tie or blouse and skirt for the ladies is going to be the determining factor. So dress your best and to impress because you are what you wear.

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