Mark Zuckerberg once claimed that dressing the same every day freed him to focus on important decisions. This assumes that being well-dressed has no value beyond luxury/vanity. This is a stance I have come to disagree with in recent years, so here’s my argument for why you (I’m looking at you, programmers) should invest some time in thinking about what to wear in the morning:
1- It’s a stimulating mental exercise
You’re not just agonising over red shirt vs blue shirt. If you do then that’s just indecisiveness and Zuckerberg is probably right about that being a waste of energy. What you should be doing is trying to find a combination of clothing items that match one another and also look new and refreshing when put together. Fun fact: in Computer Science, this is actually called a constraint satisfaction problem and there’s a whole branch of AI that deals with similar problems. It’s kind of like trying to colour a map while making sure no two adjacent countries have the same colour. Except you have to satisfy the additional constraint of making sure the map doesn’t look the same as yesterday and also looks good enough to maybe catch the attention of the cute map it sees on the bus to work sometimes. The point is, it’s a puzzle, and that’s not a bad way to rev your brain up in the morning.
2- It makes you feel good, which makes your work good
Maybe you’re not a self-conscious person; if so, that’s awesome! Keep doing you. But most people are a little, and that’s okay. Having an outfit that works with your body and makes you look attractive in your own eyes makes you feel good about yourself. Walking out of the house feeling like you look attractive gives you confidence and contributes to your overall mental health. This puts you in a better head-space which I would bet money has a measurable impact on your work quality.
3- It improves how others perceive and, sometimes, treat you
Attractive people get better treatment in life. That’s just an unfortunate truth. People are more likely to be nice to you, and oblige you when you ask for favours, because the fact that you look nice makes them think you’re likeable (assuming you’re not a jerk). But attractiveness isn’t an innate quality that you’re either born with or without. Anyone who’s watched an episode of Queer Eye will tell you, if you give an average person an outfit that complements their body type and a haircut that matches their face structure, it can make a world of difference to their appeal. And that increase in appeal translates to an improvement in how people behave towards you, especially if you’re confident as well (see #2).
At the end of the day, you’re not a machine trying to maximise its work output by removing anything that isn’t critical to its objective. You are a person that needs to be fulfilled outside of work to do a good job. Looking good and feeling good about how you look will bring you some of that fulfilment and help you with your work. Not to mention that once you get into it, you’ll start using your fashion choices to express yourself. And wouldn’t you rather live in a world where you’re surrounded by vibrant colour and diverse styles than a world of solely jeans and t-shirts?