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How To Dress To Get Ahead

October 2019Words by Ms Mollie McGuigan

Mr Michael Douglas in Wall Street, 1987. Photograph by Alamy

Ah! What to wear for a Monday at work? It’s a question as old as work itself and we at MR PORTER of course like to think we can help you out with such matters sartorial. So, if you’ve ever wondered why your ineffective colleague made it to the C suite (that’s a new Americanism, before you write in, meaning staff with a C in their title – chief this, chief that, and so on) before you did, you should look beyond his latest presentation and instead to his suit, shoes and glasses. Because, in a revelation completely at odds with what your parents had you believe – it’s what’s on the outside that counts.

That’s according to new book Messengers by psychologists Mr Joseph Marks and Mr Stephen Martin. Identifying two types of effective messengers: hard messengers, who win influence by getting ahead of others, and soft messengers, who achieve influence by getting along with others. Each group has four characteristics, with “hard” messengers inferring socio-economic status, competence, dominance and attractiveness, and “soft” inferring warmth, vulnerability, trustworthiness and charisma.

How you express these qualities – and, spoiler alert, it’s advisable to encompass all of them – is less about what you say and more about how you present yourself. With that in mind, we asked Mr Marks to explore the psychology of a successful work wardrobe.