Does it really matter what you wear? Interestingly enough, the answer is yes. There was a recent study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, which found that when people dress up for a role, they actually become better at it. In an experiment, a number of people were given a series of cognitive tests to perform. A small group of subjects were given medical lab coats to wear over their clothes. This group made only half as many mistakes on the tests as the subjects wearing their street clothes. Researchers concluded that clothing "systematically influences wearers' psychological processes." In other words, if you feel like you are dressed smarter and more professionally, you will actually act smarter and more professionally. The subjects in the lab coats took a more methodical and scientific approach to problem solving, and cut their errors in half.
If you are wondering how to dress for business, there are countless books, blogs, and even personal business attire consultants you can hire dedicated to that very subject. But the needs of the real estate investor are quite different from those who sit at a desk all day. Here are some tips for the active real estate investor.
If you have ever attended one of my seminars, you will notice I wear a nice fitted suit with a crisp white shirt and solid tie. However, I know that many, if not most of the real estate investors I know work from a home office. As a fulltime real estate investor, there are a multitude of situations for which you should be ready at a moment's notice. These situations can cover one end of the spectrum to another. Whether it be checking out an abandoned REO property or speaking with a distressed homeowner who is a hoarder, to meeting with a distressed homeowner at their high-end luxury home, you need to be dressed for the occasion.
Many industry fashion experts advise wearing neutral colored properly fitting trousers/pants, whether male or female. The choice of tops or shirts is up to you, but a popular guideline is to ask yourself if you would be comfortable wearing it in front of billionaire real estate entrepreneur Mr. Donald Trump. A must is to always have a navy blue or black blazer in your vehicle. That one piece of clothing can make anything look a bit more professional. What about shoes? Athletic shoes may be comfortable, but inappropriate for projecting a professional appearance.
This does not mean you should start wearing a suit every day. A good rule of thumb is to follow the tips I provided above. Further, study author Adam Galinsky states, "If you associate...clothes with power and confidence, it's going to have a huge impact on your performance." Not everyone has that same association for power suits, so it really comes down to what Galinsky calls "the symbolic meaning of the clothes to the person." In simpler terms, dressing in what you perceive to be the clothing of the most well-regarded and competent person for a role will have a psychological effect on you, allowing you to actually perform as a more competent person in that role.
So the next time you're heading out to an appointment with a distressed homeowner in a pair of shorts (or ladies - a pair of yoga pants) and flip flops or in the wrinkled shirt or blouse you pulled out of the dryer, remember that you may be perceived as less professional or competent because of your appearance. While what you wear does not define who you are as a person, it does have a powerful influence over how you feel and act. Remember, you never get a second chance at a first impression.