Wear a suit to work? Not as smart as you think!

After graduating in International Economics in 2005 I went to work for a management consulting firm. It was a high profile company, so I needed to wear a suit every day. I remember that before getting started I went out shopping and spent around $2500 buying five suits and an endless number of shirts. Different colors, some with stripes, matching ties. All in all I could run 2 weeks without repeating an outfit.

My pockets were sorry, but I felt really good about it. The feeling was even better the following Monday, when I finally got to wear one of the suits (the best one, rest assured) and go to work. I needed to use the subway to arrive there, and I was surprised about the amount of self-confidence that one could derive from a piece of clothing. The subway was crowded, and I would look to other people, stamp a smile on my face and think: “Hah! Look at this shiny suit baby. It proves I am smarter than you. Richer than you. More powerful than you!”

It was a good feeling, but soon my perspectives changed. After 3 months working for said consulting firm I realized that it was not the right place for me. Maybe the problem was not the suits or the expensive Montblanc pens that our directors used to sign the papers, I figured, so I decided to give the corporate world another shot. I went to work for a multinational company in the telecommunications sector, but after one year I arrived to the same conclusion. I quit my job for good and started working as self-employed with some entrepreneurial projects.

Today all my suits, shirts and ties are inside a big box on my closet, and they they are not going anywhere in the near future. The more I think about it, the more I find that wearing a suit to work might be inversely correlated to one’s intelligence.

First of all suits are not comfortable. In my opinion, a guy working under a tree with his laptop, wearing shorts and sandals is a hundred times smarter than someone working in a suit inside an air-conditioned, fancy looking office. Regardless of the money each of them is making.

Secondly, suits are a sign of vanity. Whether you admit it consciously or not, people wearing suits feel more confident, more powerful. Don’t get me wrong, feeling confident and powerful (in the sense of being able to control our own life and change things) are good things, but this should come from other factors (like a strong sense of integrity) rather than from a piece of clothing, an expensive pen or a luxury car.

Think about Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg…

Managers and MBAs wear suits. People that want to make money wear suits. Professional athletes that want to look important wear suits.

People that want to change the world do not.

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