We’ve all heard that “the clothes make the man” or that “you are what you wear”. And sometimes it is pretty astounding to see how different one looks when wearing different clothes. Check me out in the picture below. No jeans, no bandanna, no leather, no boots. I’m on my way to a wedding, wearing my best (hmmm… only) suite and a nice tie. Am I the same person as the guy next to the bike? Clothes raise a serious issue to consider, about our identity, and who we really are.
The Milgram Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment demonstrated (among many other things) the negative effect that set of uniform can have on a person. Dr. Phil Zimbardo (who I will be meeting on my trip) who ran the Stanford Prison Experiment found that wearing uniform reduces one’s sense of personal responsibility and increases one’s sense of identifying with people who wear the same uniform. A person in a prisoner’s clothes behaved like a prisoner and a person wearing the prison guard clothes behaved like a guard.
We all wear different uniforms every day: to work, at home, and in social circumstances. How do these uniforms change the way we behave? when one wears a suite does one become a suite? Do nurses become more caring? Do physicians become authoritative? Do Steve Jobs’ jeans help make Apple a great company? Research suggests that at least to some degree, the answer is “yes”. If that is indeed the case, then the shallow question “what clothes do I want to wear” becomes a much deeper question: “who do I want to be?“. For me, wearing simple clothes reminds me that I am just a guy, no more or less important than anyone else. In turn, it helps lower my defenses and be more open to feedback from others.