When we are about to attend a particular event or when we are invited to a specific sort of gathering, we choose our clothes based on the situation we are about to enter. The same rule applies to the behaviour we will adopt and the parts of our personality that we will allow others to see. What happens when people make completely uncontroversial choices that will surprise the rest of the group? How will people receive this choice?
The Red Shoe syndrome
When Mark Zuckerberg showed up in the classic hooded sweatshirt to his investor appointments before Facebook went into the stock market, some people on Wall Street mocked him. One analyst said that by doing so, he was showing investors that he wasn’t very interested in the issue. Others described his choice of clothes as a token of immaturity. But most people don’t see it that way because there’s the Red Shoe syndrome.
Performing an experiment
Simply put, most people treat someone who makes unorthodox choices or has unconventional behaviour differently. This is what a Harvard Business School survey reveals.
As The Washington Post has reported, Professor Francesca Gino discovered that those who stand out from the crowd are treated as people with higher “status” than the rest. In her experiments, she looked at how company executives treated trainees wearing red sneakers and how luxury clothing store employees behaved toward customers who walked in wearing casual clothes. The study constantly came to the same conclusion. That unusual attire or behaviour actually made people have a better opinion of those who stood out and not a worse one.
According to Gino, most believe that different clothes or deviation from acceptable behaviours has a social cost. That is, it causes a negative rather than a positive effect. But one after another, her experiments proved otherwise. As an example, she cites the question she asked store employees of Armani, Christian Dior, and Burberry in Milan. Between a client wearing overalls and someone with a dress and fur, they judged that the former would spend more and that she could buy more expensive items.
The same rule applies in many situations
Similarly, students have more appreciation for the professor who wears a T-shirt and has a beard than someone freshly shaved with a tie. “People treat them as guys with the guts to do what they do. They think that these are people with such a high status that they do not have to follow the rules”, explains the professor. Perhaps, the ”cool” professor feels more confident about their level of expertise. This, of course, is true when individuals clearly stand out from their environment.
Eccentric choices in terms of clothing or behaviour generally mislead the audience. They force the receivers of this information to focus on the eccentric choices and come up with a conclusion. We could say it takes a while for people to understand why someone decided to walk into an expensive store with their sneakers. While they spend time answering that question, they cannot pay attention to notice other details of the individual’s behaviour. In other words, it is a matter of how we choose to guide people’s attention.
Being too good seems to be the only explanation
In the study above, we saw that employees of luxurious brands would guess that people in overalls have more money to spend while their clothes should give another impression. The reason is that low net-worth individuals would probably not find a reason to walk into the store if they had no money to spend. The only logical explanation is that they are too wealthy enough to care less about people’s opinions. In other words, it is not only about the element of surprise but also about the explanations available. No one will walk into the Armani store in Milan in overalls just to shock the employees; there has to be a better explanation, and the Red Shoe syndrome seems to be the most reasonable and convenient.
Have you read?
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