by Donghyun Lim

by Donghyun Lim

Each work day we’re confronted with roughly 35,000 micro and macro decisions. Whether its choosing between #0099FF and #3399FF, or deciding to entirely change careers, you’re likely familiar with the feeling that experts describe as “decision fatigue.” With every decision you make, you’re using up the finite supply of mental energy allocated to you each day. According to Roy F. Baumeister, co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, the act of making decisions for work uses the very same willpower that you use to say no to doughnuts, or even things like drugs or illicit sex. And so your ability to choose the right vendor, or make the right hiring decision, may be reduced simply because you expended some of your willpower before you even got to the office, when you wrestled with a choice you do every single day: what to wear.

Consider that between the ages of 6 and 60, an average woman will spend roughly 287 days rifling through her wardrobe. It’s a time-consuming process for men too; they clock in at approximately 13 minutes per day (women average 10 minutes/day). If you accept that time and energy are finite resources, choosing what to wear each day seems to be counterproductive. If you want to reduce your decision fatigue by simplifying this process, you’re not alone. As a matter of fact, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Albert Einstein, and Barack Obama have been known wear the same outfit every day. A Sweden-based art director, Matilda Kahl, has become an overnight sensation for wearing the same outfit every day for a year. In an interview with Adweek, she reflects on the power of her work uniform:

Adweek: What was your main motivation behind adopting a work uniform of a white blouse, black trousers and a black blazer?

Kahl: The main motivation was that I understood how much time and energy I’d save if I could just take out the clothing aspect of my working days. We have so many great creative challenges at Saatchi that I’d rather spend my time on that, not picking out a new outfit every morning.

Adweek: 
Would you say the work uniform has changed your productivity at work?

Kahl: Absolutely. It’s not until you don’t have to care about clothing anymore that you realize how much energy it actually took up before. Before I had a uniform, I reevaluated my outfit throughout the day, wondering if what I was wearing really did a good job of reflecting me as the creative I want to be. Now, when I have an outfit that I once picked out and that I’m happy with, I can lay all my good energy on my work instead. To only be judged on my creative ability at work and not how well I dress really is a real confidence boost.

This is hardly an original idea. Consider that men have been wearing suits since the 1920s. A capsule wardrobe takes the idea of wearing the same thing every day and gives you the freedom to express yourself. It’s about what makes you feel confident. Gaining confidence with how you dress will influence your day – it will impact your prospects, your personality and the way the world perceives you.

But for all its benefits, you might have to overcome some initial resistance to kickstart your capsule wardrobe. In a piece for Harper’s Bazaar, Kahl talks about some of the questions she had to confront:

More distant co-workers have even asked if I was in some sort of sect—religious or otherwise…Other than the burning, “why?” the most common question I get is whether or not it gets boring in the long run. It’s a reasonable question that probably has a lot to do with the fact that office style is commonly informal in my industry. We have been given the opportunity to reflect our true personalities in everything we wear, every day—to extol our “creative spirits” in everything we do. As if all of that wasn’t enough, let’s add to the mix the extensive pressure on women to uphold a flawless appearance. Here, we ultimately end up with an unscalable mountain of high expectations. No wonder many people walk around feeling that the world owns them, when it really should be the other way around.

As creative professionals, you should feel empowered to adopt a work uniform. Once you remove outfit-picking decisions from your morning, you free up more time and mental energy to focus on the success of your work.

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