This blog post originally appeared on the Huffington Post Canada.
If you had to cut one decision out of your day, what would it be?
Mark Zuckerberg swears by jeans and a grey T-shirt. Steve Jobs was committed to a black mock turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers. And on the far (very far) opposite end of the sartorial spectrum, even some of fashion’s most powerful men gravitate toward consistency in how they dress — Michael Kors dons his iconic black blazer and dark jeans, Giorgio Armani wears his signature navy cashmere sweater.
These men of influence have chosen to forgo the decision of what to wear every day by opting for uniforms. Zuckerberg deemed the fact that he even has to make this decision “silly.”
The rationale? They make hundreds of decisions everyday, so eliminating even one of them from their decision-making process saves them time, brainpower and money. It’s an effort to avoid a phenomenon psychologists term decision fatigue, the symptoms of which range from decreased willpower to poor risk-taking.
We all streamline our decision-making process to make our days run more smoothly in some way. For example, I eat the same meal of eggs, bacon and sweet potato fries most days (I’m with you on breakfast, Zuck!). Tom Ford (who almost always wears a slim black suit and unbuttoned white shirt, by the way) is a famous stickler for schedules. Removing daily decisions we deem unimportant frees up time for the rituals that enable us to excel at the things we’re most passionate about.
However, I consider throwing on the same T-shirt and jeans or suit and tie — day in, day out — a missed opportunity to improve your productivity before you head into the workplace. That bit of mental energy and time you may devote to finding something new to wear every morning can very well pay off dividends, I find. It’s meditation by menswear.
We hear a lot about how living life deliberately makes us more mindful of who we are and what we do. Spending 10 to 15 minutes fully focused on crafting an outfit, for me, is a chance to take stock of my emotional state (I go with black and navy when I’m feeling gloomy), realign with my physical self (“Maybe I should get this tailored.”) and be thankful for what I have (it’s easy to be satisfied when you can wear a white Oxford a thousand different ways).
In much the same way that a workout gets your blood pumping or mental exercises like sudoku perk up your perception, the act of expressing yourself through style also warms up your faculties of lateral thinking, putting you at your creative best and ready to take on the morning work hours marked by increased cognitive productivity.
The benefits of even a small act of creativity can add up over time. Contrary to popular opinion, deliberating on your choice of outfit is not about meeting certain criteria — it’s about breaking rules and taking risks. It’s more than matching pocket squares and sport coats, it’s going against the grain of a world increasingly obsessed with cold efficiency. As you spend morning after morning keeping things fresh, I’m sure you’ll feel more confident employing your creativity in other parts of your life, and feel more creative overall.
A rule-breaking mindset has obvious benefits for people who work in creative industries, but even number crunchers and programmers can stand to clock in with a more open, creative mindset. It can be the difference between solving a work-related problem in a unique way, or not. That’s probably why employers of all stripes rate creative thinking as one of the most important characteristics they look for in new employees. Not bad, considering all it costs is a few minutes.
Dressing dapper also sets the pace for your career. If you have an important meeting, a gesture as simple knotting a tie can put you in a more professional mindset and imbue you with the confidence you need to own the boardroom. That well-dressed dude in the mirror can remind you of your ambitions. A uniform, on the other hand, will lull you into a sense of business-as-usual, even if the overall effect of your outfit is that of power or confidence.
Sure, maybe I’d sing a different tune if I were a tech billionaire or a world-famous fashion designer. There’s nothing wrong with a uniform that saves you mental energy, if that’s your top priority. But for those who would like to harness that energy and expand their minds, I suggest trying something new everyday.