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Dress for Success

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It is said that a person should ‘dress for success’. In the business world, this saying is interpreted to mean that a person should dress in a manner that inspires people to view them as being ultra-confident and super-successful in their field. For example, if a specialist surgeon dressed in slip-slop sandals, a tattered track pants and a faded sweatshirt, people would be unlikely to afford him the same respect, at the first encounter, as they would have had he been dressed more formally.

The reality of the matter is that a person’s dressing not only has a direct effect on how others perceive him, but it also has a remarkable influence on one’s own mindset, attitude, behaviour and even mental performance (known as clothed cognition) – as confirmed by numerous studies.

In one study, some participants were made to wear a white coat and then take a test that would indicate their power of selective attention. Before taking the test, they were told that the coat was a scientist’s lab coat. A second group took the same test, but did so while dressed in their usual clothing. Interestingly enough, the group that wore the white coat made 50% less errors on the test compared to the group in ordinary clothing. The reason – they associated the white lab coat with intelligence, knowledge and competence, and this actually boosted their performance as they felt more confidence.

Likewise, studies have indicated that schools which enforce a uniform enjoy better standards of behaviour and discipline than schools which have no dress code. In other words, when students are made to outwardly comply and conform by dressing in a prescribed manner, then their mindset, to a certain degree, is already one of compliance and conformity.

In yet another study, a group of women were handed Prada handbags and were instructed to use them for a certain period of time. Another group of women were given ordinary handbags to use for the same period. It was then observed that the women with the Prada handbags experienced a noticeable shift towards selfish behaviour. Specifically, they were less likely to spend money in charity - unless they stood to gain recognition. Similarly, they exhibited impaired levels of self-control.

All these studies indicate the same thing – the way we dress and appear affects the way we think and behave.

As discussed previously, one of the guidelines regarding clothing is that a Muslim should not dress in the styles and fashions of the disbelievers. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has warned us saying, “The one who emulates a people will be counted among them (in the sight of Allah Ta‘ala).” (Sunan Abi Dawood #4033) This is indeed a severe warning for any Muslim – especially the one who adopts such an appearance that he/she cannot even be distinguished from a non-Muslim and recognized as a reciter of the kalimah!

Nevertheless, over and above the impermissibility of emulating the ways and fashions of the disbelievers is the dangerous effect that these styles and fashions have on our imaan, attitude and behaviour. When a person emulates the fashion, dress and style of non-Muslim sports stars, celebrities or fashion icons, many of whom are atheists or even Satanists, then how can he ever expect his imaan and Islamic identity to remain intact and unaffected? How can he hope to remain uninfluenced by the indecency and irreligiousness which is intrinsic in these icons and their styles?

On the contrary, as impious and imperfect as we may be, if we at least dress in the garb of the pious, it will hopefully motivate us to improve ourselves and will act as a constant reminder that we are Muslims, urging us to behave as such. It is for this reason that many European countries, in an effort to suppress Islam and strip Muslims of their Islamic identity, have banned the burqa’, niqaab etc. as they fear the powerful effect of the Islamic appearance.

Harness the power of appearance and dress for success – dress like a person on the path to paradise.