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Red Sneaker Effect Signals Authority And Accomplishment

Mar 24, 2014
Originally published on March 24, 2014 10:25 am
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And our last word in business today is: red sneakers.

Some days when getting ready for work, you just want to put on your favorite pair of shoes. They're comfortable, they're familiar, and they just may be a sign of something, as boss man, Jack Donaghy, noted to the creative, Liz Lemon, on the TV show "30 Rock."



It seems Alec Baldwin's character was on to something. According to a new study in "The Journal of Consumer Research," sometimes dressing down can give the impression of competence and success. The co-author of the study, Anat Keinan, teaches at Harvard Business School.

ANAT KEINAN: Well, the classical example is, you know, Mark Zuckerberg meeting, you know, investment bankers for the Facebook IPO dressed in a hoodie, and that actually was considered as a signal of power and status. He is big shot; he can do whatever he wants.

GREENE: Indeed, he can. The researchers actually call this the red sneaker effect, when unconventional dress can signal authority and accomplishment.

INSKEEP: But don't just show up to work in anything because dressing down only works in specific contexts, and with subtle stylish tweaks.

KEINAN: It could just be wearing a colorful tie, or colorful socks or, you know, different shoes. It has to be very clear that it's deliberate.

GREENE: Still, this research does show that the best way to project power is to be yourself.

KEINAN: Not only is it OK to be yourself, but it actually be beneficial to be yourself and to be different, and it's actually a way to earn the respect of others.

INSKEEP: Which is why David Greene is wearing that power red-check shirt today. David, I respect you even more?


GREENE: I appreciate that, Steve.

INSKEEP: And that's the business news on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

GREENE: And I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.