Why Successful People Wear The Same Outfit Everyday—The Science Of Simplicity

One of my favorite movie series of all time, the Ernest movies starring Jim Varney, displayed a hilarious truth about actors we see on our televisions: In one scene, Ernest is looking in his closet for what to wear in the morning, and finds about a dozen identical pairs of clothes.

While great for a laugh, this observation might ring true in more ways than one. After all, how much time do we waste each day by deciding on what clothes to wear? Why not just simplify the whole process by simplifying our wardrobes?

And, while the fear of wearing the same thing each day may be grounded in our sociological tendencies towards embarrassment, the simple message may be this: There are things much more important than what clothes you’re wearing.

What’s more, quite a few of the world’s most brilliant and respected leaders have decided to ultra-simplify their own wardrobes. President Obama was notorious for the fact that he wore the same style of suit nearly every day he was in office! Michael Lewis of Vanity Fair asked the former president why he chose such similar suits, and this was Obama’s reply:

“I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Wise words, or a deeply-rooted lack of fashion sense? Obama isn’t the only one. Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers almost every day of his life. Mark Zuckerberg, a grey shirt with hoodie and jeans. Or, even further back: Einstein bought several of the same grey suit, so he wouldn’t have to make decisions each morning over what to wear.

All these men exemplify an elegant solution to what psychologists call decision fatigue — a state when a person’s productivity suffers because of making too many decisions irrelevant to the task they are attempting to focus on. By stressing over what we wear, or what we might eat, we become less skilled and efficient at our jobs and relationships.

What each of these men show is this: by making life simpler, we free up our capacity to make better decisions when it really counts. President Jose Mujica of Uruguay echoes this idea in his refusal to wear a tie, saying “The tie is a useless rag that constrains your neck. I’m an enemy of consumerism. Because of this hyperconsumerism, we’re forgetting about fundamental things and wasting human strength on frivolities that have little to do with human happiness.”

And you know what? He’s probably right. While our dress choices may seem to give us a sense of agency, they are actually removing our ability to make better decisions on those things that matter most. While it might seem boring to wear the same thing every day, consider the cost of not simplifying: Decreased efficiency, productivity, and overall happiness.

Maybe it’s time to clean out the closet, after all.

Check out the article that inspired this one here.

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