Why do the powerful prefer to look obviously different than the rest of us?
Power symbols — those accessories that indicate status and authority — do vary according to the context. A number of years ago at a Presidential Inauguration it was striking to see that Republicans and Democrats clearly had preferred outerwear, but the wool dress coats and cowboy hats of the one party were just as expensive as the down parkas and accessories of the other. Equal in price, quality, and impressiveness but different in look and definitely different than the rest of the crowd standing in the streets for the ceremonies.
Today, questions like “are tiaras the new power scrunchies?” show up in the New York Times. In that particular article, the jeweled/metallic headband/tiara is a confidence booster that female executives are embracing in some circles. The idea that people of power have always worn a symbol of that power on their head is as old as time. Queens wear crowns, and when the women wear their versions of the crown they feel powerful.
Symbols Need To Have Context
The challenge in any career is to understand the way the corporate culture thinks. A status symbol can be an investment tool, but only if you are communicating effectively to those around you. Part of that communication is the confidence it gives to be wearing the status symbol, and part of the communication is the message the symbol itself sends.
As the wearable tech trends come available there will definitely be some new players in the status symbol arena. Smartwatches will join the smartphones and luxury watches already being sported in the C-level suites. But like all symbols, the context is everything.
When you are selecting your wardrobe and accessories for an interview or for the workplace, make sure your status symbols are appropriate for the context. You want to look different and powerful, not just different.