A recent Harvard Business School study reaches a fascinating conclusion about social status in prestigious and non-prestigious environments. Titled 'The Red Sneakers Effect: Inferring Status and Competence from Signals of Nonconformity', it gives us some insight into how trying to fit in can have the opposite effect you intended.
The key takeaway: If you are already in a prestigious setting
(working at a top firm, studying at a top school, etc.) then doing something nonconformist can give you a higher perceived social status.
For example: a business school professor wearing a t-shirt and sporting a beard or a trainer for an executive education program wearing a suit and red sneakers are considered as “having the guts to do what they’re doing. They have points to spare. They’re such a high-status person that they don’t need to conform to the rules.”
On the other hand, if you're not already in a prestigious role the inverse is true. Business professors at less prestigious universities were perceived as having slightly more status when wearing a suit and tie....