Click. Clack. Click. Clack. The sound of my heels echoes even in the crowded third-floor hallway as students file toward their assigned exit for the file drill. Over my right shoulder, I notice my friend push through the swarm of bodies and slip in next to me.
“Damn, girl,” she says. “You don’t walk, you strut.”
Here’s a bit of context so this makes more sense: I’m tiny. Four foot 11 inches and done growing. I wear heels to school 60 to 70 percent of the time, and it definitely factors into the way I walk, but it’s more than just that. It’s my whole outfit.
I put effort into what I’m going to wear virtually every day – the only time I’m not dressed up is when I’m suffering from a sore throat or an uncontrollable cough. I might be wearing a floral sundress, a warm cardigan sweater and a brand new pair of wedges ($15 at ROSS – a steal), or I might be in an oversized sweatshirt, patterned leggings and my go-to, lace-up black heels. Either way, I’m going to be wearing something that I feel good and confident in.
When I’m wearing clothes that make me walk with just a bit more spring in my step, I’m perceived differently. Sure, I still sometimes have to dodge backpacks and elbows in the hallway, but my walk and posture make me harder to miss. I’m not getting accidentally shoved into the person next to me, like I am on the rare occasion you catch me in sweats and flats – two to three inches doesn’t make that much of a difference in my height. People notice me because I walk with purpose. This has not only boosted my confidence, but it’s improved my academic performance.
I find more success in school when I’m dressed up. When I’m giving an English presentation, I make sure I’m wearing shoes that make a loud clicking sound when I walk, so everyone can hear me coming and know I’m about to ace the presentation. When I’m taking a math test, I need to be dressed in a cozy sweater and a non-constricting skirt for when I’m inevitably shivering and hunched forward over my desk. When I’m singing in choir, it’s best if I’m decked in a flowing dress that reminds me not to slouch.
As soon as my system is disrupted, my ability suffers – all because I wore sneakers and a T-shirt. As cliche as it is, when I don’t “dress to impress,” I don’t impress at all. When I look good and feel good, I know I can take on the world. And when I don’t, I can barely take on walking down the hallway.
It’s not an obvious difference to someone on the outside, but to me, it makes all the difference: I’ll trip over a 10-letter word in my presentation, overlook a simple pattern on my sequences and series test, and go just a bit flat on that high B in choir.
Sure, sometimes I have days where I sleep through my alarm and wake up at 7:15 instead of 6:30 and I just have to throw on the first thing I see and run out the door – but on days like that, my confidence isn’t the only thing that suffers. My academic performance falls flat as well.
I’m not saying putting effort into my appearance every day is easy – there are mornings when the idea of taking off my sweatpants feels like ripping off an arm. But strutting down the hall with my head held high and my back straight make the effort worth it.