Superstitions are generally dismissed as inconsequential creations of an unsound mind, but one superstition that has been around for a long time and shows no sign of wavering is the idea of lucky underwear.
Lucky underwear has been credited by some of the world’s greatest athletes, with Michael Jordan, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland and baseballer Jason Giambi all swearing that they wouldn’t have seen the same success without their lucky undergarments. Even whole countries get in on the concept, with Italian tradition stating that in order to have a successful year you must wear red underwear on New Year’s Day.
So what is it about this particular superstition, and does it really work?
When subjects of an experiment were told to perform a task before being wished “good luck”, the research showed that those with some kind of “lucky charm” outperformed the participants who didn’t. While the charms varied from lucky undies to a lucky key chain, what the charms had in common was that they encouraged their owner to work harder and to persevere better than those who hadn’t brought anything “lucky”.
It was a similar situation at Colorado College, when students were given golf balls to putt. The ones who were handed “lucky” golf balls had a significantly better putting game than those who weren’t. Why? It’s all about the confidence.
According to the authors of one recent study, the power of superstition lies in its ability to make a person more confident. Simply believing that your underwear is “lucky” is enough to make you try harder, take more risks, be more patient, think clearer, stay more focused and feel more relaxed.
It comes back to the notion that if you repeatedly tell yourself you are set to fail, you most likely will. Channelling the opposite is sure to have a positive effect.
Performance coach Jonathan Katz agrees, saying that lucky charms such as undies help to reduce anxiety and give athletes something they can control.
But is it just on the court and field where lucky undies work?
For many, the suggestion that wearing your lucky charm to an important meeting or into the boardroom can help is something well worth thinking about. Confidence is often the key to securing new clients or asserting your opinion, and anything that may help with that is worth playing around with.
For example, here at Mosmann Australia we sometimes have people tell us funny stories about what’s happened to them because of their underwear. This is one of the stories that we received:
A girl just finishing high school had a scholarship interview at a local university, and was incredibly nervous about it. She had a pair of lucky purple undies that were decorated with different chemistry symbols in gold that she had been given as a present (she was a science major), and so after putting on her lucky undies and professional clothes off she went to the interview with the Head of Science. Unfortunately for her, before leaving the house she failed to check the seat of her very business-like black pants. Unbeknownst to her, the seam above her back pocket had ripped and was exposing a rather large amount purple and gold.
However, she arrived at the interview, and the Head of Science was very impressed with her scores and with her focused attitude. Finally, as a last test of her abilities, he asked her to solve a chemical equation on the whiteboard behind her. She got up to do so, and as she began writing out the answer the Head of Science jumped up and said “Well I say, that’s cheating!” Bewildered, she turned to look at him and saw him staring at her bottom. She looked down at the back of her pants and turned bright red as she saw the bright gold symbol for copper showing through the rip. As she opened her mouth to stammer out some form of apology, the Head of Science began laughing and said “Indeed, the answer is in fact copper!”
And with that, he said she was obviously fated to be part of the program and informed her that she had won the scholarship – which turned out to be incredibly lucky for her as she had thought the answer was nickel!
So try not to think of lucky underwear as superstitious and instead appreciate it for what it is – a tool for creating power of the mind. Don’t have a lucky pair of pants that you think would do the job? Try finding an alternative that could bring you some luck next time you’re enquiring about that all important promotion by making a connection with something that is special to you. Perhaps it’s the perfume you were wearing when you first met your husband or the socks you had on when you first acquired the job. Whatever it is, wear your lucky charm with pride and believe in its powers.