Your dress code is your secret weapon! Handle it with care!
First off, do not mistake this for a Barney Stinson recital of the Bro Code, because dressing the part doesn’t necessarily mean “suit up!” Quite the contrary, and this is where perhaps some of us get it wrong; a suit is not always proper. In this issue I will focus on the corporate environment, but make sure to follow the next issues exploring other environments.
Certain contexts require certain attires. And your keen knowledge on what to wear to what event will score you brownie points without you even knowing, it’s a secret weapon that is way underrated in my opinion. But worse, a wrongful interpretation of what you should wear will not only not score you any points, it can most definitely hinder how you are perceived. Not that we necessarily care what people think, but I for one do dress with purpose. That is, my attire has an objective, other than covering my epidermis of course. And if you are reading this, it is assuredly because at the very least you care about what you look like. Another disclaimer, fashion sense and originality is not of the essence here, but rather the ability to adapt your attire the same way as you would a presentation.
So how to define that purpose you ask? For myself, it is strongly influenced by 3 things: my day’s agenda, my current state of mind and my general objective for the day.
I often have a “let’s kick some ass” attitude in the morning. This might entice me to wear camo patterns, stark contrasts like a blue suit with white shirt a red tie (aka the power suit) and maybe some skull accessories if it’s Friday. If I’m cool and relaxed I may be wearing all black, one button jacket and no tie. Serious and relax; all black with a black tie. And so on. But your state of mind can’t be the only driver.
I must validate with my agenda; do I have any meetings today? If so, am I hosting or attending? Who is the audience? If I am leading, what is my message? What is my angle? Am I seeking collaboration or dictating? Is my audience conservative or avant-garde? As a rule of thumb, when giving presentations; avoid anything with patterns. This is just an additional distraction to an already very ADD world. Soft colors and neutrals can help greatly in the role of a peacekeeper. Navy suits and grey are most suitable for presentations, and if your audience or the event permits you to get creative, throw on a different colored vest and feel free to take off the jacket. Even add some accessories such as a pocket square or roll up your sleeves and show your ink if your crowd is a bit younger. Be relevant to convey a message and if you’re sitting in the crowd, go for something tastefully different that will make the scrupulous onlookers take note; a classy lapel pin that speaks well of you, a peak lapel jacket, or fun socks perhaps. Essentially, make sure that you are noticed even if you don't say a word.
In terms of the general objective; when I walk into the office in the morning- do I want people to know that I am attacking serious issues today that require more concentration and less interventions? Or should I be in empathy mode because sensitive topics are circulating? In the latter, a more relaxed attire might do the trick such as a sweater over a dress shirt. A bow tie may be audacious in certain cases, but it certainly does have its place to show you are fun at the office.
As you can see, there is a certain finesse and intricacy behind a seemingly simple objective such as dressing for the part. And the bottom line is that you should look relevant and purposeful as it will grant you credibility. My colleagues reading this will surely have a giggle or two reading this and try analyzing my next get-up, but hey, any secret weapon needs proper handling to be used correctly right?
....Stay tuned for part 2!