When I attended the job interview for my first ever job at Merrill Lynch. It was a mix of feelings, I got through – but before I left, the Senior Consultant who interviewed me had one word of advice – come tomorrow in a suit, if not at least a tie!
Yes, as you can imagine – I was embarrassed. No one ever coached me on what I should be wearing. I took his advice to heart and asked my dad for a tie (okay, give me a break… I was young, and this was pre-dotcom boom).
Fast forward a few years, and I step into Zegna and try on a suit – when the showroom (yes, it’s a showroom, not shop) representative helped me put it on, wow, that was like a second skin – talk about body armor. My confidence level just hit a level 10!
When you dress for success, you subconsciously set a new high level of standard. And people respond to that as well.
But after having worn suits for close to 20 years since. And having gone tie-less for 3 years, and resolving never to wear a suit again – I can tell you a few things – but the most important is that clothes do make a man.
And when I quit suit and ties, I didn’t go the other extreme (thank God) of wearing hoodies and sweatpants and sneakers. I remained more smart casual.
Very often, the Instagram influencers will have you believe that casual is cool, look at the billionaires vs the bling. (There’s a difference between style and fashion – figure it out.)
Well, I have some news for you. If you’re not a billionaire, or you haven’t earned that status yet, or even a millionaire one – dress well, more importantly, dress for the occasion.
If you’re over-dressed for the occasion, you can always remove a few items and still look great (ladies, you may be the exception to this rule).
But if you’re under-dressed, you’re in for some embarrassment.
I made this mistake once – where I forgot to read the notes in our calendar invitation, it said “gala dinner” – and I think the office boy and myself were almost in the same attire – jeans and… I don’t want to even think about it, just wanted to leave the event!
There are some other benefits when it comes to dressing well, especially when you’re traveling. I learned this from an airlines official – after they had upgraded me to business class. I was curious, what made him choose me. He said it was very simple, they had the policy to upgrade anyone they saw who was wearing shoes (not flip flops or sneakers) and dressed well.
Imagine that. Unfortunately, upgrades never happened to my dad despite him wearing a tie and suit whenever we traveled – I always asked him why he was so dressed up for a flight? He probably knew better than me. So there’s no assurance of first or business class, but you get the picture.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but that is exactly what we do – not just with books, but with people. We judge & stereotype them in the first 20 seconds that we see them.
And why does this happen, well, its because it portrays – effort. If you come well-dressed, well-groomed, it shows that you took effort. If you’re a guy, you know how much time it takes to put on a suit and tie, and cufflinks and formal shoes. You don’t need to ask any lady how long they take to deck up. It shows.
If you were to meet a very important person, say a King or President – how would you dress? This is how you convey your respect for the person(s) you’re meeting.
And yet I hate ties. I know, in some places it’s really hard to wear a tie – especially in hot and humid places. The tie was developed in the colder countries, and just became a part of the attire over time. If you go to Iran, you’d be surprised that their official attire requires you NOT to wear a tie!
Which brings me to the next point, dress appropriately. You’re not expected to wear a suit throughout the day. If you need to wear something that is not official, spend some money and buy quality, fitting clothes.
If you think this is all about creating a perception, it is. Perception is reality. How you portray and present yourself, is picked up subconsciously by others. Use it to your advantage.
Update: Here's an interesting piece by Professor Jordan Peterson, he does it put it well. Watch & Learn...