All Dressed Up in My Suit and Tie….(Uh oh….)

educated-dog-wearing-suit-and-tie (1)“A portfolio picture?” I stammered.  Just the name stirs a bit of discomfort in me.  Twice in the past three weeks I’ve been requested to provide such a picture for a website.

Now, it’s not like I don’t have a suit and tie.  It’s not that I can’t wrangle up a Full Winsor knot, or that I look awful in formal wear. (At least I don’t think so…but that’s ultimately in the eye of the beholder, I guess!).

I spent four years in an east coast prep school.  On numerous occasions each month, while in the military, I donned my dress uniforms, which honestly I preferred to the prison-esque blue dungarees many of my shipmates chose to wear.  And after leaving the Navy, I spent more than a decade schlepping around Fortune 500 corporate functions in formal business attire.  I know the look.  I’m used to the look.

But here’s the thing…I don’t really LIKE the look.  More to the point, I find even a sport coat and tie a bit restricting and overly “proper.”  I guess what I’m saying is this…I simply don’t think that look properly represents who I am.

content_prep1So, who am I then?  Well, from a fashion standpoint, on most days, I don the old torn jeans and a pullover fleece.  On more “businessy” days or for a full-blown networking reception, you might find me throwing on some khakis and (at most) a suede blazer.  You see, I do understand the difference between being totally casual and “professional.”  But whereas I once was the proud owner of dozens of ties, I now probably have only about four.  I simply don’t wear them.

Yes, if I’m going to coach a client in an overly formal business environment, I’ll dress up.  But most often, I remain fairly casual, if a bit preppy in my attire.  I’d say my fashion matches well with the type of clientele I tend to attract and with whom I tend to coach.  These tend toward the small start-up types, with their informal cultures and their young, entrepreneurial leaders.  They get me.  I get them.

80s-preppy-menNow, I should mention (in all fairness) that with neither of the portrait requests (when I asked for clarification) was I required to overly dress up.  But it got me thinking about how our own formality in appearance can really affect who and with whom we eventually work.

I recall, during my second year with American Family Insurance (a Fortune 400 corporation), undertaking my own social psychology experiment (yes, I’m a slight geek!).  For two days, three times I day I walked from one end of the headquarters complex to the other wearing my normal business casual attire.  Along the way, I counted the number of employees I did not personally know who said “Hi” to me along my route.  On Days 3 & 4, I made the same journey at the same intervals of the day, but this time I wore a sport coat.  The results?  Nearly three times as many people said “Hi” when I was wearing the sport coat.

Scientific?  Probably not…likely wouldn’t even qualify as quasi-experimental.  But even anecdotally, there WAS a difference.

In any case, what’s interesting was the visceral reaction the requests of the past several weeks evoked in me.  The “gut-check” really got me thinking….

Image converted using ifftoanyWhat are others experiences with this…and what are your own fashion “thoughts and preferences?”  Are coat and tie more professional, or simply differently profession?

2 thoughts on “All Dressed Up in My Suit and Tie….(Uh oh….)

  1. Hi Trevor, I am at a professional conference right now and I will tell you a suit and tie makes a difference. It is an interesting thing, but I notice those that wear more formal attire draw others easier than those that are business casual.

    1. Interesting….I wonder if it makes a significant difference what type of conference it is and the professional culture around different types of industries. It’s really a fascinating phenomenon!

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