Impress by Dress

I got a text from a friend this week that her middle school aged daughter saw me at a local coffee shop, during a business meeting.

She had relayed to her mom that she saw me at a table with two men “but they weren’t wearing suits or ties” so she didn’t think the meeting was that important.

I cracked up, thinking that even at a young age, we equate what people wear with status and their profession.

It made me realize how much I subconsciously do project someone’s level of professionalism or importance of the work they do, based on what they wear.

At our office, we follow a business casual approach, and in low-key Chico, there aren’t too many professionals that you find out and about in suits and ties. But even in a community and in professions that don’t require you to dress to the nines, what we wear does matter and we can’t overlook what we communicate by what we wear.

A Forbes article by leadership coach and author Kristi Hedges sums up the implicit importance of dressing appropriately and the disconnect that we sometimes make between our professional lives and wardrobe.

“Despite its importance, for many professionals, attire is fairly unintentional. The guidelines we use for selecting our clothes may be different than anything else in our professional lives. We may choose comfort over impression for example, which would strike us as career killing if we were talking about body language. Or we might not update our corporate wardrobe for years when we'd never let our functional skills atrophy for one month.

I'm not advocating for a right way to dress -- just that it be in alignment with the brand you want to communicate.”

What brand are you communicating by what you wear? What would a middle-schooler think about your day job based on what you’re wearing? Are you selecting clothes that convey your creative spirit if you are in that line of work? Do your shirt and shoes show that you are competent and trust-worthy? Are you using your wardrobe to reflect the best version of you?

Hedges sums up her article with a great reminder: “Think of it this way: dress is one aspect about your presence where you have complete control, ahead of time, to affect. So why not take advantage of it?”

About the Author
Toni Scott is the managing principal at Morrison. To get in touch with Toni, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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