Yes, Clothes Make the Man
A few months ago at a conference, I found myself one of just a few who were wearing a tie and I stood out. At a another conference, I found I was one of the few who wasn’t wearing a suit and I stood out again. Guess which one I preferred?
Does it matter how you dress? Should it? A few assumptions to frame the debate:
- First impressions matter.
- Your appearance contributes to your first impression.
- Reputation should be built on your work, not your wardrobe.
I contend that how you dress affects how people perceive you. The easy responses are that plenty of successful people don’t wear suits or ties, that Steve Jobs wears jeans, and that creative people aren’t expected to dress up. I’m here to say that that’s a load of crap:
Do you have to dress up to be successful? Of course not. But why put yourself at a disadvantage? You aren’t Steve Jobs. His reputation precedes him. Does your reputation really precede you?
A good rule of thumb is that you should dress like the people you’re meeting with. If that’s not a reliable predictor, then dress to the level you want to be at.
Finally, I often work by this logic: I work best when I feel good. I feel good when I look good, so I dress to look good. It might be subtle or subconscious, but I believe that sometimes the way I look affects how I work. It also varies on the work I need to do, such as meeting or presenting vs. writing reports or other independent work (you don’t find me wearing a suit when I’m working at home on the couch).
What’s your take? Do clothes matter?