Dressing Up Is Overrated In An Already Casual World

As casual Fridays start overlapping over other days of the week, one wonders why we still bother dressing up. After all, it’s the qualities you have inside that’s more important that what you look like on the outside… or is it?…

Casual meeting, in a casual office, on a casual Friday – Image designed by rawpixel.com / freepik.com

Dressing Up For Casual Friday… Everyday!…

The dot-com tsunami swept over the global industries and economy back in the late 1990s. With that, more tech startups sprouted up within a year than it did in the past decade combined (don’t quote me on this, but you get the drift). It was a time when young faces led the change in the industries. It was also a time when young faces led fashion too… or rather the lack thereof…

The final years of the 20th century saw many baby-faced, twenty-something… boys (and girls too) led their companies to IPOs, earning them a whole lot of money… Yeah, we know, they started the party with a bang… Unfortunately many also crash with a bang too, but that’s a story for another day. Success or failure isn’t the issue here. The issue is the legacy that they left behind, the practice of coming to work wearing what they wore in their frat (and sorority) houses. Torn jeans, loud graphic t-shirts with obnoxious phrases, hoodies, and that ubiquitous dirty sport shoes. In short, we see a whole lot of company founders and senior executives dress and look like… well, students!…

Before long, there was an influx of companies adopting casual work wear. Pressure was mounting in the more established, and conventionally attired companies to follow suit. And before you know it, many offices have started to allow “Casual Friday” to overflow to other days of the work week too.

Enter The Casually Dressed Tech Idols

The argument whether or not dressing decently for work is never ending. On the traditionalist’s side, a touch of formality in one’s dressing shows good manners and respectable upbringing. The counter argument however, usually points to what he/she has, or is worth on the inside is more important. If you’re good at what you do, it doesn’t really matter how well you’re dressed, or present yourself. Two commonly quoted examples that comes into many discussions are Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

(1) Steve Jobs

Image from The Baltimore Sun / The Dark Room

Often seen in his signature black turtleneck sweater, blue jeans and white New Balance trainers. He’s also one of the few celebrities who literary wears the same uniform wherever he goes; formal or casual, business or recreative. And his list of successes are impressive too – Apple, Pixar, NeXT, just to name a few. Not only does he not care what others think of him, he literary rocks his “uniform” as his identity.

(2) Mark Zuckerberg

Image from Inferse

Most often seen in his signature grey t-shirt, blue jeans, and sometimes a nondescript hoodie too. His success story centres around Facebook, which is already pretty impressive on its own. Facebook is (to date) one of the biggest media company by number of interactive membership (including readership and/or distribution).

The “I Couldn’t Care Less What Others Think About What I Wear” Attitude

In examples above, both Jobs and Zuckerberg are celebrities in their own right. Almost everybody knows who they are, and more importantly, what they’re worth. They don’t need to convince or persuade anybody of their opinions. And for that, they can literary forgo the dressing up part, since the whole world already know who they are, and what they’re worth… They are their own brand!…

But for the rest of us mere mortals… well, sadly that usually isn’t the case. I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe many people actually know who I am yet, nor how much I’m really worth. I may have what it takes on the inside, but unless others actually know that, packaging is still important to me. How I brand and present myself will affect how others see me. Hence, I emphasise a lot on dressing the part to project the brand identity that I want others to see me as.

Even The Cool Guys Have To Dress Up To Make A Good Impression Too

Jobs and Zuckerberg also had to dress up in “adult clothes” when the situation calls for it. Back in the late 1970s, before Apple Computer made it in the big league, they actually had to apply for loans to run their business. And for that, the great Steve Jobs actually suited up for the all important meeting with his banker. Remember, back then nobody knows Apple Computers, and by virtue, Steve Jobs too. Nothing projects the image of a serious and trustworthy businessman than dressing up in a business suit.

Image from Edible Apple

Zuckerberg’s Congressional Hearing in April 2018 saw him all decked out in conservative business suits. Nothing beats a dark business suit in projecting the brand image of a serious and trustworthy business leader. Safe to say, this message was carried across clearly to the members of Congress and Senate.

Image from The Republican News

Even Superstars Have To Dress Up If The Situation Calls For It

In short, if you want to persuade or convince others, you’d better project a trustworthy image. And that means projecting a favourable brand identity to your audience. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a corporate brand or a personal brand. You audience needs to be sure that they can trust you before they start believing what you tell them.

Until and unless your brand identity has firmly been established, keep it conservative. Once your audience knows who you are and what you’re worth, heck, you can even wear a bathrobe, and people will still trust you. Hugh Hefner, in his latter years, made a peculiar brand identity of himself, being dressed exclusively in bathrobes and smoking jackets.

Dressing Up In “Big Boys’ Clothes” Shows That You Mean Business

Showing that you mean businesses usually involves dressing up in a business suit. But there are instances when you don’t really need (nor appropriate) to be dressed to the nines. It also depends on your audience too. While you want to project a trustworthy and dependable image, you certainly don’t want to suggest inferiority complex, or to mock your audience.

If you have to a court hearing, or a shareholders’ meeting, then pull all the stops and don a “Monday attire“. But not when you’ll be doing a sales pitch to a tech company. If you know that your audience are techies, dressed in t-shirts and jeans, being suited and booted actually works against you. You’ll appear snobbish to your audience, belittling their self worth… Not something you’d want to do to your potential client. Instead of matching them in an equally sloppy home-wear, you might want to consider a “Friday attire” instead. Casual enough to make your audience comfortable in your presence, but dressy enough to be business appropriate.

Is Dressing Up Really All It’s Hyped Up To Be?

In a nutshell – yes… Investing in developing and building a personal brand really does make a difference in how others perceive you. Especially when you’re still in your early stage of fame, and not many people really know who you are, or how much you’re worth. Once you’ve made it, well, who cares what you’re dressed in?… If your audience love you, they’ll still love you regardless whether you’re dressed up in a conservative business suit, or a pink bathrobe and matching bunny bedroom slippers…

Dressing up with bunny slippers, anyone?…

The phrase “Your reputation precedes you” really does hold true. You might want to think about how you want to shape your reputation, before you walk out and present yourself.

In Conclusion

There’s no second chance for a first impression. So you might want to invest in developing and projecting a favourable first impression. And yes, packaging really is all it’s hyped up to be.

You’ll often find a luxury wristwatch packaging as being wrapped around a luxurious velvet cushion, which is then inserted in a velvet slotted platform, inside a highly polished and decorated hardwood case, with the brand name and logo attractively engraved on the cover. What you’ll never find, is luxury wristwatch being delivered to you, stapled shut in a transparent plastic bag, rattling around inside a cheap looking, nameless cardboard box. Would you then argue that it’s the value of the luxury wristwatch contained inside that matters to you, and not the cheap looking box itself?…

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