5 Feb 2018

Dressing the Part

Albert Einstein reportedly used to keep a panoply of identical suits in his wardrobe so that he didn't have to think about what to wear. The wardrobe dilemma was instantly solved. The ingenious hack is employed today - in reverse - by a host of entrepreneurs, CEOs and other influencers in the public eye, to various degrees. Mark Zuckerberg is a prime example - and exception to the rule at the same time. As the product of a generation where social codes, rules and etiquette have been questioned and shunned and 'anything goes', he might consider dressing down as a positive, which indeed hasn't been as detrimental to him as it could have. Yet for anyone else this ultimately is a disservice, especially if aiming high in the career stakes. The social code the hierarchy commands plays the safe card of tradition rather than sloppiness (or eccentricity!) in order to achieve and sustain respectability, credibility, trustworthiness and integrity, the very cogs in the wheels of professionalism. Personal brand image is thus everything: it defines you in a way that either enhances your career and persona or damages them.

Soundsuit #2 by Nick Cave, via ArtSpace

When you resemble a forever teenage dirt bag stuck in the middle of a video game, with a smile like the dork encountered a unicorn on his way to the donut stash, you cannot expect to be taken seriously. Call me old-fashioned and a conservative, but nothing will ever beat an attire that matches the occasion. And in doubt, dress up rather than down. You can always dress down if you are too dressed up: remove that tie, undo that collar, take off that jacket... How can you dress up when all you are wearing is jeans, tees and plimsols?

Jeans, tees and plims are Zuckerberg's trademark. He believes this is all he needs to wear, in a fluid environment that has blurred home, the workplace and the after-hours of socialising. He travels light yet don't be fooled! His bank account is heavy. Those who view Donald Trump as part of the elite (based on his fortune alone) should cast a long hard look at Zuckerberg, worth $76.7b. This rates him 4th on Forbes 400 and the world's 5th richest billionaire. Get the calculator out: he's 25 times wealthier than the US President (#248 on Forbes 400)!

Now I agree that basing an opinion upon looks alone is misleading: looks are superficial and deceptive, and clothing fashion fickle and skin-deep. What truly matters is what is under the hood, the engine (value system, ethics, beliefs, accomplishments, ambition). Though it remains that appearances are the first port of call when meeting somebody. Look at it as a book cover. Is it enticing enough for you to find out more... or do you just walk past in search of something more appealing, more interesting? Or worse, do you run in the opposite direction? Jeans and tees might define a certain segment of fashion but a suit will always defy the vagaries and fickleness of fashion always, and remain a staple that every wardrobe should have - mostly if you are a manager, director, CEO. This includes Zuckerberg.

Untitled (Soundsuits) by ibid, via LA Times

Multi-billionaire Zuckerberg is only fooling himself and his copycat teen lookalikes when pretending to be 'one of us' the populace, wearing slacks day in day out like he has no care in the world and only a few dollars tucked in his pocket. The only reason he has been able to get away with it is because he is putty in the hands of the governing elites. They saw potential in his Facebook creation and dictate to him how he should fine-tune his algorithms in order to skewer free speech into a tool of surveillance, propaganda and subversion - a topic for some other time.

Look at rapper Jay Z: he understood long ago that the three-piece suits, crisp white shirts and a bow-tie would take him places within the corporate music arena that the ghetto-fabulous diamond-encrusted sneakers and the massive gold chain dangling over a pair of low-cut baggy jeans would not...

In The Godfather series, the mafia bosses and their underdogs are all dressed up in suits when they conduct business. They understand that in order to gain credibility, no matter how dubious and downright criminal your motives - businessman or con artist - you must look the part. Indeed the dress-up code works at both ends of the respectability paradigm. In both cases they help you get things done.

Soundsuit #6 by ibid, via Artspace

Dressing up sharpens your attitude: it lends you poise, and gives you presence and clout. What applies to meanswear applies to womenswear. By dressing up, you will instantly behave in a more professional, more restrained, manner. It fine-tunes your mindset, tweaks your general frame of mind. It sharpens your thought and your word. Try this blind test: conduct one business phonecall (from home) wearing casualwear, and one dressed up. You will notice that when dressed up, your body holds a certain way, your voice projects more and you come across as more assertive and focused. Now translate that to a face-to-face situation. You are on to a winner.

You need to know when to push your affairs in terms of dress code. Classic, conservative attire will always be a winner. It will not let you down: it will serve you right.

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