Cause every girl crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man. – ZZ Top
Have you ever discounted or ignored great advice because the person giving it was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt?
Or a bathrobe?
Or jeans and t-shirt with a dinosaur trying to do pushups (one of the favorite shirts I own).
In certain parts of the business world, there’s a fetish for a suit and tie as the mark of someone “serious.”
I say that’s nucking futs.
Larry Levine’s post on LinkedIn this morning set me off a little:
I find this interesting… we all have opinions, we all have the ability to share what is on our mind but what I find fascinating are the people out there that are quick to critique a video, a post or a comment in a newsfeed. These are the same people who don’t engage back but are hyper critical of others posts. I get it as I am just sharing what is on my mind! I will stay true to who I am and deliver messages with video in business attire, golf shirts or gym attire. Why? The people who truly know me understand the value, commitment and true desire I have to help those in sales succeed.
Larry gives fantastic sales advice through a variety of mediums, including video. Sometimes he’s decked out. Sometimes he’s got a nice polo on. Sometimes – quelle horreur!! – he’s got gym cloths on (truth in advertising, we kinda work for the same company).
Same great guy.
Same great advice.
Yet, for some reason, I get the feeling that some folks feel compelled to complain when he wears his gym cloths during a video (and I assume his Dodgers cap, but I’m not a baseball fan so don’t care about that. He puts on a Falcons hat, and it’ll get nasty though!).
It’s not “serious” or “professional” or some bullshit.
This sparked one of my favorite dress code memories.
Some background first.
I started at AIIM as an intern in February of 1995 for two days each week. At the time, all the men wore the traditional uniform of khakis/nice pants, blazer of some sort, button up dress shirt, and tie.
So I asked: “I’m an intern. Do I really need to wear a tie?”
John Harney, the editor at the time, said, “Nope.”
After a few months I noticed the actual employees not walking around in their blazers as much. Ties slowly disappeared. This was too soon for jeans, so the button-downs and nice pants continued, but I did succeed in busting the dress code.
I remain oddly proud of this.
Fast forward a few years and I was the editor of the magazine. Someone brought over a guy from the UK who was supposed to be in charge of all content.
He talked real good.
He dressed real nice.
He was a good lookin’ fella.
He also knew fuck all about how to manage or produce content.
I had moved on to (or down depending on one’s sartorial opinion) polos and khakis for my work uniform for the most part by this time.
I remember one day after a meeting in his office he said something to the effect of “If you dressed better, people would take you seriously.”
I can’t remember exactly what I replied, but I do remember thinking “You dress very well, but everyone thinks you’re a waste of salary.”
Over the years, I’ve thought about that as I’ve met people at conferences for interviews, briefings, and watched folks speak.
To my knowledge, there’s no connection between dressing well and knowing WTF you’re talking about. One of the smartest guys I ever met was Bert Sandie. He ran the community for EA – creating the culture, selecting the tools, etc. He was wearing Nike Frees, old jeans, and a t-shirt.
Later during the same conference I watched a guy in a suit deliver an utter mess of a presentation.
Over the years I’ve also noticed that I’ve done great work sitting in a pair of boxers and a hoodie. I’ve done equally great work while wearing a tie (even though I felt a python was killing me).
Some people feel like they work better when they dress better. It gives them confidence. Hey, if that’s you, more power to you. Rock the shit out of that suit and tie.
What’s the point?
We all know not to judge a book by it’s cover. Same same for your employee, consultant, or whoever. The business uniform gives an immediate veneer of respectability for some people (I do get that. I don’t subscribe to it, but I get it.).
I’d rather look and listen for competence and the knowledge that they know what they’re talking about.
I’ll take someone in flip-flops with that ability over some buzzword-spouting stuffed suit any day – no matter how well his ties matches his socks matches his shoes.