As professional communicators, we are committed to helping others communicate in the most effective manner. So, we feel responsible to share what we feel is a growing epidemic in today’s workforce: unsuitably dressed professionals.
Growing up we heard the age-old adage: Dress for success! But what does that mean for professionals in today’s world? Mark Twain said it best, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.”
Here are some insights into what your wardrobe conveys:
• Your Clothes are Always Communicating
Your clothing speaks long before you do and leaves a lasting impression once you’re gone. Accept it. Embrace it. Don’t ignore what you wear, because other people won’t.
So what does your closet say for you? Just a few things people may glean from your outfit include your level of professionalism, your desire for success and even your respect for yourself and others.
• “If you are your own brand, then your wardrobe is your logo.” –Darcey Howard
Remember, every day you are building and reinforcing your personal brand. According to Maegan Zarley, director of wardrobe at a Chicago-based company called The Image Studios, “Wardrobe is the biggest piece of visual real estate you have. It’s the biggest part of your body. That should represent who you are. That’s what allows you to effectively communicate with other people.”
Think of your closet as the cornerstone for effective face-to-face communication. It’s that important. Image and reputation are related, and this will always be true. If you disagree, just think back to middle school.
• Dress One Step Up
If your client is in jeans, wear khakis. If your client wears a sports jacket, wear a suit. This shows you respect your client, their time and their project. This is based on that ever-important first step in the communication process – understanding your target audience. Your survival depends on their acceptance of your message, and their first impression of you will establish credibility for your message.
• Flip Flop Friday
Dressing professionally is important, but we love to create a fun and casual atmosphere by breaking out the tees and flip-flops every Friday. If your office maintains a business casual dress code, talk to your supervisor about incorporating a casual Friday into your work week.
Put thought and effort into what you are wearing every day. Visual communication is a powerful tool and sends a resounding message about your work.