Thursday, June 28, 2012

– To Wear or Not to Wear; Putting One’s Best Foot Forward

 The cold damp months are quickly replaced with the hot days of summer and we are compelled to rip off our clothes and enjoy the sun! Suddenly we are overwhelmed with bare-chested men and women with bra straps on show. Occasionally we forget that our exuberance can be offensive to those around us. This devil-may-care attitude sets a terrible example for those who look to us for guidance. Children learn these attractive habits by watching their parents and other mentors exhibit this behaviour and conclude that this is both appropriate and acceptable. This is precisely how children (and we when we were children) learn their patterns of behaviour. This is no mystery to understand but the solution to a more civilized world seems all too elusive. Setting guidelines for what people should and should not wear is the province of HR departments, the military, and hopefully our own households. What we wear speaks volumes about our personality, our self-respect and the respect we have for those around us. Image and first impressions are important to both our social and business worlds. It’s important to remember that we are constantly representatives of the companies for whom we work and for our families.

Here are a few guidelines that might be good to keep in mind when dressing for the day.
1.     For formal occasions make sure you are wearing suitable clothes for the occasion. It helps that the clothes are clean and fit properly. Polish shoes.
2.     For informal business meetings, one can dress down a notch. However, informal does not mean jeans and runners. Business is business and
3.     In public indoor spaces, wear a shirt and shoes. Especially in food shops and restaurants, there are health codes in place dictating minimum attire.
4.     The beach and the park are excellent places for sunbathing and the attire, or lack thereof, that go with it. One expects skimpy bikinis and bare flesh on parade in such places. Once one ventures back onto the streets, it’s best to cover up.
5.     Wearing pajamas or being unkempt when going to the store is sloppy and reflects the general state of one’s life in general. This is at least the impression others will form. Think about what impression you want to convey before heading out the door. People do notice.
6.     Resist the temptation to wear baseball caps indoors. Even if it’s early and you’re having a bad hair day, hats worn indoors reflect laziness and a total disregard for others. Simply because society has slipped into a state of sartorial disrepair, one’s perceptions of others and the associated feelings does not change. In the immortal words of the great Andre Agassis, “Image is everything!”
7.     Dress down Fridays have become out of control. Their original purpose has been abandoned for so long that most people don’t have any idea why it began. It was an idea that got real traction during the 90’s. Some office managers thought it might improve company morale and de-starch the white color atmosphere that pervaded the dot com industry. Some office workers  actually paid into a charity pool to raise money and awareness of community activities. I think its usefulness is over. What about “dress up” Fridays? Would you take a lawyer or a banking officer seriously if they were dressed casually? Call me ‘old-fashion’, but I avoid making appointments on Fridays because I find conducting serious business dressed too casually kind of creepy.

I have recently been in a discussion on LinkedIn about sleeveless dresses on women in the workplace and how it diminishes their perceived authority. I don not agree because I think one’s power really comes from within. That said, visuals do come into play more often than we may want to admit. By being more conscious of how we look, how we dress, and how we comport ourselves, we do show others that we have respect for them. This is the very backbone of etiquette – putting others ahead of ourselves. Amazingly enough, making a bit of effort to present a clean and tidy image makes us feel better about ourselves. Even when our lives may be in turmoil, our attire does not have to reflect that. It is never inappropriate to put one’s best foot forward!