Do you need to change your uniform?

Clothes Rack

I decided I better wear a suit for the day as we had a meeting with quite a senior group who most definitely would be wearing suits – I’ll always try to make sure it is a sharp suit with something just a little bit different going on. I won’t wear a tie as this is a step too far for me and at this stage I would feel uncomfortable wearing one.

This accountant turned marketer starting wearing suits at 17 in the accountancy practice and wore them for 21 years in my financial and general management roles within the high-tech and drinks industry. When I finally stopped working for others I stopped wearing this ‘uniform’ as I had enough.

I guess this was the appropriate ‘uniform’ for this meeting and if I wasn’t somewhat ‘uniform’ I might run the risk of giving the impression that I wasn’t taking my role seriously and I would have felt a little awkward within myself.

Later in the day I had to give a training course and later again we had to conduct a workshop for a project we were working on.

For the training course I was fine but I did feel just a little out of sorts because I wasn’t dressed in my usual way – I removed my jacket, which made me feel less formal and more appropriate.

The workshop was a totally different story – I was presenting with two other guys, each of us in our suits, quite ‘uniform’ but when the session started you just knew the group participating in the session were looking at us as we were different. Somehow we were ‘the establishment’, different to them and I felt it might have created a barrier and it could have changed the dynamic of the session.

I stood there quietly cursing my suit and wished I was in my more usual uniform, which is a smart trendy jacket/blazer with neat jeans and shoes – this is the real me (or at least it has become me and its the ‘me’ I am most comfortable and confident projecting).

After the session we went for a drink and a debrief and again I wished I wasn’t in my suit.

Was I being silly, was this all in my head or taking it to its limit should I have brought a second outfit to work with me that day to make sure that my ‘uniform’ always told the right story to my audience and most importantly made me feel more comfortable with them?

I remember a friend of mine who was working in the purchasing department of a large multinational telling me that they hated it when their suppliers would arrive dressed casually for meetings – she knew this was a little unfair because their own dress code was casual but it did work against the supplier.

When I was in Guinness in Dublin they introduced a causal Friday – while this created a more relaxed atmosphere I must admit that attitude towards work did become more relaxed as well.

Casual Friday

Could a slight change of uniform change one from being a ‘typical’ accountant, solicitor, graphic designer or whatever to someone who stands out a little?

In Fuzion we were interviewing for graphic designers recently and one poor guy arrived for interview in a suit and tie, looking more like an accountant than a designer. Maybe his mother killed him when he was heading out the door that morning in his cool t-shirt , jeans and Converse runners and insisted that he dress properly for his interview.

Somehow it was really hard to get past that he was wearing the wrong ‘uniform’ and you had to work hard to jump over those first and important impressions to discover his personality and capability.

With our clients we advise that their branding, websites, social media pages, marketing materials, vehicle livery and all other visual demonstrations of their organisation must tell the best story about them – we often buy with our eyes and those first impressions are vital. Are we any different?

What story are you telling about yourself today?

Greg Canty

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork




Tags: , , , ,

12 Responses to “Do you need to change your uniform?”

  1. bookmarklee Says:

    I’m certainly with you on the need to STAND OUT Greg and your clothing or ‘uniform’ can certainly help in this regard.

    It’s not enough though if the people with whom you are engaging have not met you before. When this is the case you need to STAND OUT as much for what you say and who how you say it, rather than simply as a result of the way you dress.

  2. Celene Collins Says:

    Greg, I totally agree with you. Particularly for women in business who are trying to build their brand and identity among the consumers and the business community. This is a hurdle at every big event and even down to the cup of coffee casual meeting.

    First impressions are huge in our everyday lives and subconsciously we make up our minds in the first 30 seconds of meeting someone. Even when we are making a big purchase like a car or even a house. We will always go with that gut instinct . You can never over estimate the power of that ‘first impression’

    I totally feel your pain when you were at your meeting and you felt you were dressed in the wrong ‘uniform’.

    Recently I had to speak at a very important event for my business, it had been a very busy week, the kids had a lot on the same week. The morning of the event just didn’t go to plan – I didn’t feel confident, I felt I choose the wrong ‘uniform’ and I felt it showed.

    As it turned out the referrals have been good since the event but I will always feel I would have enjoyed the event better had I choose to be myself and had picked a different ‘uniform ‘.

    All a learning curve really
    Great article Greg.

    Celene Collins
    Transforming Homes for Sale

  3. Laura King Says:

    Seconds ticking by and almost time for a conference to start, I was in the lift, chugging away as it slowly rose to the 5th floor of the Medical Building. instead of going up, it went down. Ground floor and a biker dived in, obviously in a rush, removing his helmet. I took note of his appearance out of the corner of my eye. I knew I was going to be late for the conference that I had been invited to attend in place of my boss. It was a conference with eminent Consultants and Misters with more letters after their names than is contained in this reply Greg. Found my seat and listened to speaker after speaker enthusiastically. When the biker, now suited arrived for his 30 minute delivery, I had no problem asking this Professor a couple of questions at the close of his talk. Normally, I would not be one to ask questions……………was it his suit, or his earlier “ biker uniform” that yielded the calming effect?.

  4. presstmc Says:

    It’s a fine line between making an impression and forcing one! Good post – I suppose it helps if you know the audience you face in those situations, but as Mark says above, I guess it’s the content you are presenting that will ‘clothes’ the deal (or not!)

    • Greg Canty Says:

      great point Tom – I found at one of my sessions last week what I was wearing definitely created a barrier, which was hard to break down least that’s how it felt!

  5. Robert Says:

    Hey Greg

    Good article – thanks.

    Sounds like you were projecting your own discomfort about suits onto the audience… Afterall, if you could really judge the mindset of a crowd with such clarity then you would be pretty unique to say the least.

    In support of this point, you were unable to identify with a person who didn’t fit into your framework for “being a designer”… sounds like you may well have been ushered to inteviews in a suit back in the day yourself…

    Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this… That said, as a creative yourself, this could be a good indication that your world view has crystalized and is set to the point where contradiction to a position becomes difficult if not impossible to deal with.

    If you believe that this assessment holds weight, then you might want to begin asking yourself, is this the absolute truth or are there other alternatives that might serve me better? “Reality checking” your experience with people who you find yourself analyzing would also be helpful… as overtime you’ll form a more accurate understanding of your own patterns of projection.

    Inherently, when one finds oneself projecting, one finds that the discomfort or resistance one experiences is to ones unadmitted self, not the other person.

    This may or may not be right… just an alternative perspective.

    G’ Luck!

  6. Pat Crowley Says:

    Hi Greg,

    Great article. Sounds like I’m your brother in the dress code department!
    As someone who worked for themself for most of my working life, I have found it a challenge to now fit in in the corporate world.
    Just like your experience, I just never feel comfortable in a suit, and I think this obvious…(at least it is to me).

    Over the years, when I saw someone coming to me wearing a suit, my first impressions were; this guy is either looking for money, or trying to sell me something! In fact I have on few occasions I gave the response of; “the boss isn’t here………I’ll pass on the message”

    At the end of the day, it is about being comfortable in your own skin, and being confident in your ability. Results will shine through regardless of the uniform.

    So I’m sticking to the smart jeans and jacket, otherwise now known as the Greg Canty uniform!!

    All the best,

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Well done with the uniform Pat – I worked in your industry as you know and just had to lose the suit! Isn’t it strange when a suit means something negative instead of someone to trust!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: