Keith, a colleague of mine, tells the story of going to work in a retail store where the staff seemed to wear whatever was most comfortable, regardless of appearance. After a couple of weeks of trying to fit in by wearing casual clothes, it dawned on him that doing the opposite might be the better strategy. Without saying anything, he just started wearing a sport coat, tie and dress slacks to work. At first, his co-workers chided him about what he was wearing. He absorbed these jibes with good nature and focused on serving customers.
But then an interesting thing happened. Those entering the store began to approach him, before anyone else, to ask questions. After a few weeks, he was selling more product, simply because he had more opportunities. This was a good thing because everyone was paid a base wage plus commission. In time, his co-workers noticed this and began to dress better as well. Keith had not said anything. He wasn’t in charge. He didn’t start out to set an example. He just recognized the value of looking the part.
As much as it is tempting to dress down in today’s super-casual world, you will generally find that the best decision-makers resist this. They recognize the value of appearing successful. Sure, there are a few Mark Zuckerbergs out there with their hoodies and jeans. But they are anomalies. Paying attention to physical appearance has always been a way to contribute to personal success. I can’t count, for instance, the number of times I have been upgraded on a flight, or even been squeezed aboard an oversold flight, because I arrived at the gate in a suit. It is only natural to pay attention to the best-dressed person in the room. Even when they’re dressed casually, successful people look the part. Why? Because they recognize the impact that personal appearance has on others.
So, take stock of how you dress the same way you should take stock of the decisions you make. The best decision makers are also the best dressers. Don’t believe me? Check it out yourself.