Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Simplicity of Corporate Styling

The photo above is of actor Matt Bomer from the tv series 'White Collar', and it expresses the five parameters of alpha-style dressing :
  • simple
  • strong
  • and functional
  • with an obvious quality
  • and an understated elegance.
Now that's in stark contrast to another young man I saw recently. He was working in a bank, and walking from one office to another.

What struck me was that he was wearing full-cut pleated trousers that were sitting low on his hips. That created a long baggy crotch, a very baggy bum, and a length that was way too long. His shoes were very conservative, slightly scuffed, and had a soft rouned toe. He wasn't wearing a tie, and his shirt was a regular (full) cut. 

So overall he looked like a slovenly man in his fifties or sixties!

Now most young men would be dressing in the opposite direction... wearing the latest slim-line fashion in suits and trousers.  But this guy was dressing like and old man... and it was because of psychological process that I call 'Switches in the Mind.' 

I'll explain.....  When a person finds themselves in a new or demanding situation, in a flash their unconscious mind searches their past for insights that match that situation in some way... and it brings those memories forward to form the foundation of a behaviour that can handle what they're now facing.

It's as if a switch goes off in their mind !!!

For example, when a man gets married his unconscious mind searches his entire past for experiences that show him how to be a husband.  Not surprisingly it brings forward memories of watching his father be a husband to his mother.  And those memories become the foundation of his behaviour as a husband.

Over time he will also develop some behaviours that are different from his father... behaviours that reflect his own personality. But for better or worse, his father's behaviours (as a husband) will remain his foundation for some time to come.

So in regard to the young man I saw in the bank, when he entered the corporate world his unconscious mind searched his past for a way to be accepted by his superiors.  A switch went off, he rejected the popular fashion of young men his age, and resorted instead to an image he knew from his past.

Unfortunately it was the image of an old man who had worked in an office for many years, and didn't really care about his appearance any more.

That's going to be a problem for that young man, because his style of dress sends a negative message. It says "I'm slovenly and I don't care about the finer details." And that's not an attitude that any employer is going to value.

So instead of projecting your own personal values in the way you dress, you will be more successful if you project the character traits that employers consider to be valuable in business.

For example, the five paremters of alpha-style dressing express the following traits :
  • simple (a person who is practical)
  • strong (a person who is capable)
  • functional (effective in what they do)
  • with an obvious quality (high standards)
  • and an understated elegance (appreciation for detail).

Now it's not uncommon for men to consider the corporate uniform (suit-and-tie) to be a bit stuffy... and opt for a more casual approach to the way they dress.  But the point to keep in mind is that every business wants to present an image that appeals to a broad range of customers... and that means different age groups, and even different cultures.

That's why they're generally not keen on staff wearing fashion trends that send the wrong message to potential customers.  And without customers, there is no need for staff !!!

So when you dress for work, remember that it's not just about you and your personal values... it's about you achieving results that are going to help your career.
Now this brings us to a very important point..... 2 points in fact.

Firstly, as you start to dress differently some of your co-workers might make a few jokes at your expense.  But this is just resistance to a potential change in the status quo... a change to the pecking order that your strong and confident styling is threatening to create.

But don't take it too personally... it's really just a primal thing!  We are pack-animals by nature, so any change to the pecking order will mean that someone is going to rise above someone else. 

So understand that reaction, and keep in mind that your co-workers aren't the ones who are going to give you a bonus, or a promotion. 

My second point is that you might initially feel like giving in to pressure not to dress in any way that's different from the status quo. It's a natural response, because we're hard-wired to try to 'fit-in' and be accepted by the group.

However, the people in your group who make fun of you are usually the ones who have reached the limit of their capabilities (and they know it)... or they're just too lazy to change do anything about improving their situation... ao the last thing they want is a change to the pecking order.

In simple terms, their passive-aggressive behaviour is an indication that they were never going to be supportive toward you in any way. So there's no point in trying to get their approval. 

Finally now, let's have a look at some corporate Alpha-stying........

Shirts : If you work in an environment that doesn't require a tie or coat, then choose shirts that have a stong presence. Solid colours are best... even plain white. Keep in mind that pale and lightly patterned shirts can make you look washed-out.... and that can affect your credibility.


If you prefer striped shirts, consider fine stripes that look like a solid colour from a distance. Dark tone-on-tone stripes colours will create the strongest look. And because your shirt is going to be your main feature, always ensure that it fits well, and that it's made from a quality fabric. 


Ties :  You have the choice of plain, spotted, striped, patterned, or paisley. However Alpha-stying is never too bright, nor too conservative. A simple approach is to choose a tie that has both the colour of your shirt and the colour of your suit or pants.  And as an option you can throw in an extra feature colour (see example below).

If you have to wear a suit, then you have the option of wearing pale or patterned shirts, because they act as a backdrop for your tie. Your suit coat will create a strong solid colour... and your tie will add to that. A simple approach is to choose a tie that has either the colour of your shirt or the colour of your suit, together with one or more feature colours.

Suits : In most cases you have the option of wearing plain or striped suits.  I would recommend that you look to upper management for which direction to go. If it doesn't seem to matter, then go for plain colours, because they're more versatile. Without a tie, a plain suit can create a casual look for social events... or with jeans the jacket can create a relaxed look for the weekend.

Belts : Whatever belt you choose it should have a quality look about it, regardless of whether it cost a lot or not. Tapered sides are a good start... and a buckle that's not too boring and not too ornate. Remember it's not about wearing brand-names... it's about creating an image that's simple, strong, functional, with an obvious quality, and understated elegance.


Shoes : For some people your shoes can be an indication of your 'footing' in life.... an expression of your character. So consider shoes that are strong and edgy with an understated elegance (chisel-toe or square-toe). If you prefer a rounded-toe, consider a shoe with a solid extended sole to compensate for the softer look.


In summary : 

Every business wants to appeal to a broad range of customers. So you will be more successful if the way you dress projects the character traits that your employer values.

Some co-workers might not be too keen on you changing the status quo with the way you dress. But if you make a joke of it youself, it can disarm their attempts to bring you down. 

And finally, when you're developing your own expression of Alpha-styling, remember :
  • keep it simple
  • make it strong
  • wear functional items
  • that have an obvious quality
  • and overall it will create an understated elegance.
It's a Primal Thing.

For more insight into choosing shirts and ties, click on the link below :