There’s more to clothes in the science of first impressions
There is more to the way you look and dress in the science of first impressions
THE Italian and French can always tell you’re not one of them by the way you dress. Equally we can always spot a German (shorts, black socks and sandals), a Russian (micro bikinis and high heels – and that’s just the men) and an American (runners, fanny packs and baseball caps). Even the de rigueur dress style worn by digital natives is a uniform. To the untrained eye it looks like everyone is using the same mix of T-shirts, jeans and runners, however, Queena Kim, from American Public Media’s Marketplace program, took to the Silicon Valley streets with an expert to deconstruct the valley’s dress code. Like countries and workplaces, Silicon Valley is full of tribes – engineers, designers, product managers, salespeople, entrepreneurs and VCs (venture capitalists). Each tribe has its uniform. For instance, a hoodie signals young talent, a zippered V-neck sweater a VC and T-shirt but no jeans and basic sneakers, an engineer.
Pamela Golbin, chief curator of the Musée de la Mode et du Textile says, “The art of dressing every morning becomes, whether consciously or not, a declaration of stance, aesthetics, consumption, beliefs and class, identifying us a member of a particular tribe.”
Companies have tribes. The bigger the company the more the dress signals how close to the chief you are. Forget power dressing. People at the bottom can tell who you are not just by your clothes, but what by sort of car you drive, whether you have a parking spot, how close you park to the executive-only lift, the size of your office and, more importantly, how close to it is to the chief.
The concept of power dressing came from John Molloy’s 1975 bestseller Dress For Success. In his updated books on men and women dressing for success he comes to the same basic, depressing, conclusions. As one reviewer wrote: “women (and men) fare better in conservative companies with no casual dress. They must dress in conservative men’s colours in natural fibres, primarily wool, and must have a very upper middle class look.”
Smart companies try to say “we want our employees to bring their whole selves to work with them”. Around town the war cry is to do with innovation and creativity. Just to prove it companies let you dress down once a week. As Sydney professor Stan Glaser says of casual Fridays: “They’re giving them the guise of individuality when it’s just another form of regulation. They are trying to pretend it’s a signal of democracy but it’s not.”
Things get harder at the top end of town. And it doesn’t matter if that town is London, New York, Melbourne or Sydney. Just like the Italians and French, the real power people can always tell you’re not one of them by the way you dress. For men it’s simple: dress like Daniel Craig, Cary Grant or Sean Connery for your next board presentation.
Research says that the darker the suit, the more authoritative you appear. Only black shoes, never brown. White or light blue shirts and plain ties. Avoiding hula dancers on at least the front of the tie will help. Black socks are good. Happy socks are bad. Hair on the head is good. Hair on the face is bad. Pinstripes are good for men and women. Accessories, particularly in Asia, say a lot. Kmart sells really good watches for $20 but Omega and Rolex are better. You can buy a pre-worn Omega Speedmaster or Rolex Oyster Perpetual for less than $5000. For women, a rarely used Cartier Tank is about $3500 or, to make a very subtle statement, a vintage a Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso is about $10,000. You can buy new gold knot cuff links from Brooks Brothers ($95) or if you’re a bit
“...Chris and Mark model our new-season hoodies in grey and, er, dark grey...”