Can there be success outside the dress code?
As a rambunctious adolescent I often proclaimed that how I look on the outside should not matter, not in school and definitely not in business. Well, I found out the hardest way that that is wrong. Your dress code does matter like you wouldn’t believe making your first impression on people.
In our society of today where just about anything goes as far as clothes (or the lack thereof), skin and body alterations and accessories etc are concerned you would believe that our outward appearance doesn’t matter much. Well it does. Let me share the experience of an airline pilot. I am paraphrasing his account and I can only share that I was waiting on the same airplane making it to the airport so that we could take off with it later that day.
- “When I wear my uniform everybody wants to take to me. I can talk to just about everyone, because they want to talk to me.”
- “Wearing my nice uniform lets me speak to beautiful women that would not give me a second look in my street clothes.”
- “People assume that because I wear a pilot’s uniform, I belong with the big airline because the plane carries the logo of it. Not so at all, but they assume that anyway.”
- “Wearing the uniform people are on their best behavior and usually extremely courteous.”
- “People think just because I wear this pilot uniform that I am more educated than them. Does that really mean that?”
- “A pilot’s uniform seems to suggest that I make so much more money than the average person. I make less than my brother in-law who is a truck driver. We are essentially on the road the same amount of time and to come to think of it I am just about doing the same job as him.”
- “Sir, you wear a suit. I would think – just like any other person – that you are quite well educated and that you have a well-paying career.”
Fascinating, huh? Do not get sidetracked by what he said and that some of his points of view may be questionable. The bottom line of all the comments is that our outward appearance (dress code) does matter. It makes no difference how right or wrong the position may be, we will always be judged quietly by others. They are the judge, the jury, and the executioner all wrapped up in one.
Is it impossible to regain lost ground and get people beyond our first impression? No it isn’t, but it takes many an interaction to do that and if your first contact is all you’ve got, well, then what are you going to do?
PS: Here is a Wall Street Journal article (click here for reading the article) about how appearance doesn’t matter. That is only true when you are part of a tribe and a certain dress code / appearance is expected of you even though it may be viewed as intolerable by another social group.