“It is both delusional and stupid to think that clothes don’t really matter and we should all wear whatever we want. Most people don’t take clothing seriously enough, but whether we should or not, clothes do talk to us and we make decisions based on people’s appearances.”
– G. Bruce Boyer
When I was a younger man I wore my hair long, I dressed almost exclusively from the school’s wardrobe department and looked to all the world like a foppish pimp on one day or a weird pansexual adventurer the next, wearing as I did a mix of tight fitting ladies’ blouses from the 70s, fur coats and flares. I fondly imagined mine was a look that said, ‘I don’t give a tuppence what you think’. In reality I suspect it was a look that screamed, ‘I’m a dilettante turd play acting at individuality’. On many levels I really didn’t care what others thought, as long as they thought. However with maturity and time and marriage I’ve managed to shake the tedious fads of my youth and have come to understand that if you want to join in the reindeer games standing on the sidelines with a big red hooter isn’t the way to do it.
I’m continually surprised by people arriving at interviews dressed like the bastard love child of Huggy Bear and Compo. No matter where you are in your career from day one through to retirement there needs to be an innate understanding that you have to dress the part. It is a sad but undeniable fact that as a species we have evolved to prize the aesthetic of beauty and conformity. Too ugly or too other and you’ll be condemned to a life of the hermit sitting away from the fire circle. Fortunately it’s a pretty broad church when it comes to beauty, but we are much less forgiving of someone who doesn’t appear to have made an effort. People, not unreasonably, draw conclusions about the level of effort you may employ in your professional life. You can rail against that but ultimately if you want to be part of the game you have to play it.
So when it comes to interviews or meetings you need to know what the rules are.
1/ Wash, brush your hair and if it’s long tie it back. People respond to facial cues which is much harder if there’s a wall of hair.
2/ Clean & ironed, shined and buffed shoes, a tie is never going to offend anyone in conventional circles, a lack of one may.
3/ Make sure it fits. Looking like you’ve borrowed a parents’ suit is never a good look. Well tailored trousers and a smart shirt is preferable to a shabby or oversized suit.
4/ Clean and clipped finger nails – for the handshake, they don’t want to recoil upon seeing your bag lady talons.
5/ Don’t chew gum or reek of smoke when you turn up. One makes you look too Fonz to be taking it seriously the other makes it look like you are going to be taking lots of breaks. Neither is a positive first impression to make.
You never know what might trip you up in an interview so don’t get caught out on those things that are within your power. So scrub up and put your best and most highly polished foot forward.