The tradition of men donning a bowler hat to do business died out in the 1980s. Is the suit on course to go the same way?
In the Blackswan office, our CEO doesn’t wear a tie. Our head of Research and Development rarely goes more than a few weeks without changing her hair colour. But does this mean they’re any more – or less – capable of doing their job? Do you really need to wear a suit to be good at business? Does wearing a tie make us work harder?
A suit has long been the unofficial ‘uniform’ for the working businessman, but it masks any individuality.
By allowing workers to wear clothes of their choosing (within reason – we’re not talking pyjamas and jeans here), it enables clients to see the personality of the person so you know who you are dealing with, rather than dealing with a uniform.
One argument is that your attire is a direct reflection of your behaviour within your role. If you are adventurous about what you wear – the more likely you are to be pushing towards benefitting the company.
Those who stand out are more likely to be remembered. Maurice, our CEO, has a penchant for cowboy boots. You’re unlikely to forget him (for many reasons).
We’ve long been told that it should be what you do and not what you look like that’s important, and of course there’s some truth in that, but whether we like it or not, the way we look can say a lot about us before we’ve even opened our mouths.
Recently a story went viral after a female worker was told she couldn’t wear a headscarf as it was ‘unprofessional’, despite the fact that her company doesn’t have a dress code.
She filed a harassment complaint against her boss who then introduced a new dress code banning headscarves and other items, so in retaliation, she decided to turn up to work in a range of different cosplay outfits that still adhered to the new policy.
But the question remains – would a headscarf really make any difference to how this woman carried out her work?
An image is worth a thousand words, and we are likely to be remembered for how we look rather than the content of what we say. But there is growing evidence to suggest that appearance also influences how a person performs.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose success is well documented, shuns suits and typical business attire in favour of hoodies and t shirts in what some say is a display of power.
In a change organisation such as Blackswan, it’s important to look both professional and individual, but wearing a suit doesn’t automatically make you good at business.