By Duff Watkins and Jean Woo
Are you like Clark Kent?
Do you itch for a phone booth so you can change clothes and get on with your real work?
Before you shed your threads or adopt the ‘business casual’ look, consider the power that a suit gives you.
A suit endorses your authority in two ways.
It conceals visual distractions that could undermine your presentation and simultaneously reveals the body parts with which you communicate best, your face and hands.
Think of it like this. Your suit is your persona. It’s the visual symbol that you present publicly to the world. This besuited persona is not the real you, but it is a genuine representation of you. It’s that ‘Clark Kent’ aspect of you that shows up at work, has a job to do, and does it, uh, superbly.
Yeah, you say, but it’s uncomfortable and I’m more productive in casual clothes.
Believe it or not, the suit is designed for comfort. But not your comfort. It’s intended to comfort others. It’s why airline pilots wear their jackets while strolling through the airport. Their uniform inspires confidence and soothes the nerves of anxious passengers. But when it’s time to actually fly, off comes the jacket (just like Superman). The point is pilots must be both able to fly planes and appear able to fly planes.
Fashions come and go but the suit endures because of its power to signal rank and status.
After all, nothing proclaims peasant origins faster than buttonless, shapeless, loose fitting garments
Baggy, relaxed clothing is fine when fleeing the authorities, but it won’t help you become one.
A suit endorses your authority.
But why does your authority need endorsement in the first place?
Hollywood has the answer.
When the $250m movie Superman Returns was filmed in Australia, costume attendants took numerous photographs of every actor and extra before every scene to ensure that every costume was positioned exactly the same way for every take.
In show biz it’s called visual continuity and it’s the secret of establishing authority. Hollywood knows that an image must be projected consistently if it’s to be accepted as true.
Same goes for you. If you wish to be seen as competent and taken seriously as a professional, your audience must believe what it sees. Whatever role you play at work, the suit is your business costume and you must not only act the part, you must look the part.
So choose your suit; choose your identity.
And never underestimate the impact of either.
Just ask Clark.
Are you more productive with jacket off, sleeves rolled up, and tie loosened?
Studies reveal the productivity of formal dress:
There is a link between productivity and dress.
The surprise is that the link is between your clothes and other people’s productivity.
Your sharp image enhances their productivity just as their sharp image enhances yours.
So since we’re all in this life together, give the people around you a boost by dressing well.
Look sharp to stay sharp.
Dr Duff Watkins
is Director, Asia/Pacific of the Cornerstone International Group. His articles appear in Men’s Style Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, Company Director Magazine, Melbourne Herald Sun and many others.
is author of Executive Style. dress essentials for men and women. Once a corporate lawyer, she is now Director of Personal Brand Management. They are co-authors of Dress For Effect.: secrets of sartorial splendour