The recent coverage about Ofsted planning to place a greater focus on “professional dress and conduct” amongst teachers has reignited the Alchemis office debate about the appropriate dress code for the office.
You see, I may have a review meeting with my Shoreditch-based creative digital agency in the morning and then find out that my corporate communications client wants to pop in on the way back from a new business meeting in the city to give me some feedback on how it went.
Our Shoreditch creatives are working with clients in the film and music industry, so the laid back end of casual is right for them, whereas suited and booted is spot on for my corporate communications client.
Inevitably at Alchemis we opt for somewhere near the middle ground for most client meetings. These are current clients I’m talking about.
On a first meeting with a potential new client I think it’s a different story and I think most of the agencies we work with would also take a different approach when meeting a prospect for the first time. Although not all of my colleagues agree, I would always want to err on the side of formality. Even if I’m meeting a new creative agency, I know that whilst they might be in T-shirts and jeans most of the time, they will still smarten up when they are going out to ask for new business themselves. It’s therefore likely that they’ll rightly might expect me (as a potential new business partner) to do the same.
Of course some of the creative agencies we work with are targeting industry sectors that themselves would rarely been seen in anything smarter than a shirt with a collar, but even these prospects might expect an agency touting for business to smarten up.
For me it’s not about a suit being smarter than jeans. A crumpled suit and badly ironed shirt give a worse impression than someone who is more casually dressed but who has put some thought to what they are wearing. As for those who snub a suit as “too corporate” for the worlds they live in, I would answer that as far us men are concerned I have always found that the best opportunity to make a creative statement is with a tie. However, it is also true that pushing the boundaries in this area can sometimes backfire. I remember a particularly gut churning combination of pink tie and orange shirt that had colleagues asking me if I had got dressed in the dark that day. Nevertheless the tie is a lifeline from the uniform drudgery of the world of suits. That and a nice scarlet silk lining of course!
Most importantly, if you feel you look good then it’s a confidence boost which is crucial to create the right energy levels when you’re meeting people for the first time.
Once a relationship is established it’s a different dynamic so a less formal approach is probably right in an on-going relationship. However, it must be worth making a bit more effort for a first meeting.
Beyond creating a first impression which should be the right balance between professional and approachable, what you wear ought to be far less important than what you say and more importantly what you do. The same surely applies for teachers as well?