Be sure to build, not break, your brand

In recent years, there has been a definite trend towards “dressing down” in the corporate world, and not only on Casual Friday. It’s becoming rare these days to see men in suits and ties, and women in smart business suits; and many would applaud that, especially given South Africa’s climate. But, while there’s nothing wrong with dressing more comfortably; there’s also no harm in taking stock every now and then of whether you are taking it too far and damaging your own brand by doing so.

The old adage, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” springs to mind when one sees how some translate “casual” into work attire. Call me old fashioned, but holey jeans, flip flops and bare midriffs (no matter how toned) have no place in the business world.

Each of us has a personal brand and how we dress when we go to work is the personification of that brand. Your clothes, shoes, grooming and accessories tell your employer, colleagues and clients much about you and may even affect their perception of your skills and qualities.

A cursory Google search provides lots of evidence from researchers as to how you dress can actually affect your performance and even your mood.

According to the Reader’s Digest (quoting a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology), dressing in clothing that is associated with intelligence, like doctor’s coats or pilot’s uniforms, may not only make you look smarter but may actually make you act smarter too. Researchers gave doctor’s lab coats to subjects (none of whom were doctors) and then asked them to perform a series of complex tasks. Those in white coats made significantly fewer mistakes than the people in their street clothes. The scientists then repeated the experiment but this time gave lab coats to all the participants. However, they told half the people they were doctor’s coats while the other half were told they were paint smocks. Again, the people in the “doctor’s coats” performed better on the tests, which shows that it’s not just what you wear but also what you think of what you wear that matters.

As a contractor, you are constantly reselling yourself to clients. Make the investment in yourself and take the time to think about your image and what you are telling your clients and colleagues about yourself by the way you dress.

© Tony McManus, McManus Consulting.  |  Image created by