I just finished watching a discussion between Christian Barker and Karl-Edwin Guerre and was struck by two things. One, that both were in signature looks. That makes sense as both men are authorities on communication and the power of style. And two, that I am sitting here in a hoodie and beat up khakis (laundry day and no video meetings.)
Both of which begs the question: will business dress weather the sea change brought about by working from home?
I don’t think that the one day coast-to-coast roundtrip flight to visit a client will be as prevalent as it once was. I see Zoom taking that over in the corporate world. But, as my tailor and I discussed yesterday, that still means looking like a successful business person, at least from the waist up.
Does the birth of the Zoom meeting mean the death of the suit? Yes and no.
I think that a suit will be reserved for Very Important Occasions. (As is the tie these days.) There are certain men who will continue to dress well. Newscasters, for example, who are meant to convey trustworthiness, professionalism, and authority. They may not be wearing trousers, but from the waist up — all business. Heads of State and Congressmen, Parliamentarians, lawyers and the like will continue to be formally dressed for the same reasons. And, #rakesathome will always put forth their stylish best; it’s in their DNA.
But for the majority of the white collar world, I think that COVID-19 may have been the coup de grâce after the killing thrust of the business casual dagger.
However, we’ve all seen the studies that prove that dressing well has a positive effect on productivity, confidence and mood. So we know making an effort pays off.
So what will your business wear look like?
A few paragraphs above I referred to newscasters who need to look professional on camera. I think that they offer a perfect example of the more formal end of the spectrum. If you’re going into a very important meeting, a coat and tie is indispensable. It says that you take this very seriously and it can even the playing field somewhat when opposite a C-Suite executive. (A good trick is to sit on the tail of your coat and keep it buttoned. It keeps you neat for the camera.)
For everyday, I recommend a business casual wardrobe of one or two sportcoats, sweaters, long sleeve polos, tailored shirts and comfortable trousers. And don’t neglect your footwear. While I may not be wearing wingtips (or socks), I do have my house shoes. These are slip-ons like loafers, drivers, Belgian Shoes and Kilim slippers. Wearing work clothes helps you to separate your workday hours from your off-hours, and will have you at the ready for an unscheduled Facetime call from your team.
Default to t-shirts and shorts all the time and the days will begin to blur together. Walking away from your computer and changing into your after-work clothing sends a clear signal that it’s ok to start to unwind. Take it from a long-time work-from-homer, set some boundaries. (Laundry day aside.)