Should I look all business-like or should I express myself?

Dear Aunty B,

How important is it to look the part as opposed to expressing your personality in business?

We are in a creative industry and a typical day can include meetings with corporate clients, to rolling up sleeves and carrying around boxes.

I dress fashionably (I wouldn’t go as far as suit shorts which are awful!) but I do like to express myself in what I wear and reckon my clients should take me as I am. But the other day I caught a client giving me a second glance with a bit of disapproval and it got me wondering. I almost didn’t write to you because I reckon I know what you will say!

Si,
London

Dear Si,

Look, when you started your own business you thought you were buying the freedom to be yourself and do it your way. Huh! Like all of us you found you had to adapt, bit by bit by bit. Why? Well, you know what I am about to say. Dress for the occasion just like your mum used to tell you. If your client is a bank, it is suit and tie. If you are visiting a politician it is stuffy suit and tie. If you are visiting a senior bureaucrat your shirt should be so stiff around the neck it cuts off your windpipe. If you have a day moving boxes wear jeans. See? It’s not so hard is it?

The aim is to look like your client because people like to do business with people who look like them. Why do you think so many ASX companies still don’t have women on their boards? Mind you I am not suggesting here that you dress up as a women.

Lastly you might be interested to know that despite the shift towards more casual dress for men, the three piece suit that they favour in Mad Men is back! Trend Hunter says some business men are emulating the traditional career men who used their clothes to express authority, power and style.

Good luck,
Your Aunty B

To read more Aunty B advice, click here.

Email your questions, problems and issues to auntyb@smartcompany.com.au right now!

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