Want to Dress for Success? Ditch the Expensive Suits and Get to Work
The value of your clothing has nothing to do with the value of your work and ideas.
My father Harold has worked in the leather goods industry for nearly 50 years. He never owned a suit. Rather, he sketched designs, worked with cutting machines and built a production plant with his bare hands. He didn’t have a college degree. And, he made a good living. We certainly were not the richest people in the neighborhood but we had a comfortable home, food on the table, etc. He had much to be proud of.
I mention my father as a corollary to the much-understated notion that you do not need to go to college to get a good job. Nor must you wear a suit in order to sustain a good living. While Western society has put its emphasis on human capital development to foster a knowledge and services based economy, some jobs simply cannot be offshored. You can’t have your briefcase shipped to China to have your initials monogrammed on it and shipped back on a tanker.
The stigma that stems from what you wear is a reflection of who you are is misguided at best, if not pathetic. At my company ROYCE, we take pride in our employees dressing however they want, as we find that they work more efficiently when thy feel comfortable in their clothes.
Even when we have supply chain, logistics or even client visitors, we still do not enforce an upgraded dress code. For example, we rent out a Michelin-worthy steakhouse every year for our holiday party and there are employees that show up in company sweatshirts. There is even an employee who dresses in drag.
I could not care less. We prefer authenticity. As a matter of fact, we encourage creativity and individuality. It may begin with choice of garments, but ultimately it leads to employees feeling more empowered to bring ideas to me because they feel accepted for their choices, rather than denigrated or compelled to be something they are not.
I am not my father. I have multiple degrees from internationally renowned universities and rarely get the opportunity to work with my hands. But, I still channel my inner-blue collar craftsmanship spirit. Our business has scaled significantly in recent years but I certainly have not forgotten where I come from. Even at meetings with the fashion director of a luxury fashion department store or at press events alongside the president of a major department store chain, I do not see the need to be something I’m not.
Wearing a Brioni or Canali suit is not a measure of my success and definitely not a measure of my self-worth. Rather, sitting in front of my iMac in Nike sweats and a ripped McGill basketball hoodie is who I am. Ultimately, I want my employees and everyone I engage with to think “William Bauer is a man of character…of integrity, that’s someone I want to do business with.”\
In New York City, it’s easy to find empty suits. It’s much harder to find one full of good values.
William Bauer is the managing director of ROYCE, a handcrafted American accessories brand based in New York City. His small-business marketing and entrepreneurial acumen have been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, BBC, CNN Money, and other prominent publications.