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What should you wear to impress when speaking?

I did a keynote this week where the audience was mainly retired people. The difference between the various generations came up. One of the aspects of difference between generations is the dress code that younger people have as opposed to older people.

I have an acquaintance who is a stylist expert. She helps men and women choose clothes that suit them for the purpose of their industry and needs. She explained that for any man working in the corporate world, she believes the formula is…

  • a tailored suit
  • two pairs of trousers
  • 7 shirts
  • some good ties
  • maybe cuff links

Now that surprised me a little because the conversation was centred around lawyers. I do work with a legal firm where the age range goes from the 20s to mid-60s. It made me think about the young men who are in the firm.


They’re all highly qualified lawyers and very competent or they wouldn’t be employed. But some of them are not clean-shaven and they have the ragged look, a bit like Boris Johnson where their hair hasn’t seen a brush for a while. Sometimes their crumpled shirts were not tucked into their trousers. But the thing is, they actually looked fine because it suited their age group.


This made me wonder about what the dress standards are. It’s a bit like wearing a tie. I wrote a blog a while ago about whether ties were in or out. The debate is still raging. But I think the debate has now moved on from ties to other aspects of clothing, or what type of clients they’re trying to impress.


I have one particular lawyer in mind who is rough-shaven, his unironed shirt hangs out, but to be honest, when he speaks he is full of authority, and he is quite clearly a competent lawyer.


So I wonder, did judgements get made about his clothing? If so, these would have been instantly overturned as soon as he started speaking in meetings. Does the initial judgement linger?


The issue of what people should wear is an ongoing debate. I wouldn’t dare to suggest what women should wear as I don’t feel qualified to make any observations about that.


But in relation to young men, there are certainly some different views about what is right and what is wrong, and what is appropriate.