Category Archives: Attire

Sports Coats

Let’s get this straight right up front. I am a dinosaur. I know it. I am proud of it. I will probably never change. Okay, now that we have that out of the way you may be wondering why I am so unapologetically proclaiming my status and how I can in fact prove that I am what I claim to be. It is very simple. I still wear a sports coat to work.

I know, I know. How utterly old school and last century of me. But you know what? I don’t care. I still believe that the “office” is a place where professionals go to interact and conduct business. To me professional attire and business conduct go together. It is difficult for me to ever associate blue jeans, sneakers and tee shirts with professional and business. I won’t even pretend to apologize if this stance offends you. I have never been accused of being particularly politically correct.

I do not long for the days of suits, ties and professional attire, for those of us that can remember those days. I don’t wish to return to the days of casual Fridays which begat sloppy Fridays which seemed destined to degenerate into underwear and bathrobe Fridays before the entire thing was junked in favor of the current wear anything you want as long as you are decently clothed rules. I would simply like to remind everyone that having a job is not an entitlement, it is a privilege. We are professionals and are here to conduct business. We ought to dress like it.

Now with all the issues besetting the business world such as high unemployment, enormous public and private debt loads, contracting markets and increasingly fierce competition, you might think that I would have more to talk about, or rail against then what I might consider to be some slovenly trends in our office haberdashery. I do, but I thought I would start at the very basics.

I remember seeing an instructional video by the great Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi, who upon arriving in Green Bay got the team together and held a team meeting. The team had suffered through several losing seasons before he arrived. He told the team that he was going to start at the basics. He told the team how they would wear their uniform, how they would dress and how they would conduct themselves, both on and off the field.

He then held up a football and continued his instructional lecture when he said: “This is a football.” Before he could go any further he was asked by the team if he could “go a little slower.”

Football players. Go figure.

However Lombardi did go on to lead the Packers to several world championships.

John Wooden, the ten time national champion basketball coach at UCLA had similar approaches to uniforms, attire and conduct. He is even reported to have instructed his team in how to properly lace and tie their shoes. He too understood that how you dressed and looked affected what you did and how you performed. This approach seemed to work out well for him and his team. As I said before, ten national championships means you knew how to do things right.

I am not proposing that we need to return to the days of dress codes. I am proposing that we as leaders should want to set an example for our teams as to how we want to be perceived and how we wish to conduct ourselves and our business. This would come under the definition of leading by example.

I will illustrate my point. Many of us at one time or another has been in the job market interviewing for a new position. What did you wear to that job interview? Did you wear the jeans, sneakers and shirt that you are now wearing? I would hazard the guess and say of course not. You probably wore at least slacks, a button down shirt, dress shoes and a sports coat. Depending on your approach you could have been wearing a suit and a tie.

It seems that you are expected to dress professionally when you are looking for a job, but that you no longer feel the need to dress that way once you have the job. I wonder why that is? Does familiarity breed contempt? Remember my point about entitlement. Just because you currently have a job doesn’t mean that you are entitled to keep that job.

Another example would be what attire you choose when you meet with customers. I think the same examples apply. It seems everybody is just a little bit more dressed up when they are meeting with a customer than when they are just “working”. Again, I wonder why that is?

Diana Bocco looked at the role clothing plays in conveying human identity in an article she contributed to the ezine Curiosity, which is part of the Discovery channel family of information. In it she states: “…in many professional fields, a conservative, classic look makes you look more capable and showcases your professionalism.”

Nowadays with the internet anyone is capable of finding a quote to support whatever position they choose to adopt. That is part of the fun of the internet. It has however been a longstanding proposition that “Clothes make the man (and with a seldom seen from me bow to political correctness) …or woman”. When I go to see my doctor, I want to see him in a long white lab coat, preferably with his name embroidered on the left chest pocket, not in a leather biker jacket with chains and big black boots. When I go to have my car worked on, I would expect and hope to see the mechanic in a set of overalls, preferably greasy, not in the tutu and slippers of Mikhail Baryshnikov at the height of his ballet prowess.

Wow. I may have some trouble getting that last picture out of my mind.

When I am conducting business I like to wear a sport coat. I also prefer long sleeve button down shirts, slacks and leather dress shoes. I do make a nod to casual styles by wearing loafers instead of lace up shoes. Just call me wild and reckless when it comes to foot wear. I am also not saying that anybody else has to dress like I do. As I have noted we are past the time of mandatory dress codes.

Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of the Desert Storm action has said that leaders lead. I like that. I think a small and basic place to start is to set the example for what to wear for business. It doesn’t take much effort. I don’t think it is any more expensive than any other type of attire. I do think is says a lot about who you are and the type of respect you wish to show both the people you work with and your job in general.

I also think that it is an infinitely preferable trend to try and set, as opposed to the guy who is currently walking around in the office wearing “Crocs” rubber shoes, because they are “comfortable”.