Today, I just have to rant.
And I know it’s a rant we’ve heard before.
But, it’s a rant worth repeating.
Earlier this week, I was out visiting a friend at one of the bigger Fortune 100 companies here in Minneapolis. In the lobby, I usually come across a potpourri (I just wanted to say “potpourri” in a blog post) of agency vendors. Most, given the organization, will be dressed in suits, dresses, pant suits or a jacket and jeans (this is the dress code I take on a pretty regular basis).
But, every once in a while I’ll run into a few agency “creatives”, pitching a few ideas to a client at this company.
And earlier this week, I ran into two such creatives.
And guess what they were wearing? Hoodies, untucked shirts, jeans and Nikes.
I hope they weren’t meeting with the CMO.
Is this where we’re at with today’s business dress code for agency partners?
Jeans, hoodies and tennis shoes on a client visit?
I get that young people operate a little differently. I know the Millennials play by a different set of rules. I get that Zuck and Google have changed everything when it comes to corporate culture.
But, as a consultant (and an employee on the corporate side in the past), I have to take issue.
I’m calling for the abolishment of hoodies at client meetings.
As a consultant, your appearance says a lot about who you are, and who you represent. Whether you like it or not.
Let me give you one scenario: You’re meeting with a younger client. He/she has commented on the fact that he/she is jealous of your agency dress code. So, you wear your hoodie. In fact, you wear it proudly.
But, what if during your meeting with that younger client, you get pulled into a last-minute meeting with his/her boss which is the SVP of marketing? Still think the hoodie is going to play in *that* meeting?
Also: What about the fact that you’re walking around a Fortune 100 company where most everyone else is wearing what I would consider “business dress” and you’re wearing a hoodie, jeans and tennis shoes?
Again: People are judging you on what you wear, whether you like it or not. Back at the agency ranch–hoodie plays fine. When meeting with one of your larger clients? Not so much.
Like I said, as a consultant, I have strong feelings on this issue. Here’s my thinking:
- Always overdress. I know Millennials will roll their eyes at this, but it’s been an old adage since there were old adages for a reason. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “I feel very over-dressed” in a client meeting.
- Senior cxecs still respect the dress code. When was the last time you saw a senior exec of a Fortune 500 company that WASN’T named Facebook or Google wearing a hoodie? Most execs I’ve been around and worked with over the years still dress up. Every. Single. Day. So, I get that you want to wear jeans and tennies to the client meeting, but just know that if you do, that senior exec is shaping all sorts of perceptions about you–solely based on what you’re wearing. And, they may not be positive.
- Do we even know how execs feel about the new age dress code? I would say “no.” Every time this topic comes up, we hear en force from Millennials. I think everyone gets it by now–young people want to dress comfortably at work. But, you know what, Millennials don’t make up the lion’s share of executives at Fortune 500 companies just yet. So, for the next 15-20 years, the boomers and Gen Xers are still, effectively, in charge. And, they (largely) grew up with a very formal dress code. And (I’m taking a wild guess here), they probably don’t love the fact that their younger counterparts want/get to wear jeans and hoodies to work every day. So, while personally, I’m on board with the more casual work attire (believe me, as a solo, I’m in), when meeting with execs and clients, I ALWAYS err on the side of dressing up. It just makes good business sense (for the reasons I’ve mentioned above).
Again: I’m not debating the desire to be comfortable at work. What do you think I wear when I’m working from home each day? But, meetings with clients? That’s when the game face (and dress) comes out. Different days require different dress.
Thoughts? I know you have them.
Note: photo courtesy of LoboStudio Hamburg.