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Before you get dressed. Does it really matter what I wear for work these days? Some thoughts about personal branding.


It maybe unjust to judge a book by its cover, but its still what we do - nearly all of the time. 
Today it is much easier to be confused about what to wear in the workplace.  There seems to be much advice on the internet about what you can and cannot wear in the workplace, but I've struggled to find anything quickly that focuses on creating a sense of your own style and branding.  This is a major omission, and by the look of many people in the workplace a topic which many have not given consideration! (Joke... almost).
If your totally minted already, or perhaps have precious little care for success, progression or personal development then you might choose to skip the remainder of this article. However, those of you that care, and who want to avoid stagnation would do well to cast a thought in the direction of developing the brand which is you.   
Yes it totally matters how and what you deliver for an organisation (I’m not suggesting otherwise), but careful thought given to your appearance can contribute to your good efforts in a valuable way.  Mark Twain famously miss quoted the saying manners maketh the man replacing it with “Clothes maketh the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”  Maybe he has a point?
If you were a small business, you would be very careful to think through what your companies image says about the type of business that you are or aspire to be.  As individuals we can do the same by asking what impression of ourselves we want to give those we work with.  
Here are a few things you could do or ask that will help you bring some focus to this:
  1. Start with a blank sheet and write a page full of any words that you would associate with yourself.  So for example you might write:  Fun, smart, energetic, intelligent, creative, musical, fast, friendly, communicative, authoritative, youthful, successful etc. 
  2. Take a second sheet and note values that you hold dearly.  So; trust, honesty, beauty, balance, generosity, gratitude etc. Here’s a great list of 418 values I found. 
  3. Take a final blank sheet and describe (or draw if you like) how these influences might shape your own personal brand.  I like to split the page (In/Out) and keep half for things that I should keep away from.  So for this example I might write:
    • IN:  Suits that break the mould a little, slightly more colourful or those with ‘out-of-the-norm’ detailing.  Current glasses - what the youth are trending towards. Pointy shoes. When possible open neck, if a tie then a very smart one.  The best watch I can. Shirts with French cuffs and a creative pair of cufflinks.  
    • Out:  The type of suit most people wear.  Nondescript glasses.  Anything that’s starting to look worn.  Ties when possible.  Dressing too youthful.  Watches or jewellery that looks like they are out of a Christmas cracker.
Your version could be very very different to this, but when you’ve finished it’s vital that you ask yourself whether what you have described is acceptable with the cultural norms of the environment you operate.  Personal branding needs to be a fine tuning exercise, not a trend setting endeavour.  Try to avoid as well the temptation to visit the high street and spend an uncomfortable amount on your personal repositioning.  Work it in slowly over time, just using your analysis to inform future changes in your wardrobe.  
Have fun with it, experiment and build branding that you are proud to own.  
Bob Bannister
Twitter: @bbbannister @iManage
Twitter: @bbbannister @iManage

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