BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 20 OCT 2012


Last week started with a small group and ended with about 100 for three hours in the Grand Hotel, Brighton. They came from all over the world. Those two book-ended a couple of sessions at the sharp end of corporate London with the clever, ambitious, assertive delegates you can expect there. Most were Generation Y (under 35 years old).

Every session included, at some point, personal branding. You could call it impact, presence or first impressions. This inevitably leads to debate around appropriate dress in the professional/corporate environment. It's the most controversial element of any of the facilitation I do, because it is intensely personal. Who wants to be told they get dressed in the dark? Try it one day and see if anyone notices (I had a friend who won a "bad taste tie" competition one Friday, even though he never knew about it.)

A brief caveat: there are some corporates that do not play this game. Or at least the uniform is different and has a visceral appeal to the young, creative and bright. Those from Google, Apple, Saatchi and the like can now go to The Pod and put the Alessi kettle on.

If you work at the more traditional end of the corporate/professional world it's more about taking a pile of binders via the lift to a partner than riding your mini-scooter along the blue corridor to the Thinking Pool. Nailing exactly how to appeal to key influencers, or if you prefer getting all-important gravitas, is something you need to attend to.

The good news is that it's possible to look the part while inhabiting a sartorial skin you are comfortable in. You don't have to look like your dad or your mum, but you do need to play the game. Two of the best comments from Gen Y in the past week? "No porn shoes" and "no visible chest hair". (If you need that explained along gender lines you're past saving.)

Here are three general tips, three for the boys and three for the girls. Feel free to throw your Converse at the screen of your mobile device at your leisure.


A little more conservative than you would like; a little more expensive than you can afford.

The devil is in the details; make them work for you and accessorise well.

Be immaculate; grooming, grooming, grooming.



Spend more on your always polished shoes; black shoes, mostly.

Your suit should be dark, and fit you; the light grey suit is for weddings in the Caribbean (navy blue always works).

Designer stubble? Give me a break; get up five minutes earlier and shave.


Use colour; in jewellery for sure but also in shoes, suits and coats (maybe not all on the same day).

Fashion fades, but style remains (Coco Channel); be fashionable for sure, but professional.

Tits or legs, never both; you know what that means...

I was an architecture student in the 1980s and know what it is like to want to be an individual. Adam Ant, David Sylvian and Bowie have a lot to answer for in the few photographs of me that survive from that period.

By all means look to make an impact in every environment- in fact it's essential you do- by attending to what is the first impression you make in a room: how you're dressed. But be smart when you are being smart. Girls, Gaga can turf up anywhere clad in streaky bacon and top it off with a Carmen Miranda fruit hat. If nothing else it is useful late in the evening when you get the munchies. And boys, Bono can sport those daft yellow wrap-arounds whenever he fancies.

Do go for it but remember: you're not Bono, you're not Gaga.


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about the author

Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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