BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 27 JUN 2013


There is a TV ad for a 72 hour deodorant. That's three days between skooshes, showering and T shirts. My guess is it's aimed at young men with busy lives- lots of five-a-sides, Breezer drinking and XBox mastery- but no girlfriend. So is this post.

Don't fall for it, boys. And don't fall for the notion that your talent affords you the luxury of turfing up to your work looking like Nirvana's tour manager. A few years before Kurt Cobain entertained us with his moody pop tune I was in the Dining Hall Disco of Strathclyde Uni in a suede zip-up retro number, skinny black jeans and white grandpa shirt; turquoise Paisley cravat (my sister's); brown faux alligator skin pointy shoes; fluorescent socks; maybe there was a brown trilby and almost certainly lip gloss. (Japan, Talking Heads, Heaven 17 & Michael Jackson, if you're interested.) I was magnificent, but you had to be there. Twenty five years later I am ordering three suits from my tailor: two navy, one grey. Much has gone on in between, fortunately unrecorded.

Of all the things I discuss with delegates and L&D people, acceptable work gear is the most controversial. I am acutely aware that the ground is shifting, but seriously, be careful out there. Perception is reality; respect is important. You may bridle as Gen Y when you think you might have to appeal, sartorially, to me, a Gen X geezer. I get it, you have your own ways and opinions and your own rules. (I can assure you, though, that nothing is new.)

But how about appealing to both? Are you smart enough to do that? Can you look like the part and at the same time be groovy***? Think, for five minutes, how clever that would be when you sprint up the steep steps for your budget flight to a fortnight in the sun. At the top as they check your ticket, look left before you go right. What would you think if you saw someone in a pair of low-slung jeans and a Nirvava T shirt; Converse with no laces or socks; two-tone hair, a baseball cap on backwards, three or four earrings and a couple of visible tattoos. Be honest, are you happy and confident they will get you to Ibiza at 500km per hour four miles up?

Be an individual, but play the game. I get my suits made because I want three buttons, a single vent, no back pockets, well-cut trousers and fire engine red lining. And I need them to fit, especially across the chest, or I look like Danny De Vito. And I'm worth it. (It is not an expensive way to get what you want.)

Of course you don't need bespoke; you don't even have to wear a suit and in some environments it would be odd. But be smart when you are being smart. The good news for Gen Y is that, if you are as fit as you should be at your age, any off the peg number would look well on you. (But light grey? Really? Seriously? With those shoes?). To be sure fashions change but grooming, hygiene and being savvy enough to have respect for those you are working with (and for) never go out of style. Make the effort because it's always important. For sure, some contexts are more important than others. As Kurt said, "With the lights out, it's less dangerous."

***groovy... ;-)


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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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