After the recent John Fetterman Senate dress code kerfuffle, I saw an article in Inc. that addressed this very thing. I highly recommend reading The John Fetterman Dress Code Debacle Proves 1 Thing: Your Business Needs a Dress Code Today.
Having worked in a variety of environments with various dress codes, I have seen quite a bit in terms of what’s allowed, what works, and what is unnecessary. And ultimately, how you dress for at-home, entrepreneurial work can make a big difference in your business success.
Disney (at least when I worked for them) had a specific dress code intended to prevent you from being a distraction to their “show” (the term used for anything “on-stage”, what a guest sees). No tattoos, no mustaches or beards, hair off the collar and over the ears for men. No dangle earrings, no revealing attire, simple makeup, basic professional hairstyles for women.
During their hiring process, the “Disney look” was explained before you were ever offered any kind of job (from management right down to street sweeper), so there was no mystery what it was. And they specifically asked you whether you could comply with it. It was considered part of the job.
And it worked. When people did things outside “the look”, it wasn’t a mystery to have it addressed by your management. You knew the expectation. If you didn’t, then that also sent a message about what value you provided as an employee (or “cast member” in this case).
For a time, I worked in the finance industry in various positions in the commodity futures trading business. At a small trading firm, we didn’t require jackets, but we did require ties. That was my first real sales job. The firm owner was a great salesman and knew how the sales process worked. His point of view was that even though no one could see us (it was inside sales on the phone), wearing a tie to the office gave a personal feeling of professionalism.
When I moved to Chicago to work in larger trading firms, most of those had shifted to a more office casual environment – collared shirt, but no tie required. I eventually became the director of sales for the private client division of the largest privately held futures broker in Chicago. Directing that staff, I always told them there was a minimum dress code – and if they wanted to just do the minimum, then just wear a collared shirt, no tie. If you just do the minimum, then you can expect minimum performance. I wore a suit every day. My advice to them was to do the same and that their job performance would be driven by how they dressed for the office.
And the numbers always proved it. Every single month, without fail, the top producers were the brokers who wore a tie AND a jacket every day.
Football great Jerry Rice is arguably the greatest player to ever play the game. He is undoubtably the greatest wide receiver ever and has set records that may truly never be broken. He was also known for having his jerseys tailored and for combing his hair before he put on his helmet. His philosophy was “If you look good, feel good, you’ll play good”. Rice knew that how he dressed affected his mental attitude and that translated into job performance.
This gets to my point – because today I, and many others like me, work from home. In fact, I rarely am seen by anyone at work. So what if I dress like a slob in a dirty t-shirt? It goes back to my point about brokers dressing for success or Jerry Rice combing his hair before he put on his helmet – it affects your job performance.
Mental attitude is everything – especially in the entrepreneurial world. If you’re self-employed and you dress like you just got out of bed, there’s a good chance you’ll treat the entire business like that. But if you dress like you’re going to the office, you’ll set your mental attitude for success and treat it like a real business.
How you dress can make the difference between success and failure.