Recently I have seen an upturn in the book sales of an old book I wrote over nine years ago and pondered on the significance. In certain small circles and segments of the work place and socially we are starting to see some form of a return to formality. A bit like returning to the ‘workplace’ and a move away from ‘working from home’ for certain business sectors, do you think we will see a return to formality?

In my early career I observed how visual communication impacted people’s lives and careers. With my first business as a business wear supplier it took me on an interesting journey discovering the power of clothing as an essential communication and business tool. I discuss this in great depth in ‘How to Dress for Business: Build your Suit of Armour’.

If written today this would be a very different book for so so many reasons. Over the past nine years we have seen a dramatic change almost a reversal in both the workplace and culturally how we dress and our ideas about image, grooming and style. Ask if this has been an overwhelming positive or negative change and the answer will depend on whether you’re asking a Baby boomer, Generation X, Millennial or Generation Z.

Corporations spend millions of pounds every year on their marketing activities for brand development. That “first impression” of your brand from your logo, choice of corporate colours, fonts and product placement etc. can build or destroy your consumer’s perception and confidence of your products, services and brand. And directly affect your companies’ profitability in an increasingly competitive global market. I wonder if this still really matters when it comes to your staff’s ‘Professional Image’? Rightly or Wrongly? Will we ever see a return to the SUIT?

Many years ago I was invited as a young entrepreneur to attend the first Entrepreneurial Convention in the European Parliament in Brussels, one evening during a dinner for some of the British delegates I met a retired gentlemen who was a representative and volunteer for a leading British entrepreneur charity where we had an in depth conversation on the subject of image.

He recalled for me his first job as a young apprentice in the 1940’s in journalism, where on arriving for his first day at work he was sent to the Editors office, on Bond Street. 

I waited patiently for over an hour in the Editors reception, only to be instructed by the secretary that  I was to spend the day standing on the corner of Bond Street, with one clear instruction “to people watch”, and not to return until the end of the day. 

At the end of the day I returned to the Editors office where the secretary told me to go home and return the next day. 

The next day I returned to his office as instructed and waited patiently. Finally the editor appeared in the reception instructing his secretary that he would be back in 30 minutes, at that the Editor turned and nodded and gestured for me to follow him. As he walked briskly downstairs and out onto Bond Street he asked 

“So George what did you learn yesterday? “  

Nervously, I answered there’s a lot of people on Bond Street. 

The editor took me to the corner of Bond Street and stepping backwards into the recess of a closed door way asked “What do you see, George?”

Before you start any career in journalism the most valuable lesson I can teach you is this; 

“People can tell you a million things without uttering a single word, and if you want to learn one of the most valuable communication tools in life, you must first learn how to read people. Many stories can be told by our appearance, clothing, grooming, posture, facial expressions; it communicates our personality, attitude, emotions, economical and social status, sophistication and success.”

He maintained that no matter what generation or culture you come from, whether you are standing on Bond Street in London, Time Square in New York, standing in a room full of strangers or meeting someone for the first time before you open your mouth you have already told your story and firmly established that very important “first impression” rightly or wrongly. 

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