The news is often full of items which concern issues relating to appearance, including permission to wear certain kinds of garments or jewellery in schools or workplaces and then of course there is the issue of body art. This shows that, whilst attitudes may have relaxed somewhat, the public generally still has ideas about what is or is not acceptable and that can influence behaviour when choosing and interacting with businesses.
It could and should be argued logically that what matters is an individual’s capabilities and the quality of service and workmanship when responding to a customer. However, what probably counts is the popular idea of how a person in that particular trade or profession is expected to look. So, it’s not likely that the ‘man (or woman) on the Clapham omnibus’ would expect a builder to be wearing a suit but he or she probably expects his or her solicitor to be seen in one. Similarly authority figures such as nurses or police officers are expected to be smart and well turned out with neat, tidy and well – pressed uniforms.
Does it really matter? Certainly not in reality but that’s an emotive question and we don’t want to go there. Employers have to make their own decisions about what they expect from their employees which will be based on the results of research with customers, either generally or specific to their own businesses.
How does this affect the self employed? Whilst everybody will have to find their own answers to questions raised, the easiest solution is simply to conform to what is expected of you. A solicitor or accountant (male or female) is probably stuck with a suit or at least something semi-formal and traditional when meeting clients. A builder, electrician or plumber probably wears jeans and a polo shirt (often with their logo on it) or similar, whilst ‘creative’ people in design, marketing, media, advertising, publishing etc. can get away with something a little less conventional because they are expected to be ‘arty’ looking. Even these people may have to draw the line somewhere though – you might wear jeans but almost certainly not ripped jeans.
How does that apply to networking? Well, we always suggest that people should attend dressed exactly as they would be for work. Belonging to and attending a networking club is a part of your working life so it seems entirely reasonable to expect that you will show up in your everyday work clothes. It is important though to make sure that you look as if you are keen to be there and that it is important top you. Come to any of our meetings and you’ll see a variety of different styles adopted. Perhaps you might even try to guess each member’s trade or profession before you’re introduced!