Do you remember that scene from the film The Social Network, when Mark Zuckerberg went on a meeting with possible investors in his pyjamas and house slippers, talking about reasons why they shouldn’t invest in his project and showed up late to the meeting?
Well, he did it because he was persuaded by Sean Parker who didn’t have good relationship with the company from his previous project and was seeking revenge.
At the end, Mark Zuckerberg never got the money but Sean Parker got his revenge.
Why am I telling you this?
Well, there are two points of view I would like to address here.
First is that showing up late to the any kind of meeting or interview and in your pyjamas is not going to end good for you. With that behaviour you showed your disrespect to the opposite side and the cooperation cannot end with success. It is a well known fact that, like it or not, your first impression is everything and all you got is 5 to 7 seconds. So, make it a success and learn to behave with the proper business etiquette.
Second is simply the idea that you can show up late or wear your pyjamas or behave rude, but only if you are Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk or Jack Ma. When you become that successful and rich you don’t have to care for the appearance any more. Or you’d care even more?
What ever of the two explanations you like, I think that business etiquette is here to stay slightly modernise and updated.
So let’s see, what does the business etiquette involve? Behaviour, dress code, non-verbal and verbal communication, business relationship. Talk and walk as well as behaviour is easy to learn but to dress properly for the business, being dressed in line of the company’s or international rules and yet have style of your own is not an easy task.
The definition of a business etiquette is more then just knowing to address you coworkers or how to behave at the business dinner but it is a way of presenting yourself as a serious and professional businessman/businesswoman. As you know that you need to be polite and knowledgable in your conversation, have a strong but normal voice and handshake, the same is with your attire. To be polite and to show your consideration for others, you have to follow the dress code.
In my opinion, and trust me, I learned it hard way, there are five business dress code types to be careful about. Yes, what can I say, there are so many different environments today, and putting suit or a uniform each morning no matter the industry as before is not usual any more.
1. Formal business dress code
When you are meeting a CEO or Member of the Board of your company or that level of any other company, wear your most formal pants or skirt suit in black or dark navy blue colour. Add simple white button down shirt and simple dark, black would be best, closed toe, not too high heeled (5 cm maximum) pumps. Make-up should be neutral, nails manicured but in neutral colour, small, almost invisible jewellery.
This rule I learned in Austria when I worked for Hofer KG, and there was a regular business lunch of us, new employees with the CEO of the company and few other Members of the Board. It was a lunch that I would remember and not because of the food but of the words of the CEO, “You are not respecting me and your colleagues!” “How so, Sir?” I was shocked. “You are not wearing black suit with white shirt and you have a ring in your up ear.” And I was wearing my newest Mango tartan suit with baby blue button down shirt that I was in love with and so proud to have purchased it specially for that lunch. I didn’t forget to tell him so, but it was not the proper formal business dress code.
2. Business professional dress code
After that business lunch with that CEO I learned my lesson and bought all the necessary items for the dress code of that company. Luckily, in other companies dress code was a little bit lighter, still professional but with a little personal touch.
In this type of business dress code pants and skirts suits are required too but in more colours and patterns, and combinations of different colours is possible too. I think my Mango tartan suit or black skirt with white blazer are more then welcome. Some special accessory like Tiesy or LittleWonder jewellery would be a personal touch everyone would remember.
3. Business casual dress code
It is a casual dress code where everyone dresses according their mood. Everything is free to choose, from colours, patterns and styles to accessories and jewellery of your personal choice. Of course, I would never suggest to come in your flip-flops or see-through dress or blouse, not to mention ripped jeans or too short pants or miniskirts. It is not polite and you should save it for the beach.
4. Modern business dress code
Today’s companies are modern and moved ahead of the strict business etiquette rules, specially regarding the dress code. More casual then formal and definitely no suits.
But, weather you work in a modern or old-fashioned company you always have to be well groomed (neat hair, manicured and pedicured, not too much make-up, no strong perfumes or strange smells, clothes clean and pressed, think how you appear to your clients or colleagues).
5. Fancy business dinner or cocktail dress code
If you are not a dress type just pick a fancy coloured suit with lace or silk blouse and definitely add red lips for some glamour. Beautiful Yves Saint Laurent tailored satin suit is the best evening dress I could imagine. Of course, there are beautiful dresses too, but every woman at that dinner or cocktail is going to wear a dress, and only one is going to be remembered. And yes, there are more affordable versions of that YSL suit, just ask me and we’ll find it together.
To tell you the truth, I always hated uniforms and wearing them with not a single touch of my own was a nightmare for me. But at the end I realised uniform helped me get dressed faster and not having to think every night before bed what to wear tomorrow. That is what I suggest to you, make your own uniform, pay attention to company’s rules but give it a personal touch and know exactly what to wear when: CEO or important client meeting, staff meeting, regular day in the office, casual Friday, business trip etc. and be dressed for success in every business situation.