Being ‘Suited and Booted’

I was asked by a grad; “do you think being ‘suited and booted’ is a reflection of your smarts, or your status within the business?”

Dressed in this seasons Cue and black patent Kurt Geiger shoes, without hesitating I instantly replied “don’t be daft, no, no way”. Some of the smartest and most influential people I have ever had the pleasure to work with regularly, would rock up to the office in Converse, jeans and a tee. Heck, at my current workplace, we don’t bother with dress down days as the next level from corporate attire is a company branded polo shirt!

My first ever project role was coordinating project consultants up and down the UK and I said very casually to a consultant over the phone, a complete throw away line, “see you tomorrow bright eyed and bushy tailed”. By the end of the week I was dragged up before HR for my first ever disciplinary. The consultant had taken my comment so literally that he pulled out his very best threads for this specific customer meeting. I was horrified – highly embarrassed and to be honest a little confused. That really was not what I expected or intended.

Never once, never ever once, have I been made to feel like I had to dress a certain way for work.

Personally, I have to say there is something about being ‘suited and booted’ when engaging with a customers face:face. I’ve been in my branded polo shirt and at the last minute been called into a customer meeting, and had this instant feeling of dread… I’m not in business-wear. I’ve even felt like I had to point out the fact I’m in a polo shirt, just to check if the Execs are sure they want me in the room. Every time it’s been shrugged off, “totally fine, it’ll be ok”, but I can’t help but think I’m letting the side down. And every time, I think “I really should leave a dress here for those just in case moments”.

It’s definitely a me thing – I recognise that.

So where has this culture come from? And is it really such a bad thing?