Image: clothes make the man/woman

“Well, this is a bit more formal than I had expected it to be.”

The man next to me – dressed in jeans and jacket – said last week, as we were observing the group of people that we were part of. We had both just walked in to a lunch networking event, and were surrounded by – mostly – (older) men in suit and tie. I was not surprised: I knew the organization, the event was hosted in the board room of an international bank and I had dressed accordingly – adding a little of my own style to business formality.

Two days later, another networking event for local entrepreneurs offered the opposite. The only man in suit and tie apologized for how he was dressed: “I have to go to a funeral after this.”

Shakespeare already knew it, when Polonius in Hamlet spoke:

For the apparel oft proclaims the man

And this still holds true today: clothes make the man/woman. What you wear has a huge influence on how others see you – whether you like it or not.

This year has started off spending time ‘activating’ my network: meeting people for coffee, discussing ideas and potential collaborations, but also attending a lot of networking events. January and February with their abundance of new year events, followed by Chinese new year events starting this week, are perfect months for this.


But this also comes with a regular question: What do I wear? What image do I want to portray?

But that last question doesn’t only come up when deciding on my outfit for the day: it is still part-and-parcel of the learning curve of being an entrepreneur that I am on. How do I present my proposals best to business partners? In what way can I best share my expertise and ideas – for example, in what blogging style?

The answer to that question is visible in, for example, my business cards, my writing style and my Twitter activity. The business direction I am heading towards, the style I chose to do things in, the choices I make: they are becoming more consistent which is great to realize after two years of establishing my business.

And yet, I can’t help wondering: will that feeling of having to deliberate over that day’s ‘outfit’ every time I go out at some point stop?

2 antwoorden
  1. karin r.
    karin r. zegt:

    But do you dress accordingly or do you sometimes pick your own style whether is ‘suits’ te purpose or not? I feel uncomfortable in certain outfits and can not ‘perform’ well because of it. So, I made the decision a long time ago to dress the way I work best. If someone disapproves, it’s his/her problem. It’s ultimately not about my looks but what I say. I think.
    (But you are right, some people find it very, very important how every one looks.)

    • admin
      admin zegt:

      Good question. I think I’ve found ways to wear what I’m comfortable in and what suits me (my ‘style’) for most occasions. So, for formal situations (the first example above) I try to use bright colours (but often combined with black), and big accessories if I have things that fit. That makes a black business-suited dress a bit more funky I think (and a bit more ‘me’).

      That said, I’m quite happy walking around in dresses, jackets, high heels (which helps) – and in a business situation I also feel more confident dressed up in that way (with a bit of a personal twist whenever possible).

      And yes, it is about what I say – but I’ve learnt that the way you say it (delivery, body language, appearance) makes a big difference on that essential first impression you make on your audience, and it partly is what gets them to pay attention. For me, unfortunately, I also think this is sometimes necessary to be taken seriously in a mostly male-dominated business environment.


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