Monday, July 14, 2014

Your Clothes are Talking

Your jeans, your shoes, your shirts -- even the socks you're wearing right now are talking about you. Or maybe a better way to put that is, they're talking for you, and saying all kinds of things about you to other people. It took a long time for me to grasp this simple concept, that our clothing is a very loud bullhorn of sorts, broadcasting various messages about us to the people who we encounter in our little daily adventures.



I don't know why it took me so long to figure it out, but it dawned on me at 24 years old at the grocery store of all places. I had a few items in the basket, nothing too big, and certainly nothing fancy. I got up to the front counter, and the associate started ringing my items through, and bagged everything like usual. Before I paid, she asked, "Did you find everything all right today, sir?"

...'sir?'

I slowly turned around and looked behind myself to see if there was someone standing over my shoulder...but the aisle was empty. I replied very slowly, "Oh yes...no problem." She must've thought I was nuts, but I was more than a little shocked that she called me "sir." I mean, I'm just a young guy, hardly even an adult...why "sir"? Nobody had ever called me that before. That's what people called my Dad. What was this all about?

Two weeks before, in my first week of work at Jackson & Connor I'd purchased a brand new black three-piece suit, and had it tailored. It was the first time I wore a suit out in public, and somebody called me sir. All because I was dressed a certain way. That's all it took?

I think that's when a big piece fell in place for me, and when my trip down the sartorial rabbit-hole began. The way I dressed myself conferred respect (whether deserved or not), and said something about me. I never really understood the old saying "clothing makes the man" until that moment. I felt like I'd stumbled upon a secret of sorts. Here I am, just some random guy, and people are being nice to me. And respectful. People are treating me differently because of how I'm dressed. It was a real eye-opening experience for me, and it's an eye-opening experience for a lot of the customers I work with at Jackson & Connor. When that light bulb goes off in people's heads, when they dress up for themselves, for their partners and their wives, for their jobs -- and sometimes even for fun, I get to be a part of that moment. And it doesn't matter why you're dressed well, but people take notice when you're dressed well. It's a part of crafting your image, and for someone who has struggled with that, it was a big moment for me. I also quickly learned that it was saying some pretty funny things to other people on occasion. I would drop off my daughter at daycare and people would take me aside and ask,
           
"You're in...real estate...?"
"Hey, what do you do? Are you a lawyer or something?" (insert terrified laughter)
"Are you running for office?" (way more terrified laughter)

I never saw it as a chance to start over, but a chance to retool my image, and do things differently. It didn't stop there, though. As I got deeper and deeper into work at Jackson & Connor, I realized I was representing the business wherever I went. I crossed Main Street in Northampton, and three days later, somebody said to the previous owners, "I saw that guy who works for you crossing the street...he was looking very sharp!" It didn't matter if I was pumping gas or running errands for work, I was representing my work, and I knew it was always a good image.

Going out to events after becoming the owner of J&C has not been the easiest either. These events are so important for me to go to, but sometimes the massive rooms full of people at these elbow-rubbing sessions scares the life out of me...even though I know it's vital for the business. When I walk into that room of people, I always know that my attire is on point, always. Dressing well is -- especially in today's economy, job market, professional environment -- not only a rarity, but an critical skill. Besides that, it can be a lot of fun. A lot of guys tell me that putting together an outfit with shirt, tie, sport coat, trousers, matching up colors and textures, and getting into it, they feel like they get a new way to express themselves...and that's not always easy, and not always the easiest thing to find.

By "dressing well," we can mean a lot of different things. We could mean this,

 or this
 or thisor this
 or this
 
and of course this.



But it doesn't always have to be a suit and tie. Just dress yourself well. Wear clothing that fits you and works well with your body. Know your style and what you want your clothes to say about you, because they will talk about you, and you have a chance to control what that conversation sounds like. And if you don't know what any of that looks like or feels like or sounds like just yet, well, don't panic -- that's why we're up here. We're all about knowing how to pull it all together, and teaching folks how to do it for themselves.