‘Does this Suit me?': So, What Should You Wear at a Business Networking Event?
After walking out of a career in seedy pubs and late-night bars, the idea of self-employment and getting to wear a suit every day, got my adrenaline pumping even more than a tandem skydive.
I set up Neely There with an A4 folder of ideas and two blazers to my name; thinking that this (along with a pair of shiny high heels), was going to define me as a professional.
I was wrong.
Although dressing ‘007 style' fits other business owners to a T, I quickly discovered that it suppressed my personality and creative streak.
Heads up: I'm not going to go on about how you shouldn't wear a 3-piece to business networking events; but I will badger on about finding a style that you're comfortable in.
The Modern-Day Suit
History tells us that the modern-day suit has been around since the late 1700's, thanks to a lovely chap called ‘Beau Brummell' (an important figure in Regency England).
Brummell was a bit of a ‘Gok Wan' of his time; known for his finicky fashion habits and tendency of making witty remarks, even when they weren't welcome. Since his debut of the sophisticated 2-piece, the modern-day suit as we know today, represents booming businesses, shit-hot credit scores, and the occasional champagne breakfast. So, it's no wonder that this get-up is a popular first choice, when it comes to meetings and networking events.
Several of my own clients (the mature ones, especially) often tell me that they related crease-free suits with ‘success' during their teen years, some even say that it makes them feel more ‘powerful'.
Now, if you genuinely believe that wearing a suit makes you perform better at work- then by all means, keep doing what you do. It's like me when I listen to hardcore rap music; it puts me in a better frame of mind, and I get more shit done because of it.
But, if you dress in suits because you've been ‘conditioned' by the likes of Alan Sugar, that this is your only option, then shut that...
... wardrobe door, and listen up:
‘Is this the best representation of your brand, and personality?'
The Modern-Day Businessman
If you've read ‘Millennials Who Manage' (great book, by the way), you'll understand that 21st century entrepreneurs are doing business, very differently.
Whether we think it's stir-crazy or not, client catch-ups on Facebook messenger, nights out with employees, WhatsApp voice notes (instead of traditional emails), has now become a corporate norm.
And get this: It is no longer frowned upon to rock into the office in a pair of jeans, or butterfly-print maxi dress.
Granted, business acumen and expertise is majorly important; but what's that phrase that's become an entrepreneur's mantra these days? That's right, ‘people buy into people'.
There's nothing wrong with establishing a style that's unique to your persona and approach, even if it doesn't include pin-stripes and a pair of tailor-fitted trousers. Look to our very own Brad Burton as an example, it's very rare where you'll find him wearing anything other than his branded t-shirt and Adidas trainers; he is his brand every day, and this is why it works so damn well.
I bet I can guess what your next question is going to be: ‘Where's the line between embracing my personality, and looking like an imbecile?'
A Few Good-to-Knows...
• Some business networking events will have a strict dress code, such as ‘black tie' or ‘business professional' (not at The Business Networking Show though, we love everybody). Please don't be foolish and wear your summer time shorts, in this instance.
• If you're going for a ‘smart casual' look then refrain from taking it a step too far- remember, that you're still representing your company, so balance is key. Pair jeans with a well-fitted blazer, or a smart blouse with a maxi skirt (only if you're a girl, obvsiously).
• For men: whilst it is no longer a prerequisite to be clean-shaven, if you have a beard try and keep it trimmed and tidy (there's casual, and then there's gross hairs sprouting out of your chin).
• For the ladies: A bit of cleavage is fine- it elongates your neck in fact- but be weary of how much skin you're revealing, too. Although we know you're a professional who means business, it may give your associates the wrong impression.
And if you're a lover of suits but still want to stand out...
There's a fix for this as well!
Pay attention to the colours you're wearing. Most business people tend to opt for darker shades at networking events, could you team your sleek number with a pastel-coloured shirt instead? Try baby pink, lilac, or if you're feeling particularly naughty, a quirky print. Nice.
Other ‘pick-me-ups' for your everyday attire could include: glasses in a noticeably different frame or colour, striking watches (they don't have to be the expensive kind), or a signature belt- as long as it isn't too brash, or offending anyone. Putting a personal stamp on your suit, may well give you that extra bit of confidence and finesse.
Although it's no substitute for skill and credibility, ‘dressing the part' in business is something we shouldn't ignore. So, whether you'll be turning up in a 3-piece, or skirt and converse trainers; we'll be looking forward to welcoming the real you, at The Business Networking Show, on September 15th.