The military was great for knowing what to wear each day. They shaved the men’s heads and required a well-kept hairdo for the ladies and issued us everything we needed to be the best-dressed military in the world. Aside from the (BCG) glasses, we were standing tall and looking good. Of course every time we were off duty, we would head to town trying to look sharp in our running shoes. You could always tell who was in the military back then.
Then trends started changing. Hairs styles changed, clothing changed, fashion became an everyday skill. The workplace changed too, all while we were wearing our uniforms. I remember when I first went in, we had to wear uniforms on leave travel. Then it was not cool to wear them; now that I am out it seems to be cool again. No wonder some of us look like we are wearing someone else’s skin during an interview. Many of us will discount a weakness as not important. Instead we say, “Why, I let my medals tell people where I have been and how good I am; my chest speaks for itself.” Oh yeah, we don’t wear the medals to an interview. Now we have to impress people with knowledge and first impressions. Not what we have done, but what we will do. Not how many awards I have, but by demonstrating a confident professional that will win again.
My first roommate was from Buffalo, NY— a great contrast to a young Texas man. He loved clothes, working out at the gym, his hair, tanning and everything else I knew nothing about. At first I thought he was a bit odd, but I soon learned that he had a very good skill at “dressing for success.” While I spent several weekends admiring my new stereo in the room, he was not. I began to take note of style. For a private, I spent insane amounts of money on clothes and learned how to feel good about how I looked. What I found was I like to dress like everyone else, but one step up. When I dressed for success, I felt better, I had more confidence, I demanded a greater presence, I got dances and I won Soldier of the Month Boards, etc. Of course none of that matters in a jungle, desert or woods, but we are not in there, anymore.
Today, I can command a room with nothing more than an attitude and a suit. It amazes me how a mere suit can intimidate or impress. Anyone can go buy one or borrow one. But when you wear a suit—I mean really own it—you perform at an entirely different level. I still wear a uniform, just a different one. Now, when I need to empower myself or need motivation, I make sure that I am wearing the right uniform. I would never wear someone else’s uniform to a promotion ceremony. Nor would I take a knife to a gun fight. Right equipment, right job.
Now to the how. … Like anything else, research. First, hit the malls, the airports and the places you want to work. See what looks good and what does not. There will be at least one person that you will wonder what they were thinking. Be critical, look at their hair, their shoes, their belt, their bag (is it rolling or carried?). Look at colors, textures, jewelry, hygiene, glasses, facial hair, tattoos, piercings, posture, their confidence level. Notice current trends. Which people appear shy or outgoing? Confident or reserved? Smart or not-so smart? Healthy or out of shape? Bored or on a mission? Passionate or sleepy? Sad or happy? Now, take an honest look in the mirror.
If you are highly impressed with your reflected image, good for you! The rest of us may need to “fake it until we make it.” Pick out your look and make sure it reflects your goals. If you aspire to work in a garage on cars, cool, I love that. But your clothes and hands should never have grease on them. If you prefer to stare at a computer screen all day, awesome. Make sure your boss is not embarrassed to take you to lunch. Lastly, get decked out and hit the town again. Stay out there until your skin stops crawling. Over time, you will feel better. You will relax and stop thinking about what you are wearing. You will become confident in who you are and, better yet, others will see how passionate and capable you are. You see, it is not the best dressed that succeeds, it is the ones that present a confident presence and are able to communicate their skills in an impressive way. The most impressive people are just being themselves and not worrying what they look like, because they KNOW they look good.
Look good—feel good!
*This blog has been edited to reflect updated links and photos.