I joined the LBS MEMBA program after it started. I received a deluge of mails on the program and activities. I had to play catch up and in my haste, I had not read all the requirements for the dress code.
I remembered that it stated business or business casual and I erroneously equated it to my company’s dress code policy. In the wardrobe culture of my office, business is either a suit with a tie or bowtie or complete Nigerian traditional wear with a cap while business casual was a suit without a tie or Nigerian traditional wear without a cap. My work wardrobe consists mostly of Nigerian traditional wear with only a couple of complete suits and about 3 jackets.
On the Monday of the first intensive week I participated in, I sat in class with a Nigerian traditional wear without a cap. During break, the class coordinator informed me that I was not properly dressed as stated in the dress code for the school and I would have to continue the class online in the syndicate room. I tried to argue but was shown the dress code and I knew I had no excuse as I had not properly read it. I was in luck as a fellow classmate informed me that he had an extra cap in his car. My day was saved, I continued the class.
I have over the years amassed a collection of caps, from weddings and other occasions but I never wear them after the occasion it was meant for. I dug them out when I got home and put them in a bag. I put the bag in the car because I knew that I would most likely forget to wear them before leaving the house during the week, and I wanted to actively participate in the class activities.
As I wore them, the more I realized how they complemented my outfits, it felt more complete. I started matching the color of the caps to the outfits and my outfits to the region of the country whose cap I was wearing. I noticed the change almost instantly as I was getting compliments on my outfits, at LBS and at the workplace. I also noticed that the treatment and responses I was getting when completely dressed were more deferential.
The Management communications Harvard Business School course we were enrolled in by LSB says people form an opinion of you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. An article from Forbes magazine I read some time ago says it takes a tenth of a second for people you just meet to determine traits like trustworthiness.
In the corporate world, how you dress is an important factor to how you are perceived as people will judge you on your looks long before they judge your words or actions. In making presentations or soliciting in a business environment, how the target audience perceive you is crucial.
Dress as you would like to be addressed