Unfashionable business: The backpack has replaced the silk tie, and it ain’t pretty

The following article has a real world resonance. Your personal dress is a reflection of your inner pride, and Rod Stewart is right in his comments, men (and women) who dress like tramps and then expect to receive respect are either unaware, in denial or simply playing political games.

During my professional life and the countless organisations we have coached on this subject in four continents, successful leaders and their businesses have STANDARDS in place ( most of the time ) that guide their teams to what is and what is not professional.

The individuals that choose to play in the ‘big game’ as adults appreciate the personal power when dressing as a professional as opposed to a hobbyist.They know their personal dress and presentation is part of their personal brand and that it makes a huge difference, in person or online.

It builds confidence, enhances the attraction factor and gives a greater return on investment. So next time you see someone that does not receive the respect they expected, maybe, just maybe as a starting point in first impressions the disheveled tramp image presented was not a winner.

What’s that fellas? You want some fashion advice? Rockin’ Rod is happy to oblige.

What’s that fellas? You want some fashion advice? Rockin’ Rod is happy to oblige.

Unfashionable business: The backpack has replaced the silk tie, and it ain’t pretty

Leo D’Angelo Fisher  |  5 July 2013 | BRW

Pop star Rod Stewart is angry: he wants to know why modern men dress like “tramps”. It’s a good question. Most men’s idea of dressing up in these liberal – read slothful – times is putting socks on.

“I hate the way men dress today; at the theatre it’s all anoraks and shorts,” the dapper rock star tells London’s Radio Times.

“You go to dinner and see beautifully dressed women with men [looking like] tramps wearing trainers, jeans and t-shirts. If I was a woman I’d say, ‘Are you taking me out looking like that, toerag?’ You can even get into most restaurants without wearing trousers.”

Stewart, whose tirade was aimed at British men, has called for dress codes in restaurants. “I used to love dressing for dinner,” Stewart says.

But if Rockin’ Rod thinks men’s fashion sense in the UK is something to bemoan, he would be very distressed to observe the state of dress in Australia, for men and women, where tasteful cloth has given way to tracksuit sloth.

Nobody likes a Dress Code Nazi. Too many rules on matters of etiquette and fashion decorum are oppressive and not in keeping with the times; but too few rules, as we have now, are boorish and unsightly. Liberation is all well and good, but why has personal liberty come to mean the abandonment of personal pride? It is perfectly natural to crave comfort, but why has comfort come to mean t-shirt, three-quarter length cargo pants, baseball cap and thongs – and that’s when going to the theatre.

Why the Comic Book Guy look?

For a complete assault on the senses, few experiences are as dispiriting as walking through a shopping centre on the weekend – other than perhaps visiting a departure lounge at the airport any day of the week, or any workplace that observes Casual Friday. Suddenly, everyone wants to look like Comic Book Guy. It’s as if people are trying to outdo each other in slothfulness. How slovenly can you go?

Go to any restaurant and you can be sure that nobody will be better dressed than the salad. Rod Stewart is right. It would be nice to go out to a fine-dining restaurant or the theatre without momentarily thinking that one has stepped into a Greyhound bus depot.

Where has this slothfulness come from? Why has “appropriate dress” become a term of oppression? And by what quirk of linguistic fantasy has “casual” come to mean “tracksuit”?

Perhaps there are too few examples of style and propriety to set basic standards of dress and demeanour. The absence of role models must be a telling influence on the decline of dress standards. Political leaders, for one, have put the “d”epressing into drab.

Male politicians wear pale blue ties because they believe blue sends soothing signals to voters. Sends them to sleep more like it. Nothing says “boring” like a photo of a gaggle of male politicians in their dull, ill-fitting suits and vote-winning blue ties – as seen in one those frequent ministerial swearing in photos. (Sorry, I can’t comment on the fashion sense of female Ministers; that would be sexist.)

It was so different in the late 1980s and early 1990s – the Keating era – when the pollies were standard bearers for the stylish fashions of the time for men.

Business circles were especially fashion-conscious in the 1980s. Nobody wanted to be off the best-dressed list – whether or not there was such a thing as a best-dressed list. Even the mail boy – yes, that’s how long ago the 1980s were – would not be seen wearing anything less than an Ermenegildo Zegna or Hugo Boss suit (double-breasted of course) and hand-made English brogues.

From tie statements to no-comment clothes

And let us not forget those gorgeous ties. In the 1980s, “silk tie” was a tautology, and nobody wore a suit without a tie.

Today, half the men wearing suits to work – those who still do, at least – have replaced the tie with a backpack.

Fashion in the 1980s was about making statements – statements of pride, ambition and self-worth. And yes, ego. Fashions today are not about making statements, other than perhaps “no comment – because I can’t be bothered”.

Workplaces today would style themselves as egalitarian, but egalitarian has become another word for unkempt.

When I attend a corporate press conference or annual general meeting, I half-expect the chief executive and chairman to come out wearing a backpack, white runners and earphones linked to a mobile musical device. It’s only a matter of time.

Inelegant workplaces reflect a much wider inelegance in the community – it’s become the norm from suburban supermarkets to a night at the opera.

Like their political counterparts in the 1980s, corporate leaders were emphatically stylish. Who among the current crop of chief executives stands out for their elegance and style? It should be noted that business chiefs from the UK and Europe continue to be unfailing in their sartorial splendour, but there seems little interest in keeping up appearances in Australia’s corridors of corporate power.

Best-dressed accolade goes to . . .

Perhaps the best-dressed chief executive in Australia at the moment – by a catwalk mile – is Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly. I would be interested to know if Kelly’s stylishness is influencing the fashion tenor of the bank’s workplaces. Nobody else readily comes to mind.

Rod Stewart is right. Somehow the majority of us have turned into slobs. Even city workplaces, once dens of style, pride and cachet, underlined by a sense of formality that delineated work from play, have become hot-desking replicas of suburban shopping centres. So what hope restaurants and the theatre?

Is there any going back? Probably not. Is the answer the introduction of dress codes? No. Style can’t be enforced. Neither can pride in one’s appearance, nor a sense of grace and decorum, nor the desire to want to be surrounded by elegance and refinement.

Ditch the backpack; abandon the cargo pants; put some leather shoes on. If not for yourself, do it for Rod.

© 2013 Digital Media | This article first appeared in BRW on 5 July 2013.

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