We use clothes to identify ourselves with certain people and to differentiate ourselves from those same people. We might not like to admit to this, we might prefer to think that we’re original in our dress and don’t care what others think. But truthfully if we go to the local independent cinema to see that low budget arthouse film we don’t wear a shellsuit and white baseball cap that will prevent us from fitting in. However, we don’t want to look like everyone else either. If we are confident in ourselves we want to be recognised for our individuality.
Authentic dressing acknowledges who we like to hang out with and what inspires us. It allows us to have a quiet confidence in the clothes we wear each day. Whether in a social or work setting we will neither stick out like a sore thumb nor fade into the background. It all sounds so simple but how does it happen in practice? When we have to get into work early, for that work that we were up to the small hours preparing, and have to feed a few children, while reminding them to take their gym kit as we leave the house, where is the time slot to choose the “authentic” clothes?! And is it really so important?
It’s true that it will take more time to prepare a wardrobe that allows us to dress authentically but it will also save a large chunk of hidden time that most of assume has to be used, to introduce ourselves to colleagues and clients. Instead of taking time to prove that we are innovative in our work practices we can convey our innovation non-verbally through the clothes that we wear. People pick up on these minute hints of our different characters and skills. Just as that person with a frayed cuff or stain on his shirt will have to work much harder at proving that he is diligent in his attention to detail, the worker who hints at her creative thought through the style of her earring or the pattern within a shirt could be the one who stands out when the company is looking for a new approach to a current working practice.
Innovative thinkers and practitioners are vital for every office, laboratory and surgery at every level of employment.
Innovation is essential for progress so any hints of innovation within the dress codes of our workplace can be used to signify our commitment to developing new and better practices at work. The sartorial signs of an innovative worker are subtle. The innovative worker is an intelligent person. She will gain pleasure from the progress made from putting her ideas into practice rather than doing things to gain attention for herself. Similarly her clothes will not stand out to gain attention. However, telltale signs can be a clever use of textures rather than using lots of different colours, well chosen and well placed accessories or using well tailored pieces in less conventional deep colours (read black) such as aubergine, bottle green or chocolate brown. These quiet means of differentiating themselves from colleagues still allow the innovative worker to fit in with her working environment but hint at her resistance to fitting in with previous practices.
So are you an innovative worker?
Does your professional wardrobe convey your creative thoughts and innovative practices?
I’d like to encourage you to dress authentically at work in 2011, fit in with your colleagues but hint at what inspires you through the subtle use of texture, accessories and colour in your clothes. And watch as colleagues, clients, customers or patients slowly pick up on these small changes and become curious.
Enjoy your clothes and have fun in 2011.