Friday, September 4, 2009

Dressing Well, Peer Pressure, and Self Actualization

I came across this post on PersonalBrandingBlog by Dan Schawbel. A guest poster writes on the importance of dressing appropriately for different scenarios, and how that contributes to your personal brand. If you want you can read the entire post here. I have included a few excerpts below as well.

But this weekend, when flipping through the New York Post, an op-ed piece entitled “Schlub Nation” caught my eye. The writer Faran Krentcil lamented about the prevalence of mourners at Ted Kennedy’s wake dressed in flip-flops, undershirts and dirty tees.

Dress to impress or dress to include?

Krentcil argues that putting the effort into dressing well for important events—like weddings, wakes, job interviews—shows as much respect for the other person as it does for yourself. “Aren’t you better than a ripped t-shirt with a mustard stain on the collar?” he asks.

We’ve all heard the saying, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,” but should we?

I admit that since moving to Florida from New York City, my everyday dress is much more casual. I have driven to Whole Foods wearing flip-flops, for example, where I’d never worn flip-flops before except for maybe the locker room at the gym. But I still dress up for speaking engagements, business meetings, television appearances. When I’m in the spotlight, wearing good quality, nice fitting clothes makes me feel more authoritative. I’m happy to have all eyes looking at me, and looking pulled together reinforces my personal brand.

Great lesson and thoughts on personal branding, however I immediately thought of how peer pressure factors into dress within different scenarios. There are many people who down play the influence of peer pressure and social norms on our lives. I think that this discussion of appropriate dress exemplifies how we are affected by others expectations and how those expectations are often dictated pragmatically through the different social situations we find ourselves in.

I read something on Ben Casnocha's blog a while back about peer pressure and his point was something along the lines of "walk across the street 10 feet away from a crosswalk with people at it on a green light and tell me that peer pressure doesn't affect you or your life."

We all like to feel like we are different, unique, above the influence of others; our own person if you will. However, the fact is that we are social creatures by nature. We have a strong internal desire to belong, to relate, to be a part of something. In order to fulfill those desires we must be cognisant of other people's expectations. I admit that I like to push the envelope in certain situations. However I am also quite aware that these tend to be social situations that I am comfortable or familiar in, or I have some established credibility. For instance the way I interact with a bunch of my buddies in a hockey locker room is going to be quite different than the way I interact at a networking gathering. The expectations are different, and I have established some emotional credibility with one group while the other group has no idea who I am or what I am about.

Peer pressure and social norms are interesting and very abstract concepts to talk about and wrap your head around, but I think they are valuable to work your way through. You can only be more self aware and self actualized throughout the plentiful social situations you will make your way into as you get older.

1 comment:

Steve Kasperson said...

I just experienced something odd during the past week that is directly related to what you are talking about. I had to work with a new client, and was told "dress professionally". I wore chinos, a white shirt, blazer, and tie. When I arrived, I discovered that they all wore dark, conservative suits. I felt severly underdressed. However, as the day went on, I began to have the sensation that the guys I was working with at the client actually didn't really know what they were talking about. They were essentially "empty suits". They were clearly accustomed to bossing around people, and not having anyone question their abilities. I have worked with many people over the years, and have found that the people who put the greatest emphasis on their appearance, usually don't know what they are doing. To put it another way, how many times have you seen somebody show up at a skate with flashy gear, and then not be able to play? Or blame their problems on some part of their equipment. The guys with the faded, worn-out gear simply go about their business in a quietly competent way.