If you Want Skin in the Game, you Have to Wear the Right Uniform Previous item How to Build Relationships... Next item Why is Data Science the...

Everybody knows that when an athlete shows up for a game, he or she puts on the uniform. You wouldn’t see Selena Williams trying to play tennis in high-heeled shoes or Colt McCoy showing up for a football game without his pads. Bottom line: No matter what you do, there is a uniform. Therefore, when you show up, it’s game time and you go to play, you put on the uniform.

Wearing that uniform during “game time,” which could mean acting as the CEO, CFO or CTO of a company, leading a sales team, being a sales person, or working at a retail outlet, doesn’t define who or what you are. However, when it is game time, you put on the uniform and step on the field of play. When you are done, you wear what you want.

I live in Colorado and I love to fly fish and hike. Do I love the outdoor clothing that I have and how functional and comfortable it is? Yea, but I am not going to wear it on a sales call! I’m not going to wear it to a seminar or give a keynote in it.

I’ve always been mystified by how people can’t find that balance between what they want to wear and what they should wear in certain game situations. If it is time to play and you are playing to win, then the uniform can be a motivator. Honestly, would you show up to play on a football team in jeans and a t-shirt? No. That’s great for your off time, but, really, you don’t have to use work as your main venue of personal expression through clothing.

These days, however, there is a lot of latitude in how people should dress for work. With people working at an office and telecommuting on occasion (or a lot), some may forget the uniform they should be wearing when they go to their workplace. Many people need guidance, and, with corporate dressing protocol changing, however subtly, here are some of my top tips:

  1. First, remember the psychology of what you wear – what does what you are wearing say about you to your co-workers? That you care about your appearance? That you respect your workplace? Or that you like to wear funny t-shirts? Remember, funny t-shirts can be amazing for the weekend or after work… not at work, unless you work for Snorgtees.
  2. In the past, wearing denim to work was more than taboo. Today, it is the norm for most places on Fridays, but many places have a year-round casual work environment. If you want to wear jeans, and your workplace encourages it, remember: no holes, no fraying, no patches, and not too much skin. A nice pair of denim jeans will work for anyone as long as you keep it classy.
  3. Don’t wear bow ties. They are for college students and elderly statesmen. They don’t work for the average sales guy.
  4. No sweatpants. I can’t say much more about this one.
  5. No tennis shoes. See #4.
  6. Think about what colors you wear – remember the yellow “power ties” of the 80s? Color does make a statement. Blue evokes trust, loyalty, and peacefulness while red or black can be seen as intimidating or overpowering. I really liked this article on colors for interviews, which can be helpful for the salesperson who is dressing for a proposal or meeting a new customer. Colors can evoke emotions whether you mean for them to or not, and you want your customers to feel good when they see you.

Just as a football player dons a uniform to become a warrior on the playing field, donning the right “corporate” uniform can make the difference between a win or a loss for you. More than 50-percent of all communication is conveyed through visual presentation. Make sure you are wearing a uniform of respect and purpose for your workplace, your colleagues, and your customers.