When I was younger, I hated to go back to school shopping. Every year, as the calendar pages turned and Labor Day approached, I dreaded my mother’s announcement that we would be headed to the store to buy clothes for school. That always meant a trip to the nearest Sears for shirts and corduroy pants and then to Hanlon’s shoes for school shoes. Inevitably, it also meant stopping for school supplies and for every other thing that my Mom felt that our household needed. It was an all day affair and one that cruelly deprived me of one of the final days of summer. Even worse, because I was oddly sized for a child (very tall with oddly proportioned limbs — picture a giant praying mantis and will not be far off the mark), I had little say in what I could purchase. We got what the store had in my size.
That misery was also magnified by my father who always made gentle fun of anyone who had to “dress” for work. Although at the time my Dad was a dentist with a very large practice, his uniform was basic: trousers, a t-shirt and a lab smock. He never wore a tie and I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen him in a suit.
As a result of both my annual back to school shopping ritual and my father’s aversion to formal or dressy attire, I grew up with an aversion to shopping for clothing and to wearing anything that remotely hinted at formality. After college, I failed to build a good wardrobe. After graduate school and the commencement of my professional life, I continued to have a limited selection of clothing. Looking back, the deficiencies in my wardrobe also contributed to deficiencies in my early professional advancement. As my wife always liked to remind me, if I could not put myself together in a respectable and appropriate way regardless of the circumstances, I could not expect clients to trust me to help them to organize their own business affairs.
My wife was entirely correct, as I came to recognize over the years. A good wardrobe is absolutely essential for success. It matters not whether a man or woman is a professional, an executive, a middle manager or a ditch digger, looking professional in certain circumstances will improve how people perceive an individual. That perception often defines how an individual will be remembered and whether a potential customer, client or employer will be motivated to pursue a relationship.
Today, I spend time not just every year, but every month, looking for new clothes. Just because I recognize a need for an extensive wardrobe, however, does not mean that I want to pay full price for everything that I purchase. As my wife, a wise shopper in her own right, likes to remind me, building a wardrobe is not about buying everything you like or everything that you need all at once. Rather it is about buying worthwhile wardrobe additions when the price is right, and that takes time, patience and diligence.
How do you build the wardrobe that you feel you need to enhance your personal success? Do you feel that clothes make the man (or woman)? Where do you like to shop?