The Importance of Your Wardrobe

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?

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6 Responses to The Importance of Your Wardrobe

  1. rob62521 says:

    I would have to agree. My husband had problems for years finding clothes that fit him — he was slender and if he found a waist to fit, the pants were often too short. Fortunately we have found different stores to shop or catalogs to order from and he has become quite the clothes horse!

    I know as I get older I often look at how people are dressed when they wait on me. If it’s a store I think people shouldn’t be wearing jeans or shorts — I think pants are necessary. Especially with the people who have tattoos on their legs — I don’t really want to see them. Their body art is their choice, but it’s my shopping that is paying the bills so they can afford that body art!

    Having gone through a time when I didn’t have a big wardrobe because I simply couldn’t afford it, to now, I think when I dress more professionally, it also helps my self esteem.

  2. Allison says:

    I am going to forward this to my boyfriend….he still wears shirts from high school….and he’s 32. At some point, things just fade, and I’m all for being thrifty, but when it comes to looking professional, anything over 10 years old is probably out.

  3. I completely agree. As my husband advanced in his career, he became aware that even though he dressed appropriately, the quality and cut of his clothing was a little lacking. There is a great book called “Dressing the Man” by Alan Flusser that is worth reading and also “The Suit” by Nicholas Antongiavanni. That last one is also funny. I think the reading is necessary to understand different cuts, etc… and to figure out what looks best on your body.

    Good places for men to shop:
    locally owned mens shops, Brooks Brothers, Neiman’s Outlet, Sierra Trading Post.

  4. Cassie says:

    I agree! I work in a very conservative, 100 year old family owned small town bank. We dress up every day. I am a firm believer in looking professional!

    My best secret is shopping second hand or consignment stores. I have picked up designer label clothes for next to nothing. Over the years I have been able to add many classic pieces to my wardrobe for very little money.

  5. Chris says:

    During the years that I went to college (too long ago to mention) there was a book out called “dress for success.” After graduating, I got into the real estate business and wore a suit every day. I don’t know that it helped because at the time I was perceived as being too young to be in the business.

    On one appointment with some very laid back land owners, that wanted to sell their land, I felt very overdressed compared to them sitting across from me in their flannel shirts.

    I don’t get all dressed up like that any more but I am in a profession that doesn’t require that.

    When I do buy clothes, they have to be on sale. I simply will not pay full retail for clothes.

  6. Gail says:

    When I graduated from college in the late 70’s I had $60 to my name and 4 years worth of worn out college clothes. I couldn’t afford to go clothes shopping as I had to get a job and get out on my own (I didn’t have a family that was willing to put up a college graduate until a good job came along). I knew as I went on job interviews that I was at a deficit. I ended up getting a job at Arby’s. I didn’t really have appropriate clothes for work until I became a nurse and had to wear uniforms. It is only now that I don’t work that I have been working on sewing myself an adequate wardrobe for all occasions and was very pleased a few weeks ago when I realized I finally had several outfits for all seasons for church, weddings, funerals, etc. As much as some kids don’t think it is important, those tatoos, piercings and ratty clothes aren’t going to do a thing to improve their career path. I wish so much that I had been able to have the money to get decent job interview clothes when I was younger. I even set up a fund for both my boys so that when they came of age they would have money for a new suit, apartment deposit, etc. They didn’t use it for that but it was a big help to them and they appreciated getting it.

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