I tend to dress more formally than most people. My typical casual outfit is a button up shirt, a sport coat, slacks, and leather shoes. I seldom wear t-shirts, don’t wear jeans, and don’t own any flip flops. This is just what I choose to wear.
I tell people that I dress for comfort. When most people think about comfort, they think about physical comfort. They think of sweatshirts and sweatpants, loose material and easy fit. But comfort can be defined in different ways.
I learned this lesson while I was at Google. Let’s say my boss comes to me and says, “A big client wants to talk to someone on our team. Can you come do a presentation in an hour?” The last thing that I want to do is feel out of place with my overly casual dress. In the same vein, I don’t know who I will run into on the street, so I want to maintain a neat appearance s much as possible.
Some may say that it is vanity to think about clothing. And it’s true that clothing is just stuff. Really, it’s not the most important thing in the world. But clothing is part of our visual language. In choosing the clothes that we wear, we communicate to the world before we even open our mouths. If you don’t put much thought into clothing and just wear whatever, that in itself is a choice. It’s an opportunity to shape someone’s opinion of you right from the first meeting.