I have had the privilege of working for a number of global corporations as a senior executive. Perhaps what I have enjoyed the most in my career is calling on clients all over the world. There is something to be said for meeting in person, thanking an individual for the vast amount of money they have just spent with your company, and making yet another human connection.
The suit and tie have always been an unspoken requisite for these visits. Naturally I always want to make a good first impression; but more importantly, I feel that by dressing up in formal business attire I am showing a certain respect towards my host. It speaks to who I am and what I represent!
On one particular trip to the Far East, I had just stepped out of the shower and headed over towards the hotel room closet. Unpacking the night before, I had meticulously hung my dress shirts, an assortment of tasteful ties, and several lightweight suits. Each had been treated to a good steaming and there was not a wrinkle to be found; in spite of the treatment my suitcase had endured at the hands of the airport baggage crew.
Slipping on my starched dress shirt, a familiar feeling overcame me. Seeing my reflection in the well shined shoes below me, there was a slight smile on my face. I was in my element now; I was donning my superhero costume yet again. My well-rehearsed fingers expertly formed a Windsor knot and my tie slipped gingerly into place. The triangle of cloth was placed precisely between the tabs of my shirt collar.
Jacket now on, I took a step back to undergo the required inspection. The full-length mirror showed a middle-aged man in a well-tailored suit ready to go out and press the flesh. Making a small adjustment to my tie, an event from the recent past formed itself in my mind. My stepson had been off to some event where he had to wear a tie. He had just asked if I would execute the knot for him. I took a moment away from getting ready myself, pulled him aside, and assured that he witnessed the gentlemanly ritual of the knot forming. He focused on my hands, an amazed look on his face as I finished up the task.
The sharp tone of the hotel room telephone brought me back to the present. It appeared that my car had arrived. As I counted down the thirty-six floors on the elevator, I glanced about at the passengers who were sharing a few minutes of shared confinement with me. The handful of young men leaning against the walls of the elevator were wearing dress shirts. But not a one of them sported either a coat or a tie. In fact, one of them studied my attire from top to bottom; smirking as if he were gazing at a museum relic.
Setting aside my thoughts on the professionalism that a woman emits when wearing a business suit complete with skirt; I will focus on the masculine gender. In an age of “casual Fridays,” the thought of wearing a jacket and tie seems foreign to most men. The suit has been relegated to a state of necessity for funerals, weddings, and marriage anniversaries. The workplace, at best, mandates a dress shirt and nice slacks. In some of the organizations I have served, shorts and polo shirts were perfectly acceptable. For casual Friday you were allowed to downgrade to tee-shirt and sandals!
Awaiting my next executive position, I have gazed longingly at the collection of ties and jackets hanging in my closet. I eagerly anticipate the day when my dear friends and I can again make the commute to work together. It is not so much a question of showing respect to my customers and workplace associates. A well pressed suit and a silk tie make me feel better about who I am. They state to the world that I am proud of myself and that I share that sense of well-being with them. Nothing materialistic is intended; it just feels right!
Perhaps the time has come to alter the concept of “Casual Friday” somewhat. Next week, introduce your staff to “Formal Friday.” You might just be surprised what it does for morale and productivity! Need help with that tie?