Shakespeare’s quote challenges us to consider – if not how much we judge others by the way they dress – how much first impressions count.
Is our dress sense an issue for the way others perceive our professionalism?
When I was a young teacher it was very fashionable to wear what was then known as ‘army surplus’ gear. I wore various combinations and shades of battle green shirts, baggy khaki trousers trousers with bulging pockets and bomber jackets. I thought I was the ‘bee’s knees’. It wasn’t Paul Smith and I can’t remember drawing many compliments, but on the other hand I certainly didn’t get any complaints – no one ever suggested it was inappropriate dress code for a teacher in a school.
Recently I met a group of young new teachers at a teachers’ centre and the contrast was stark. Some looked as if they had come from attending first job interviews at the offices of international banks, while others looked as if they were dressed to hang out in Starbucks.
I am not for a moment suggesting the way people dress is linked to their competence to practise their profession, but perhaps we have entered an era where we can’t get away from superficial perceptions affecting our attitudes. Let me offer these scenarios as a way of reflecting on the issue of perception:
Imagine you are on trial for a very serious crime (you are innocent of course..!) but your long-term liberty clearly depends on the skill of the barrister defending you. You are about to have your first briefing meeting with him…
He walks in to the room wearing a Gap t-shirt and baggy, sagging pants clinging to his lower waist, a pair of trainers open at the laces and a reversed peek cap on his head.
Are you happy with this man representing you to a jury of your peers?
You have an appointment to meet the surgeon who is going to discuss with you the highly complex and very delicate surgery she will need to perform to remove a tumour threatening your life.
She enters the consulting room – clearly having just come from her lunch-time gym session – wearing a leotard, tracksuit, leg-warmers and trainers.
Got any issues with that?
Tell me what they are then…