A suit has become something you wear when you’re asking for money.
At least that’s what was said in a Wall Street Journal article today by Trevor Kaufman, chief executive of Schematic, a digital-branding agency whose work you’ve seen if you’ve visited Target.com or glimpsed Nissan’s on-line advertising. The article is about something called “CEO Casual.”
What I’ve noticed is that CEO Casual is common not only to industries, but to geographic areas. Some communities are simply more casual dressing than others. Even in the mid-to-upper ninety degree days of summer, there are some communities in the Deep South that still love the suit and necktie as standard dress for the business professional.
My yardstick for measuring this phenomenon is the Rotary Club, that bastion of business representation, and a place where I seem to give a lot of speeches. No matter where the city, the banker is always going to be wearing a suit and necktie, unless its casual Friday when the dress is always Polo shirt emblazoned with the bank logo. Lawyers used to always wear suits and ties, but nowadays they’ve seen the light and have ditched that wardrobe except when in court. Mayors have also dressed down, the need to be seen as one of the people instead of the authority figure. Of course, casual dress can always go too far. What CEO doesn’t rue the day that “Casual Friday” was interpreted by some employees as tee shirts and blue jeans with holes? And I still want my airline pilot and police officer dressed in the dark uniform of authority. And then there is the hapless college president, who must be seen as “cool” by the students and “in command” by a faculty in its own dress code world.
And now I must make a personal decision: I have two Rotary Club speeches coming up within the next ten days. Do I dare NOT wear a suit and necktie?