|One weekend a bunch of summers ago, when I was single, young, and optimistic, it was so hot that the young adults of New York City were walking around in their underwear. Shirtless men in micro shorts and sandals and women in the tiniest of skirts and what really was a nightie dressed up as outerwear but no less transparent. It was an excellent time to roam the streets, no imagination needed. One day my friend from France, I'll call him "Luc", dropped by wearing a beat up t-shirt, jeans with their legs torn off at the hip, and sandals. "Luc" I said, "What happened? I know it's hot but you look like the cat dragged you in through a junkyard".|
"I know", he said smiling from ear to ear "In Paris I could never leave the house like this".
Americans, are, as a group, the most casual dressers in the first world. Now this isn't a bad thing, we have a porous, egalitarian society but woe to the sales person who judges a customer on how they dress.
But, and this very important. The reverse isn't true. If you are selling high end woodworking products, as a cabinetmaker or as anything, customers will judge you all the time.
It's about first impressions. You might have just gotten out of the workshop (which destroys clothing) and you might be the honest workman but the first impression your customer will have is a guy wearing beat up clothing who obviously doesn't identify with the high end, well made, products you makes. No matter how convincing your sales patter is, you are not advertising your product very well because your subliminal message is defeating your pitch. It becomes an uphill battle.
This is why if you going into any high end store the sales staff is dressed to the nines.
Of course with woodworking products, you have to be careful. If you show up to a meeting in a suit and tie you are breaking the connection the customers want to have with the "maker", with the "craftsman". Even if you happen to be the person making the stuff, you come off as a sales guy and lose your maker cred.
Most guys I know who work with clients make sure that when they deal with clients directly they aren't wearing their shop clothing, but are wearing clean and stylish versions of their shop clothing. You need clothing that is clean, fits, informal but respectful, and most of all is well made and looks it. Clothing has to be stylish enough so that people don't think that you and your work are old fashioned. Do it right and the client who has no professed interest in clothing will still get a subconscious message that you are doing good work, and the client who actually takes an interest in clothing will get additional message that you are well dressed, clean and neat, and your clothing has the details and quality that they are looking for in furniture.
You want your clothing to advertise that you are a person who understands quality and that your bid, while on the high side of your competitors (of course), reflects your plan to deliver exactly the quality product they are looking for because you understand exactly what the customer is looking for.
Before you yell at me and tell me I'm exaggerating, think about how hard it is to convince anyone what quality is and why they should pay you for it, and then think about how we can all use any help we can get in moving a deal to close. Even if clothing isn't something you are naturally interested in - and I'm certainly not interested in clothing - it doesn't mean you can't be better at it. Fortunately, unlike learning to play the banjo, dressing better is mostly about finding sources for well made clothing, and making sure it fits.
This is a lesson I learned late in life. Preparing a presentation is just one more part of a project, and the accessories, including clothing, to make the presentation go well are just the cost of doing business. I think of it as a presentation tool like any other.
This gives me an excellent opportunity to mention that we are now stocking in very limited quantities a few styles of work clothing by "Engineered Garments". EG clothing is all made in a 50 mile radius of New York city, and the quality comes from using top notch fabrics and extreme attention to detail. We are stocking their clothing because EG the brand is owned by Nepetheles, a NYC garment firm that invited us last January to have a pop-up store in their store, and we were so take by the quality of the stuff they make, we thought we would give it a try. I have personally bought two pairs of pants and for the first time in my life I'm getting a few compliments because the pants are properly tailored in the first place and they just fit me better.
We elected to work with Engineered Garments, which is one of the best makers of work clothing in the US but happens to be at the high end of quality and price. Look around, ask around, if you want to up your game find a clothing maker who speaks both to how you want to be presented and to your budget. You will find that you will walk into a sales meeting with more confidence, you will create a better impression, and both advantages will make it easier to close a deal.
Note: Unlike everything else we sell we are not allowed to offer EG clothing via a click to purchase on-line. if you see something you like, just give us a call (800-426-4613) and we will help you with sizing and placing the order.
*N.B The expression "Clothes make a man" is a modern paraphrase from William Shakespeare
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy -- rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that. (Hamlet 1.3.70-75)
Your point on clothing is well taken. I have often gone to town with my work clothes and have seen the look of disproval by some and approval by others. When transacting business or attending social events I am appropriately dressed (in my rural quirky ivy league provincial city) and the reactions may be reversed. To counter Shakespeare's dictum I will quote Thoreau from section 'Economy' in Walden: "I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes." Here's the link: Walden by Henry David Thoreau: Chapter 1 (continued) - The ...
I appreciate well made, durable clothing such as EG's, however such clothing can be purchased for much less. One must always be aware of our own personal economy and not follow the trends of fashion. If I could afford to purchase these items I would. Those prices are out of line with much of rural America where your wood is coming from and where a good percentage of fine wood craft is produced.
We all have noticed the decline in quality and durability and increase in price of the softened blue jeans. Blue jeans of old would take nine months to break in now are beginning to fray at the same age.
I worked in the corporate world for 30 years. If the skin on your leg was revealed when crossing your legs because you weren't wearing over the calf socks, or the lines on your tie didn't match at the knot, or your hair was just a little too long or your shave not close enough...and on and on. Extreme to the extreme. If you weren't wearing the uniform you'd never get in the game. You needed to look the part and you needed to do it as though it was effortless. I showed up to go along on an inspection of a building under construction. First thing the onsite engineer did was hand me a beat-up hardhat. He said if he gave me a nice new one, no one would respect me or take my questions seriously.
When we contracted out the finish on our basement a number of years ago I noticed how easy it was to put yourself in the remodeling business. Simply show up wearing a pair of straight legged dungarees (denim/jeans), work boots, a shirt with your logo embroidered, and a tape measure on your belt, you were in business. They get in the door, then they have to deliver. But, the "look" got them in.
The proof of one's worth is ultimately in the finished product. But, if the client doesn't perceive you correctly you'll never get a chance to show what you can do.
Spending $170 for a pair of work pants? Ridiculous. Spending $$$$ on tools - that's where the money needs to go.