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What Not To Wear On a Business Trip

May 24, 2016

In hindsight, it’s easy to see where I went wrong. But, I was young and dumb. Years and years later, I still cringe at my fashion choice for my first Microsoft business trip. 

I have a friend, Eric Aroca, who is a motivational speaker and fashion guru. He has a page called The Walking Fashion Show. His philosophy is that as a businessman you are always being judged by what you wear. He gives great advice on not only general fashion trends, but also coaches men directly. It’s an odd choice of professions to me. Eric is great at it. But, if I think about it, it’s certainly a valuable service. I’m much better now than than I was early in my career. I could have used his help. 

I recently took a trip to an important client. I was the lowest ranking person from my company on this trip. This was a “getting to know” visit. We’d recently signed the contracts and we were working on building the personal relationships that all business depends on. 

I wore slacks, a dress shirt, coat and tie. Okay, I was probably slightly overdressed. Most of the executives were wearing business casual. they had slacks and dress shirts, or blouses for the women. Everyone except one vice president. He wore slacks and a polo shirt. It wasn’t the polo shirt that I found odd. It’s that the shirt had a corporate logo on it. Not our corporation, and not the client’s company. It was a computer company. 

Maybe it was a former employer. Maybe, he bought it. Maybe it was a giveaway at a tradeshow. Regardless, it had nothing to do with either one of our companies. It’s not like the company on the shirt was a competitor to either of our companies, but it was odd to see this VP essentially advertising for a third party company. 

I rarely wear logo shirts. I’ve actually thrown lots of them away over the years. Microsoft was famous for giving their employees clothing. I got t-shirts, of course. But, also polo shirts, dress shirts, aprons, jackets, hats and even hockey sweaters. Friends have given me shirts from their companies at times. And it’s impossible to come home from a trade show without at least a couple of free t-shirts. 

I almost never wear them to work. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I just don’t want to be a walking billboard for some company that isn’t paying me. I’ll wear logo’d shirts from my own company. In fact, on our business trip, one of the shirts I took with me was a dress shirt with our company logo on it. I typically wear it with a tie and jacket during our product launches when I’m on site. Our client asked me about it one time.

Rodney, do you always wear a tie?

Nope. Only when I’m visiting with y’all. 

I learned that it’s possible to decide to dress down, say by taking off the jacket, or losing the tie. But, it’s very hard to dress up if you havnen’t brought the right clothes. that was my experience on my first Microsoft trip. We were flying from Redmond to Los Colinas, TX to meet with our support teams. Since Microsoft dress code was shorts and t-shirts, I figured I’d upscale that slightly by wearing jeans and a t-shirt. My manager looked at me as we met for breakfast. I don’t even remember what he said. But, the man who wore t-shirts in Redmond was wearing slacks and a dress shirt. 

It’s the reason why I was wearing a jacket and tie on my recent trip with the VP in his computer shirt. It would not have gone over well for me to correct the VP. He didn’t need me to tell him what to wear. Although, he could have used the services of my friend Eric.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

  1. Thanks for the props Rodney. It’s painful to learn something the hard way. Glad you learned from this experience. #dresswithstykeanddistinction

  2. Ryan Lee permalink

    Bad typo in the third paragraph (or fourth, if the first sentence counts as one): “I wore slacks, a dress shit, coat and tie.” Probably worth going back to fix!

    • Thanks, Ryan. Proving once again that just because it passes spellchecker, does NOT mean it’s ready to publish.

      • Ryan Lee permalink

        No worries. I also won’t be offended if you want to delete my original comment to preserve your “G” rating. 🙂

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