[IMGCAP(1)]Years ago when I was struggling to master the game of tennis, a pursuit my father assured me would serve me well throughout my working years (this before every corporate outing centered on golf), he also advised me, if nothing else, to at least dress the part, regardless of ability.
"If you look like a player, you just might fool someone," he said. I never believed for a minute that was an original quote, but nonetheless, I've tried to follow that sage advice both on and off the courts.
Years later, I also read then-best seller "Dress For Success," with admittedly mixed results on the success side.
I regale you with my sartorial history because of the recent hoopla over a 43-page memo distributed by Swiss banking giant UBS which, in its distilled essence, instructs its employees how to wow customers with a bit of style and flair in their wardrobe as well as hygienic and grooming tips.
Now one would think that a global financial conglomerate which only recently paid a $780 million settlement to the Justice Department as a result of 4,000 or so its clients hiding assets offshore, would have far more critical issues on its to-do list, but apparently in its best impression of famed fashion editrix Anna Wintour of Vogue has dashed off this treatise on how to polish up its employee appearances.
According to reports, the strategy is part of a test UBS is carrying out in Switzerland across five pilot branches and comes on the heels of a recent advertising campaign crafted to help mend the bank's brand image as well as client relations.
In a throwback to the IBM of the 1960s, UBS expects its retail banking staff to don suits in shades of dark grey, black or navy blue, citing that those "symbolize competence, formalism and sobriety."
Shorter skirts and dresses are of course verboten for female staff, with the ideal hemline reaching the middle of the knee.
The section on hair care noted that proper grooming and "stylish haircuts" are a panacea to "increase an individual's popularity." As someone who has not had a haircut in 11 years, I wonder where that would leave me?
Men's underwear should be of good quality and easily washable, but remain undetectable. It goes without saying, I guess, that sporting low-slung hip-hop pants would not be advisable.
Now, far be it from me to dismiss the importance of a dress code or first impressions. I'm sure many firms have similar formal or even informal policies in place. And a number of studies have drawn indisputable correlations between performance and dress codes, particularly in secondary education circles.
I doubt many potential clients who met the managing partner of a CPA firm dressed in a "wife-beater" T-shirt and chic, but inappropriate, torn jeans would be too eager to sign on.
On the other hand, I would remain skeptical of anyone employed in the professional services arena who requires a 43-page memo on appearance. If they don't look like a player, they probably aren't.
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