I love this room, especially (of course) the glass wall and the coffee table growing from the floor. And, the library shelves and ladder.
Style is a fiendishly difficult thing to grasp, especially at first. You need first to pay attention to what you wear. You need to try … but never too hard.
Here are some useful guides for the sovereign professional aspiring to elegance:
Do you struggle to tell a dive watch from a driving watch? A field from a tank watch? Or even a dress watch from more casual models?
The importance and role of watches has changed. In these smartphone days, many don’t bother with a watch at all.
However, with a little attention, a man’s watch can be an elegant indicator of success and a valuable signal of competence.
Remember, when you studied marketing? The reason that City law firms and accountants have plush offices hung with expensive art is that they are selling a service. You can’t try before you buy, therefore you rely on signals to decide whether you are buying real expertise.
We all do it, all the time. In a study a few years ago, researchers found that volunteers wearing Tommy Hilfiger or Lacoste polo shirts were deemed more successful than those wearing unbranded or Slazenger tops:
In summary, the researchers found that volunteers who wore a polo shirt with a Tommy Hilfiger or Lacoste logo (i.e. recognised premium brands) were rated as wealthier and of higher status than those wearing no logo or a Slazenger logo (i.e. a recognised non-luxury brand). Similarly, they were more likely to persuade passers-by to partake in surveys, more likely to be offered a job and raised more money when collecting for charity.
Forgive the self-reference, but I blogged about that research, here. Anyhow, back to watches.
The sovereign professional has a unique challenge: how to fit in with the client’s team, while also signalling that you are the premium product the client is paying for.
Some big consulting firms take the view that consultants on-site should be indistinguishable from the client’s own team. That might work if you have a heavyweight consulting logo behind you, I’m not sure. But, the independent, sovereign professional needs some signals subtle enough to avoid alienating temporary team-mates.
An elegant, understated watch can signal credibility. However, the world of watches becomes esoteric quite quickly. Here are five useful resources:
- “We will either find a way, or make one.” – Hannibal
- “If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna.” – Napoleon
- “Optimism is a force multiplier.” – Colin Powell
I worked with a great leader who always used that Colin Powell quote.
Interestingly, if only because I’ve just discovered it myself, Marcus Aurelius died in Vienna (Vindobona as it was then) on March 17, 180AD. There is a (rather uninteresting) Mark Aurel Strasse close to the Roman Museum (Römermuseum) on Hoher Markt in the city centre.
If you want to get ahead, get a hat.
My own interest in hats has grown in inverse proportion to the growth of my hair. The first autumn rain pelting your near-naked scalp, or the dry, shrinking sensation of hot, summer sun on parts you previously supposed to be thatched will do that to a chap.
Title image: the Bowie Fedora from Lock Hatters
Choosing the perfect bag for work is a no easy task. Unless you want to manage a fleet of bags and cases for every occasion, you need to find that elusive bag for all seasons.
Personally, I’d relied for much too long on the sheer convenience of my Timberland back-pack. It was well-padded, had pockets and places for just about everything and seemed to be indestructible. On top of that, after a few years’ constant use, it had developed its own little ecosystem of “essential stuff”: memory sticks, iPhone cables, hotel pens, painkillers, business cards, you name it.
But, it didn’t really support a professional image. It worked in the more casual, everyday setting of my mostly tech-industry clients, but in a boardroom, suit-wearing scenario, it just didn’t cut it.
I wanted a good quality, last-for-ever leather case that would develop its own patina with age. However, a highly-burnished Italian leather attache case would be overkill for less formal environments.
Also, I found that I really, really, really hated fake buckles. What is the point of putting a pointless buckle on the front and hiding a spring-clip behind it? If you don’t believe in buckles, at least have the courage of your convictions. It transpired that finding real, working buckles is a challenge. And, along the way, I learned a lot about the grading of leather and the weasel words sellers use to distract.
Eventually though, I found what I wanted in the US with this Dark Walnut, Denver Briefcase from Buffalo Jackson:
It’s constructed in thick, top-grain leather with sturdy, real, working buckles. It’s spacious with a good mix of versatile spaces and pockets for the vital small stuff.
Now, after 10 months’ use, it’s settled into a working routine. The front right pocket is home to my Moleskine and Lamy fountain pen, while the inside holds all the usual project papers,spare pens, iPads, recorders, water bottles and so on.
My 13″ laptop felt a bit loose inside, but I solved that with one of these fantastic sleeves from Lihit Lab, which adds a bit of extra padding, along with extra pockets.
My verdict: this is a great case to straddle from boardroom to skunk-works, with plenty of stop-offs for coffee along the way. It’s sturdy and versatile, it works well well with suit or jeans, and collects admiring comments as a bonus.
How you dress, groom and present yourself is important in a business environment. It’s even more important for the sovereign professional who interacts with different clients, always an outsider but needing to fit in.
You need to convey a degree of authority and gravitas without being aloof. You need to blend in, but be discreetly different enough to convey success and credibility.
- The younger you are the more appearance will contribute to your credibility (or not). The older you get the more licence you obtain in being individual or weird, depending on taste.