The Buzz by Mike Schaffer - PR, Social Media, Pop Culture and Sports

Buzz,Social Media

June 17, 2010

Social Media, Put Some Damn Pants On!


I spent a good portion of Thursday afternoon at #140conf – The 140 Character Conference, investigating the state of NOW, related to our good friend Twitter.  The event was part of Digital Capital Week, a series of conferences, awards, meetings-of-the-minds and other fantastic gatherings.

Event founder is a terrific example of the best there is in social media.  He is candid about how social media has been a positive force in his life and, as the starter of a movement, he is making a tremendous impact in the world.

The Social Media Dress Code

I am not an easily offended person.  Outside of insulting my wife and dog, not much will rattle me.

Man in tuxedo toasting martini

However, a trend emerged from #140conf that really got to me.

This was a conference aimed towards professionals in the communications industry, educating them on the value of Twitter as a marketing, communications, teaching, crisis management, entertainment and charitable tool.

Most every presenter was dressed to impress in the professional world, with suits and/or appropriate business casual wear.

However, several male speakers went on stage wearing, no joke, shorts, t-shirts and sandals.  They were among the social media career folks, not professionals who worked into the social media realm from other segments.

As someone with “Social Media” on my business card, as someone who joined the social media world following a career in mainstream PR, as someone who takes pride in working in the most fun, social, interactive industry on the planet, I was offended and embarrassed.

I’m sure you’ve heard the common perceptions about social media folks – anti-social (ironically), living in basements, doing something a kid could do.

At it’s core, social media is about communication.  Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, they are all tools that will go away at some point.  Knowing how to use those tools is great, but that doesn’t make you a communications pro.  A carpenter is known for getting the job done, not which saw he uses.  Communications is the same thing – a skilled trade.

I was offended because by dressing like slovenly slobs, these presenters are perpetuating the stereotype of the industry I love instead of using their forum to make things better.  I was offended because no matter what they said in their presentation, I had trouble taking them seriously.  I spent time away from my office to gain insight from “thought leaders” only to find out they dressed like college sophomores after a long night partying.

We are an industry of creative, innovative, active, social professionals.  As an emerging communications segment, we have the responsibility to represent ourselves properly.

I’m not 30 yet, but feel much older when I say this:  If I am going to spend my day listening to what you have to say in a professional setting, put some damn pants on.

My questions (to the #u30pro crowd and up!) are thus: Am I overreacting?  Is dress code really all that important in our industry?  And if so, what should the standard be?

Popularity: 100% [?]

  • ReaderX
    You are definitely overreacting, imho. Why are you fixated on their clothing choice? Fashion changes and we no longer wear powdered white wigs, which probably offends the frail sensibilities of someone next to you on the same spectrum of thought. Let it go. Not everyone judges a book by its cover.
  • Rachel Lawley
    I think when people are spending good money to see you as a leading expert in a professional industry, it would be respectful to them to at least look neat. Superficial? Yes. Reality? Possibly. It might come down to, as you pointed out, recognizing that social media is an odd creature – used and perfected by basement-dwellers and business professionals. Are we ignoring the foundation of social media if we can't recognize and give due diligence to those who figured it out long before businesses did?

    Another point: I’ve attended many-a conference presented by expensive-suit-baring folks and walked away having only learned the name of their latest book. Social media just may be one of those topics that we should recognize – and appreciate – that there are several types of people that have knowledge to share; no matter how tattered the book cover (sorry for the cliché).
  • Wow. Finally - a question where there is one right answer and many wrong ones. I suppose this signals that I can stop searching for the lost City of Ciabola, Atlantis and that pink sock that's eluded me in the laundry for months.

    In my not-so-humble opinion (as like assholes, everyone has one), wear whatcha like and embrace the consequences of your actions. Build your brand how you like, and embrace the similar fallout. As for me, I could give a shit if you show up at a meeting with a duck on your head - if you know your shit, you're getting the gig. Yet I realize many others want their attorneys in suits and their CPAs with pocket protectors.

    There's no real right or wrong - how you dress yourself, your brand and your content is the beauty of business. Just be sure you're making yourself comfortable/distinct/reprehensible/unremarkable for conscious reasons.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to cancel some plane tickets and Sherpas since I no longer believe in the existence of the above fabled cities. I'm holding out hope for the pink sock.
  • Cherk
    Regardless of what your "work" dress code is, when you are representing yourself as a professional, you need to dress like one. The point made earlier about getting CEOs and C-suite execs taking communicators seriously is an excellent one. Yes, sometimes standards and protocol do exist like it or not. Remember the old adage 90 percent image, 10 percent reality????

    And for all of you, is swearing really necessary to get attention. I am liberal in many of my views, but just becasue things are labeled "social" why does respect and appropriate behavior have to fly out the windows. We're professionals here. Let's act respectable "social media" or not!
  • Pat
    I am not a communications professional but I am a career development professional and if a client of mine pulled a stunt like this, I would let him know my displeasure. You summed it up in your comment that implied these folks wasted your time, which is as big a sin these days as it is to waste someone's money. First impressions are number one, and if my first impression is that a presenter is a slob, and has so little regard for his audience as to not even dress correctly, then why should I bother listening to him?
  • I'm 20, about to be a junior in college (majoring in Communication/Public Relations) and I think this post rocks. It's a serious question that not many people are discussing. So often in class we're expected to give a professional presentation--to pitch ourselves to our teachers, our classmates, PR practitioners, anyone who will listen--and no matter how many warnings my professors hand out, there will always be a number of students (sometimes this number is sadly the majority) who come in leggings, shorts or flip flops.

    I'm a college student. I hate wearing dress pants and button-down shirts and pencil skirts just as much as the next 20-year-old, but when I'm asked to act professionally, I know that includes looking the part. Since social media is new and cool, I don't think everyone knows what that "part" looks like. So yes, I believe this area requires some education. Someone needs to come down and say it, there is a dress code, and it is professional.

    I'm with you Mike, Social Media, Put Some Damn Pants On!
  • Gosh, I thought that we could leave high-school behind. Mike, you are welcome to make judgements about people on whatever criteria you choose. So can Peter, and Alex and Erica and Megan, and everyone else! It's not-so-much cool, tho, to call people out as "slovenly slobs" and "unprofessional" based on those aforementioned personal criteria. Or saying that they are degrading the profession that you aspire to and love.

    If you didn't see these "slobs", would you be less offended by what the "thought leaders" presented? Did you think they were smart before you saw them? Do you dismiss the writing in Street Sense because the authors are homeless, dressed poorly or without teeth? Do you think that Lady Gaga is not a musician because she wears a suit of bubbles? Do you take Secretary of State Hillary Clinton less seriously because she showed cleavage ( Do you think most people who look old doesn't use the internet?

    Of course you don't! While I acknowledge that people do make judgements on outward appearances ALL THE TIME, I want to call *you* out on not looking beyond the surface and cultivating this behavior. If we want to make a world in which we judge based on people's contributions, we need to make that world.

    Mike, speaking from the above 30 side, you will realize that there is no reason for you to feel embarrassed by what other people wear or say--it's the quality of the work that counts. And, that you can only be embarrassed for things that you do.
  • DKRex
    If you want to be treated as a professional, act and dress like one, esp. in DC. If the dress says "casual" and you're in the Florida Keys, have fun --
  • As one of the casually dressed "offenders" at #140conf, I presume this is where I'm supposed to defend my wardrobe choice and become embroiled in a heated battle of image vs. perception vs. reality. But, if I'm willing to present at a conference while wearing cargo shorts and sandals, you probably already know what I think about dress codes, rules and publicly-mandated professionalism.

    However, I will say this: I make a living from what I know and what I do. This means numerous people are willing to pay me for my knowledge, expertise and execution. And when people automatically discount me because my solutions don't come wrapped in a suit, that actually makes both of our lives easier. In that case, you're free to hire someone you're more comfortable with, and I don't have to work with a company whose slavish adherence to impractical standards and concerns about tradition are going to limit my ability to innovate.

    You're welcome to your opinion, as I am to mine. We all make shorthand judgments about others based on a variety of factors. Wardrobe is one. What we choose to make a stand about is another. I wish you well in finding more ways to do what you love, but feel free to consider the occasional idea from people who don't look like what you'd expect an expert to look like. They just might be on to something.
  • mikeschaffer

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I very much appreciate it. I do feel like I understand your point better, so I thank you for avoiding the unproductive name-calling others have gone to.

    The honest truth is this: I felt your content at #140conf was the most relevant to me of any other presenter. Everyone was great, but I had a great respect for the thought you put into social media programs. The Bigelow Tea case study was brilliant!

    My issue is this: the way you presented yourself made it that much harder for me to accept your credibility. Right or wrong, when you dressed so casual, you had to work extra hard in order to be a credible presenter, in my eyes. And, judging from some of the other comments here, I'm was not alone.

    The concern isn't for your business model (and I'm very glad to hear things are going well for you) - it's for the overall perception of our shared industry.

    It would be phenomenal if we could all be judged by content and not appearance, but until we get to hear what someone has to say, appearance is pretty much all we have to go on.

    I hope this clarifies where I'm coming from - and I'd love to talk more about it!

    Thanks and have a great weekend,
  • Thanks for your compliment on my content -- which, ironically, is what
    I presumed most people would be paying attention to. ;)

    Your concern for burnishing the image of social media, as pertaining
    to those who may form judgments about the industry based on our
    appearance and conduct, is valid. But images are, and always have
    been, a fallacy. Images are what we project when we don't believe our
    content can withstand scrutiny on its own -- especially from people
    with preconceived notions.

    When we were all blogging, podcasting and otherwise inventing web
    media in the first half of the '00s, wardrobe wasn't a concern because
    *no one* was paying attention. Now that businesses are involved,
    there's an obvious concern that paying customers won't take a
    practitioner -- or, by extension, an entire field -- seriously if we
    don't resemble "traditional" business models.

    I say: be my guest.

    Companies and individuals who focus on goals, processes and content
    tend to look past the packaging, or at least realize that the
    packaging is a secondary sales tactic when compared to actual merit,
    meaning and quality. If a company can't get past the way information
    is being presented, or who's presenting it, they have the choice to
    hire someone else or to ignore that solution completely.

    Which means someone else will fill that gap.

    Social media won't collapse because someone spoke onstage in jeans,
    shorts or a kimono. Social media will collapse when no one produces
    content or results that matter. Everything else is just packaging,
    and packaging can't keep shit on the shelves.

    That said, flip the coin: do you trust everyone who wears a suit? Of
    course not, but you're more likely to trust someone in a suit because
    of the impression that they "pay attention to details," "go the extra
    mile," and are successful enough to dress like that.

    Wearing a suit makes it easier to be trusted. NOT wearing a suit --
    or, in my case, wearing an outfit you could find at Target with your
    eyes closed -- makes it easier to be dismissed. We all make choices
    that help our audience self-select.

    But the time we spend obsessing over how our products and results
    *look* would be better spent making our products and results *better*.
    And when what you do works, even the naysayers have to take you --
    and your industry -- seriously, or risk getting passed over by those
    who do.

    [And I think this is the last word I'll say about all this. Although,
    if you're wondering what I *really* think about wardrobes and pricing,
    I summed it all up here in January:
  • jessiex
    There's a difference between "a suit" and style, Justin. I found your attire as a speaker sloppy, so it made me wonder about how you work and interact with people. I'm so for comfort and easing the stuffiness with which corporations engage with customers ... so much so that, like you, it's the world in which I work and the services I provide.

    Me? My trick with casual clothing is quality material. A wrinkled skirt made of 100% linen is really different than a casual, cheap summer skirt purchased at (fill-in-the-blank) chain store in the mall.

    You just didn't demonstrate any style (in my book) in your presentation. And I think that was your missed opportunity. A simple cotton shirt and a pair of linen shorts, for example, would have made a difference.

    I don't think it's true that you -- or anyone -- believes design and style aren't a part of communication. I'm not about stuffiness or rules. But every word in a tweet, every design element in a blog, and every element of clothing does add up to an expression in a moment of time.

    It's not that casual (slovenly and sloppy to somewhat quote another) clothing makes your message less important or valuable. Only that it makes a statement about you because it was your choice. That's all.

  • ReaderX
    Quite possibly, Justin was communicating a message through his selection of attire. The message being communicated? Attire is irrelevant to my ideas.
  • Julie M. Evans
    Maybe they had pants on, Mike, and you just couldn't see them?
  • Sasha H. Muradali
    No, I do not think you're over re-acting. I'll tell you why: I attended two conferences and they were both social media based with very different 'dress codes.'

    I attended the #140conf and I saw the SAME thing you did. I also attended the Mashable Summit and saw quite the opposite by MOST of the attendees. Not all of them.

    When I went to the MTV Youth Ball for Obama's inauguration, the dress code was "ballroom" and there were people who showed up in cocktail dresses.

    There is a difference, but I would imagine, it's never been pointed out to some people, by no fault of their own.

    I think the core issue and problem is an unhealthy mix of lack of dress education as well as pure laziness and lack of propriety and well...shame, for a lack of a better term.

    Perhaps it was the way I was raised, but I completely agree with you: no excuses, no exceptions.

    It's something that has gone lax in the past few years as the generations have grown and progressed.

    Then again, that's just me.
  • But isn't that what dress codes do over time and generations? Evolve and change? I pointed this out earlier, but dress codes were far different in the 40's & 50's. Even more different back in the 'powdered wig' days. And damn if I want to lace myself into a corset for a formal function, so I'm glad they've evolved, and would like to continue to see them do so.
  • jessiex
    actually, emily, generations and dress codes are connected. one of the interesting things i see is that the millennials (born 1982 -2002) are going to have make decisions about what they value. they are notorious to other generations for lacking in soft skills (punctuality, appropriate dress, people skills) in the workplace. yet, as a generation, they are a "common man" and "average joe" generation. last time the generation cycled through, they became the "squares" in midlife against which they're children rebelled.

    and generations move in and out of relationships to traditional gender roles. millennials are moving toward more distinction of genders. ref the women pushing their breasts out for all the world to see and men wearing more ties and jackets.

    the gentleman who wrote this post is a FIRST YEAR millennial. in other words, i'd say watch him for coming trends about how young adults will redefine their own generational definitions of what is considered appropriate.

  • Great post Mike and definitely a good thing to consider. I'm glad to be not quite as heated about the issue as many of the comments - but it did allow me to think of an interesting subject (dress code) in a new way.

    I appreciate the idea of dressing in a way that makes you comfortable. If I could I would wear leggings, big tshirts, and tennis shoes all the time (you know and if it was still the 80s). There are other things to consider though than just comfort, such as the comfort of those around you. What if your surgeon wanted to wear jeans with holes in them instead of scrubs? What if you prefer wearing a swimsuit to work? I know I'm maybe going to the extreme but the point is it is nice to dress to the environment you are in. If you're at your office or home office and it's cool to wear jeans and flip flops - do it. If you are going in to meet with a client at a company with a more professional dress code then show that you put in some effort to meet their standards. Know your audience. That isn't just a PR thing - that's a life thing. In social media you respond to your audience just the same.

    It seems a lot of people seem to take it that dressing nicely means you are trying to cover up some inadequacy or are acting like a d-bag. I'm not sure that I get that. I like hey_love's comment - you don't have to wear a suit but it is important that the people you are presenting to or working with are not so distracted by what you are or are not wearing that they lose sight of what you are saying.

    There are still social norms and one of them is dressing to fit within the culture of your environment as a sign of respect and effort. When you visit a host's home in Japan would you insist upon keeping on your shoes just because it makes you more comfortable? Consider the people with whom you are interacting and compromise to find a middle ground that will work well enough for all.

    On a side note - there are also still social norms when it comes to how you respond to people you disagree with. Making an argument and/or counterargument is fine. Making a thoughtless rant that does not add value undermines any point you have been trying to make in the first place.
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks for reading and commenting, Ashley! I like that you addressed the "either/or" point - dressing well doesn't mean you aren't creative or not focused on work, and vice versa. Comfort is important, for sure, but put yourself in your audience's seat. How do you think your appearance makes them feel about you?

    Bottom line, anyone can wear whatever they want. But just know that people WILL judge you because of it. If you can handle the reaction, wear your birthday suit!
  • I put a lot of thought into that rant.
  • ginidietrich
    OMG! I LOVE YOU! I blogged about this very topic a couple of weeks ago. And, while about 80% of comments agreed with me, the 20% who did not agree were rude, called me names, and were downright unprofessional. A couple of people even blogged about it separately and called me really awful names.

    Since the blog post, I've spoken at a couple of conferences where my peers really teased me about the idea that you should dress up to speak. Of course, the ones teasing me were wearing jeans. Not to say jeans can't look good with a blazer and button down or a sweater and tie. I just think jeans or shorts are not appropriate for speaking, when people are there to learn from you, as an expert.

    You don't necessarily have to wear a suit, but you should always dress one level above your audience. As my mom always says, it's better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks for stopping by, Gini! I'm speaking at an event next week. Maybe I'll pull out the ol' tuxedo :)

    I've seen an interesting divide in the response between Tech Folks and PR Folks. Not shockingly, it seems like the PR folks tend to be more image conscious. But the tech folks have a valid point in being judged by results, not appearance.

    Personally, I lean more towards the PR side, but respect the opposition, as long as they realize I will judge them, in part, by their appearance.

    I agree with your mom!
  • ginidietrich
    You know, that's a good point. The difference between communicators and techies. I agree with being judged by results, but we just don't live in a world where people don't judge a book by its cover, unfortunately.
  • mikeschaffer
    Exactly! And, until I can know you better or see your results, appearance is one major thing I have to go on.
  • I agree with Peter and co. - for certain audiences and types of conferences (Unconference, camp, etc.) - then more casual dress is appropriate. Also, what you wear doesn't necessarily reflect what you do. When I saw Peter and some of the other organizers - I thought....those are awesome people who do great things for the DC community -- not "who is that dude in the shorts?" And, for the record - I have seen Peter dressed up and he cleans up nicely. :) Tech Titans award I believe.

    Point is this - I wouldn't take bad advice from a schmuck in a suit, but I WOULD take good advice from a guy in shorts. Look at @JustinKownacki yesterday -- he had a great presentation which I enjoyed and agreed with. And, he was wearing shorts etc. It's about your words and actions as much as what you wear. And part of that is being comfortable in your own skin, and confident that what you have to say is meaningful. I'd much rather hear from someone like that than someone suited up with not a lot of substance.

    I do think that DC can be stuffy with clothing choices, and agree with @heylovedc that there is a time and a place to class it up. Maybe it's an East Cost vs. West Coast battle too.

    We could argue around in circles - but as the anti-confrontation, I like everybody party here -- I say that you must consider your audience. For something like the #140conf and #DCWeek -- jeans, shorts, etc. were totally fine.
  • I want to point out that we're talking about two different subjects here.

    1) What you should wear if you are 24 and trying to be taken seriously at work.

    2) What you are allowed to wear if you have successfully formed your own company/have been labeled as an 'expert' in some field, and have been asked to present your expertise and learning at a conference.

    If you're trying to move up in the ranks of a company who has a culture of dressing in business wear, then yes, you probably need to 'dress for the job you want'.

    But once you HAVE that job and have earned the respect of others, I think you're allowed a little more slack.
  • mikeschaffer
    Emily - thank you so much for your contributions to this discussion! I really appreciate your perspective here. Complex issue, for sure!
  • Sure! It's been rather interesting for me, especially since I've actually had to really clarify how I feel about this, after reading other people's opinions. I've gone back and forth on the matter a few times, actually. :) Part of me wants to be idealistic and say "You can wear what you want as long as you're good" but I know that's kind of too much to really ask of society, and sometimes you have to play by 'their' rules to get by. I can also think of situations where I myself would judge someone for wearing an inappropriate outfit.

    So thanks for the forum in which to discuss this! I hadn't seen your site before, but I'll probably pay more attention to it in the future. :)
  • I might be 22 years old, but I have always been taught to follow the adage "Dress for the job you want." Social media professionals might be able to enjoy more creative and laid-back atmospheres than other working professionals, but dressing too informally can take away from the seriousness of the work that's being done through social media. I think this is particularly important for millennials who strive to be taken seriously in the workplace. Wardrobe may seem trivial, and it may not be ideal, but appearance plays an important role in perception both in and out of the workplace.
  • mikeschaffer
    Well said, Erica!
  • You have know I just couldn't leave well enough alone here.... as a college dropout, social media user, marketing consumer, and oh yeah, by the way, wage earning, money spending, potential customer.... here's my response:

    Its titled: "Social Media, Take Your Damn Pants Off!"
  • So, I run my own company. We work in the IT space, and as such, I have a variety of different job assignments when working for my clients. Somedays, we're in meetings talking strategy, somedays, I'm crawling on the floor under desks fixing machines or running cable. As such, there are a various number of dresscodes that go into effect. Running cable? Little more casual. First meeting? Little more business.

    It's not like there aren't warm-weather options for men. I veer toward the polo shirt and the linen dress short, sometimes short sleeved, and a good pair of jeans or cotton khakis. Joseph A Bank has a whole set of really excellent permanent press stuff that breaths well. The South also invented Seersucker for a reason, and this is the time of year for it, when the mercury's into the 90s and the humidity is up.

    But really, what it comes down to is knowing your audience, and knowing your clients. I have a couple of clients that are fairly casual at their workplace, and I tend to dress to match. Many days when the mercury's over 90, I will wear a nice pair of shorts.

    A good friend of mine and I once had a conversation about the suit. The person wearing the suit isn't looking to be impressed, they're looking to impress someone. I avoid suits like the plague, mainly because ties and wool are abominations when it's over 50F. I also avoid it because I never want to be that desperate for my client's approval.

    I understand where Peter's coming from, that image shouldn't be the whole of reality, and we both come from a generation that sees the right to wear jeans to work as a birthright. It really ought to be. But for the older generation, who are in many cases making the money decisions, they might want to see some dress-up, as a sign of respect to them. To them, showing up in beat up shorts, a cocks hat, and some brown flip flops says, "You don't really matter to me."

    And that's what Mike's objecting to, especially when one is running a week of technology events.

    Peter, Joe, I think you displayed some really poor judgment here in the comments, and I hope that you'll see that you're coming off poorly. I do think Mike might've used a few different words, but their point is a valid one, and you're behaving very badly here.
  • Matt LaCasse
    Being on the wrong side of 30, I'm OK with saying that T-Shirt and shorts at a professional conference is not a wise choice. I like the fact that a pair of nice jeans are becoming standard for younger PR professionals. Frankly, I hate suits and feel cramped and confined when wearing them.

    Look good, feel good, perform well. I have no problem redefining the meaning of "casual business wear". I do have a problem not dressing well enough for me to take you seriously.
  • I can agree with that. I didn't see the exact outfit in question, so I really can't comment specifically on it, but I do think that you can take 'casual dressing' too far. If I show up in daisy dukes, and a tshirt tied in a knot, I'm pretty sure I should expect that no one is going to take my ideas seriously. But there's a lot of middle ground between that and a suit.

    And maybe some of this comes from working in So Cal for most of my professional career. Jeans and a nice top were fine for a lot of things there, where as DC seems to have a very 'uptight librarian' look for women that I despise. I'd like to see this city become a little more relaxed in that aspect.
  • The phenomenon reminds me of the 1940s geeks with medical tape holding the nose-piece of their glasses together, the 1970s geek with pocket protectors, the 1990s techies with sweater vests and khakis. I agree, though, that Berks, shorts and a tee are pushing the style too far. It's a trend that true professionals should strive to squash.
  • A few thoughts:

    Professional attire has evolved greatly throughout the decades, and will and SHOULD continue to do so.

    I strongly believe that it is the quality of your work that matters, not what you're wearing that counts. The carpenter you mentioned above - do you need HIM to wear a suit to be taken seriously? No, you care how he does his job, and how efficiently and at what price. Why is that same respect not given to me?

    I think you should learn to listen to the words that are coming out of people's mouths rather than judge them by appearance. Actually, I feel that most people should do that with most people/situations, be it about clothing style, physical beauty, or race/ethnicity.
  • captainconfuzzled
    No, professional attire is exactly the same as it has been for quite awhile (decades). Business professional (for men) is always suit and tie. Business casual is defined as business professional sans the tie. Meaning, when I'm dressed business professional, I should be able to move to business professional by taking my tie, tying a 1/2 windsor and straightening said tie.

    If you want to sit around your house all day in your PJs pretending you're working and that you have great ideas, good on you. When you actually step into the real world, you need to be prepared to be judged on the whole enchilada, and not just your ideas. This is part of the problem with this whole "Social Media Marketing Expert" thing. Newsflash: being an expert in being social isn't hard.

    Like the gal above you're trying to force your idealistic view of the world into reality. Realists know the world is judging them based on their ideas, how they look, their confidence, their humor, etc. The truly successful people realize that and cover all the bases.
  • I think my issue is that I fundamentally disagree with the idea that encouraging more people to dress up "makes things better" in any meaningful way. It's not that I endorse slovenliness, because I don't, it's that I see the expectations of business attire to be endorsements of values I personally find shallow and wasteful. And indeed, I think there's a cultural issue in play here- a lot of people doing social media as a profession got there from some other specialty in the web profession, which originated in dot-coms, and dot-com refugees tend to be reflexively distrustful of "the suits" because they were the people there to deliver the bad news. OTOH, people who got to social media out of a background in PR are from a professional culture that sees one's appearance as just one more facet of one's message that should be as polished as everything else.

    (FWIW, as a dotcom refugee, I still see the PR side's point, but my response is simply that the message I'm sending is that I work hard and would rather be comfortable.)

    Expecting web-originated social media professionals to adhere to the cultural norms of PR-originated social media professionals seems a little... oh, I don't want to say "cultural imperialism" because that grossly overstates my point, but I think you get the idea- it's two cultural norms that grew out of two different kinds of situations, and expecting one to be like the other is less productive than endeavoring to understand it.
  • mikeschaffer

    Thanks for stopping by! In the comments and chatter over the past 24 hours, I've noticed a REAL difference in thoughts between the tech folks and the PR folks. Intriguing! Especially as the industries continue to cross-over...
  • Agree agree agree!!!

    "I see the expectations of business attire to be endorsements of values I personally find shallow and wasteful. "


    "Expecting web-originated social media professionals to adhere to the cultural norms of PR-originated social media professionals seems a little... oh, I don't want to say "cultural imperialism""

    I still insist that it's how you do your job, not what you wear, that really matters. Times have changed, and it shouldn't be necessary to dress in a monkey suit to 'prov'e you can do what matters. Remember the 50's? Think of how people dressed then - times have changed, and I don't need to clean my house while wearing a dress anymore. And somewhere along the line we also managed to stop wearing powered wigs in order to be taken seriously. I think that the business world needs to evolve now in the same way - suits and ties are outdated, and just serve to make people uncomfortable. And I, for one, do my best work when I'm comfortable and relaxed!

    Writing this from home, running my small biz, wearing Old Navy PJ pants and a tshirt. And probably making more money than most of you people wearing those uncomfortable skirt suits! :)
  • du4
    Hard to call what's right and what's not right about this conversation.

    On one hand, I adore the freedom of dressing how I like, whenever I like. I, for one, despise ties and will never wear one except in extreme circumstances. However, as a business owner and a senior corporate leader, I understand the value of making a good professional impression on potential clients that I may meet in person at conferences like #140conf. So, as much as I'd like to hang out in cargo shorts, flops, and my favorite Quicksilver shirt, I think there is a happy medium (that includes pants) where I can stay comfortable AND look professional.

    I think it's different for everyone, however, and I make this distinction: everyone dresses like a superhero (or a supervillain). Everyone has their own personal motif and color scheme, and we recognize folks based on those personal dress choices. In some cases, you may be a member of a superhero "team" and dress in unifying uniforms: suits for Congressional types or the black track jackets Palantir has popularized.

    I think we all need to be cognizant of what our "costumes" say about us. Peter's obviously says "Burt Ward-era Robin." Applaud the audacity and confidence of dressing how you want, but also understand that your mode of dress might say different things to different people. (Imagine what @digiphile's colleagues would have said if he wore his Gov 2.0 day outfit to the CAP workshop.)

    On a separate note, Corbett bros: dick move, guys. Despite how justified you may be in your arguments, no need to vilify Mike.
  • Vilified? I'm sorry, but I merely gave my opinion about the post he chose to publish. He is in PR, he knows what he was doing.
  • Mike wanted a big response. He got it. If he wanted respect he didn't.
  • Acceptable dress is going to change from company to company. Business casual seems to be the norm, but Peter does make a good point about ideas, strategic thinking, and creativity being the most important part of the business world, not having the socks that match the tie.

    Yes, clothes can represent a person's personality, but to judge professionalism based on shorts and flip flops seems to be overreacting a little bit.

    Focus on yourself when it comes to issues like these. If you want to suit up, suit up. If you want to let your freak flag fly, then fly away. But don't let clothes get in the way of missing out on great ideas. There are more important things to worry about.

    My office is business casual - jeans and a tucked in golf shirt/button down is completely acceptable, unless there's a big presentation. For a presentation, shirt, tie, and possibly a suit would be required. Some days people wear jeans and a t-shirt, and that doesn't take away from the great work they do everyday.
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Rich! Very much appreciate your perspective.

    I spoke to a friend in the restaurant industry about this discussion today. They responded: "How would people react if my servers are dressed like that?" I know comparing different industries is apples and oranges, but it's an interesting point.
  • Actually, I think the restaurant example ties in perfectly with Rich's "Acceptable dress is going to change from company to company." Different restaurants definitely have different clothing standards for their servers.

    For me, the main thing I care about is how good my food is, and how promptly I get it. :)

    Well, and if it's clean. Gotta go with cleanliness above everything. :) Ick to bugs!
  • I work with a bunch of software engineers and developers, so you can imagine that my work environment is pretty casual. Jeans every day, Hawaiian shirts on Fridays. (Well, as another mentioned, I still dress nice because I want to present myself in a professional manner). But when it comes to presenting in front of an audience and meeting customers? We suit up. It doesn't matter how casual things are in our work environment, but when you want to put your best foot forward, you dress the part. I'm not saying that the presenters of #140conf needed to be in suits and ties, they just have to dress it well and be presentable. Wear khakis and a polo. Want to wear jeans? Keep them tailored and pair them with a nice shirt.

    It is hard to take someone who just looked like they came from a DMB concert seriously. At least look like you made some effort to be presentable. You don't know everyone in the crowd, they're not all your buddies. The conference is being live streamed around the world - you need to take your audience into consideration.
  • Sir, this YouTube video describes your attitude and personality perfectly. You are the definition of a shallow D-Bag.

    Video Depicting Shallow D-Bags:

    Rattling You:
    Your wife is disobedient and your dog is a nag.
  • For the record Joe Corbett is the bad one. I'm the nice one.
  • mikeschaffer
    Dear Corbett Bros. -

    I am all about productive discussion on this topic. Obviously, the original post leaned very heavily in one direction in order to spark discussion.

    I very much appreciate everyone's contributions to the debate - this is a multi-layered issue with probably no right answer.

    Moving forward, I would also appreciate if you stopped the name-calling and foul language. It really has no place here. I have no problem being strongly disagreed with. It's happened before and I'm sure it will happen again. I welcome it, actually. It helps me see the passion other people have for their points of views, which helps me understand where they are coming from.

    But, please, keep it civil and respectful. Calling me a "d-bag" or insulting me and my company because we have slightly different versions of dress codes as a bit overboard.

    My dog, though, is definitely a nag.

    Thank you!
  • digiphile
    I leave it to Peter to defend his words and actions, if he chooses to do so. If you still think, after reading that rant, that his reaction (or mine) is about "slightly different versions of dress codes," I suggest you read it again. You called him and others out for being "slovenly slobs" at his own event and said "put some damn pants" on. Is that civil or respectful?
  • mikeschaffer
    The difference is that your argument was thought-provoking and showed me your position. I felt educated on your point of view and have a greater understanding for more sides of the discussion.

    A personal, obscenity-laden response does not help me understand or respect an opposing point of view all that well. (If you notice, I never mentioned one person negatively, commenting on the trend entirely, not individuals.)

    And calling me a "shallow D-bag" and sending me funny YouTube clips is just off the radar entirely.

    Like I said, I am totally OK being disagreed with. If someone disagrees with me, I WANT to see their side. Because, maybe, I'll realize they were right all along.

    The irony here, is that I really had more of an issue with other peoples' clothing than Peter's. I know Peter was running all over town doing about a million things all week, while opening the #140conf was just one of them.

    I very much enjoy productive discussion. While I realize, as you said, the original post was a bit sensationalized for impact, I hope we can continue a meaningful dialogue - and hopefully grab a drink or three after DCWeek!
  • Douche Bag is a anthropological catagory and meme in social media. The nuance may have escaped some:

  • captainconfuzzled
    Someone being a douche is in the eye of the person making that judgment. You're attitude and how you portray yourself is pretty douchey, but that video is pretty funny.
  • Lisa Byrne
    Who HASN'T seen or heard it?! Mike's not a whiner, never has been - online or in person. One should be allowed to make a point or point out a dislike without been branded a negative person. We have ALL vented at one point about something. Those in glass houses should not throw stones...
  • My bad! Kudos for not moderating, free speech rocks!

    PS This reminds me of you.
  • digiphile
    "A carpenter is known for getting the job done, not which saw he uses."

    Yes and no. Master builders who can afford to work with Bosch or DeWalt tools do so because of the quality of the tools and the precision product they allow. It's true that someone with lack of knowledge to use them will fare far worse that a worker without, just as rube with an expensive composite fly rod might be outfished by a boy with a cheap piece of bamboo and string, if the young man knows where and how to apply his simple rig. What you do with the tools matters more than their quality, but don't overlook the fact that those tools do matter.

    If you contracted with a professional videographer to create a broadcast-quality ad and she showed up with a disposable camera and a vintage iBook, what would you think?

    Consider the building example again. Carpenters are known for building things out of wood. Getting the job done is dependent upon the general contractor who employs him or her, or the reputation of the master builder that is hired. I have some familiarity with carpentry, after working as an apprentice for 18 months in Massachusetts. In that role, I wore shorts when it was hot, Carhardt pants when it wasn't and many layers of fleece and polypro when it was frigid. We dressed as needed to get the job done. If someone showed up on the job site improperly dressed, or without boots, a belt, gloves and a full set of tools, he couldn't get the job done without a loan of same.

    Working in digital media is no different, in the sense that what we wear what we need to to accomplish a goal, in the context of the social mores of the space we move in.

    Virtually, that might mean creating a well-designed website that is standards compliant. Or developing a mobile app for a conference or service. In the social media world, it means adding an avatar, bio, link and other elements that fill out a profile before sally forth. Dressing to impress can mean many things, but in the end, it's what you can do and have done that will matter most to your clients, customers and audience. Did I get the story right? Will the house stay sound for decades? Is this a sustainable business? Does the app work?

    This week, I wore a suit to the Center for American Progress for the workshop, since I knew I'd be meeting John Podesta and other lawyers who put stock in that kind of professionalism. I wore linen shorts, sandals and a collared shirt to the Gov 2.0 day at D.C. Week, since it was damn hot, and that fit my vision of summer business casual in the District. And yesterday, at the 140 Conference, I wore jeans and an untucked dress shirt, since that fit the image of the tech journalist I am these days.

    You say you're trying to make a point. Respectfully, I think you missed it. In every situation above, what I wore mattered but, to my audience, was beside the point. Peter Corbett may have worn shorts and a t-shirt but, in his role, it didn't matter. Since I know him and have respect for the work he'd done for D.C. Week and at iStrategy Labs, I know what he's done. I also believe that the informal nature of 140 Conference requires no more of us than that we represent ourselves as ourselves and share what matters, much like, perhaps, we might approach Twitter.

    Representative Honda may have come dressed in a suit, as you might expect from a Congressman in D.C., but what he said reflects that sentiment: "It's about sharing who you are, rather than trying to sell what you'd like to have people believe about you."

    By focusing on what people wore instead of what they said or have done, I'm not sure you honored the hard work of the organizers, nor the quality of the experiences that, say, Justin Kownacki shared. I've been to dozens of tech conferences, many of which featured people dressed to the nines with little substantive tactical or strategic value. I can tell you as someone who as sometimes overdressed that sometimes, wearing shorts and a hip t-shirt is absolutely the right choice.
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks, Alex, for the read and comment. Very much appreciate you dropping by!

    When you know somebody, their appearance fits into the context of that relationship. I totally understand that - that's a point I did not consider.

    As someone who didn't know many of the panelists, this was their first way of introducing themselves to me. So I ask you to see my perspective. Their appearance and their content are my only way of assessing their value as a presenter, not knowing their background. If 50% of that equation immediately makes me cringe, that devalues the other half, no matter how good the content may be.

    People can wear what they want, but they also have to aware that their appearance will at least be a part of how onlookers form opinions about them.

    And, for the record, ALL of the presenters I heard at #140conf were fantastic. Jeff put together a dynamic event that really showed the breadth of Twitter's wingspan. It was quite impressive. During the event, I was chatting and "chatting" with those in the room and watching the feed about how incredible the presenters were.
  • When I was starting out in my career, I had a boss tell me that you should always dress for the job you want, not the one you have.

    There's a reason why you get dressed up in a suit for a job interview even if a suit wouldn't be the every day attire for that job. IMO, people who dress like beach bums in professional settings have to work extra hard and over come more for the majority of people to take them seriously.
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks, Shilo!

    I like your point about how an "unprofessional" appearance creates a deficit up front. It can be overcome, but it takes work. The content has to over-deliver.
  • Great points Mike. I however, politely disagree. I look at it like this. I wouldn't get dressed up to talk to my friends or people I feel comfortable in front of. So maybe that was their idea? This "world" or "community" of social media, especially in New York can be very small. There is a chance that these folks just felt like they were presenting in front of their friends.

    Another thing, maybe they just felt more comfortable? I know when I've given speeches in clothes I was most comfortable in they went well. Versus a shirt and tie with dress pants. Then again, I live in Florida so maybe thats my reasoning. Regardless, for me, it is less about what they are wearing and more about what they are saying. I mean, if they threw a blazer over their vintage t-shirt would that make it any better?

    Also, and this is just food for thought, Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook has been known to take on VC's in nothing more than basketball shorts, a t-shirt and slides, yet he runs a billion dollar company. I think it's less on what we wear and more on how we present ourselves. This, of course, is the idea of a college student, which I am.
  • mikeschaffer
    Hey, Patrick--

    Thanks for stopping by! Of course college students are more than welcome to contribute opinions here! We are talking about how our industry portrays itself, and the future leaders MUST be a part of that.

    A counterpoint on Mark Zuckerberg: he's also been the center of major firestorms for seemingly not caring about the privacy of his users. I know he's a very successful guy and, like, the most visible guy in social media. But that doesn't mean he's representing us WELL.
  • True,

    I completely agree with how the industry should portray itself. It would be a travesty if we all went to client meetings in jeans and shirts. On the other note, with facebook...

    Currently I'm reading The Facebook Effect, which is a great book by the way. It is interesting to read from a non-partisan point of view. It discusses the privacy issues to an in depth degree. I'd like to argue that the privacy issues are ones that have been mis-read or guided on both users and Facebook's part. I will say, however, that their intentions were not that of gaining anything of users information. It is an interesting and entertaining read, I suggest it to you, sir.
  • Separate and apart from the actual topic I love this line Mike - "Knowing how to use those tools is great, but that doesn’t make you a communications pro. A carpenter is known for getting the job done, not which saw he uses. Communications is the same thing – a skilled trade."

    But you're not off-base at all. I'm the first to admit clothing doesn't actually matter, particularly in NYC and other metropolitan areas, there's never any telling who's the genius which bought and sold 3 companies during the last boom cycle and who's the schmo who works for him. And if you're that guy you don't need to impress me or anyone else.

    But unless you actually are that guy, and your reputation precedes you, impressions are difficult to shake - dress for the role you're playing that day, or could be playing (or the role you want - besides lotto winner).

    This is particularly true for the young crowd who have a limited reputation to begin with and has to carry on into your personal life - you never know who you'll run into on the street (especially in walking/commuting cities like NY and DC).

    Outside of certain events (e.g. Halloween), if I run into a client or supervisor (or someone high up at a company I'd like to be a part of) on the subway or in the park I don't want to look like a slob or pimp (or in the case of young ladies trampy). Further, if I spot someone on the street I recognize I'd like to be able to approach them and not miss the chance to make a connection because I happen to be scrubby that day.

    When I'm in a meeting with that person I want to know the thought going through their head isn't "He looked like a bit of a schmuck when I was headed to the opera two weeks ago...I hope he was just going to the gym." While a powder blue button down and khakis (or even appropriate jeans and a decent T-shirt) may not stand out as a positive memory (at worst it's a neutral) it's definitely not a negative one and we can move on to the real topic at hand.
  • mikeschaffer
    Hmmm...interesting points here!

    As I said above to Alex, people can dress however they want to. But on that same point, I also reserve the right to use their appearance to at least form part of my overall impression of them.

    As Joe Corbett alluded to, free speech is a big part of our society. However, that doesn't mean that you can say (or dress) however you want without people using that to judge you.

    I'll make sure I don't look extra pimpish next time I come for a visit!
  • I work (in social media) from my home office. I dress like a slob. Bit when I have a client meeting, usually by Skype or WebEx, I put on a nice shirt. And my hat, because that's my personal trademark of sorts.

    To assume that the way we look doesn't matter is childish. Of course it does. Especially in business. Perhaps especially in social media business, which is just getting off the ground.

    So, I hope all you social media professionals out there at least put on a nice shirt for your clients.
  • mikeschaffer

    Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! I find your story very interesting. I recently switched from working in a mid-sized office to working in a very small office (just two of us!). I've been cognizant of dressing for the work, not for the other guy that sits across from me!

    Great stuff...and nice hat!
  • ps people: if you need to, hire an editor for typos & word usage. these things actually do alter content & presentation. let me know if you need help with the difference between it's & its. i'm happy to help.
  • i've been walking around dcweek & dc all week looking at men in suits thinking how crazy it is that smart men are wearing long pants and coats when it's 80 & 90 something degrees outside. some of us are lucky that it's fashionable and socially acceptable to wear short skirts & sleeveless tops during seasons like this. i have been thinking this week that it's refreshing to see peter wearing shorts. i wish our culture offered more options for us in terms of weather appropriate clothing. wearing skirts in winter is crazy. wearing coats in summer is crazy. content is more important than presentation to me. i wish it was to more people. it's infuriating & sad to me that anyone is even having this conversation. fashion could be an art form, but we reduce it to a measuring stick to judge each other & beat on each other. can we stop looking at people's clothes & start looking at people? a lot of people are doing a lot of great things this week & all the time, in dc & all over the place. how do things get so out of perspective? this makes me want to wear a sack. this takes all the art and fun and beauty out of fashion for me. there are some sessions coming up about fashion, maybe something good can be recovered. starting with men wearing shorts.
  • mikeschaffer
    Hi, Kelli - thanks for stopping by!

    As my response to Peter says, to every point, there is a counterpoint! I don't think it's out of line to say that the way somebody is dressed while presenting at a conference says a lot about them. Maybe, like Peter explained, it says a lot about their desire for comfort and their focus on results over social norms.

    I think this is an interesting discussion for our industry right now.
  • i still disagree. i do honestly believe that it is out of line to say that what a person wears says anything about them. i know that my thoughts on this are a lot different than what most people here think. i think what a person wears should say a lot about what the weather is like. i believe that we should not, under any circumstances, judge people by the way they look. i know some will say that i am not living in the "real world" but i would argue that this so-called "real world" is a destructive force upon humanity. most of the people in the world do not live in this "real world" and that's the perspective that i would like to see more people embrace. the way we judge each other based on appearances is destructive and needs to stop.
  • captainconfuzzled
    You'd be wrong. I can tell a lot about the people I interview based on how they are dressed. Are they lazy, are they slobs, do they pay attention to details, etc. When I interview a salesman in a cheap suit, it gives me insight as to how good he actually may be. All salesguys claim they are good, but if you're good, you have the finances to afford a higher quality suit. It doesn't mean I'm going to make assumptions and dismiss the person, but it does give me areas to focus on as I have a discussion with that person.

    I have suits of heavier wool for winter time and I have tropical weight suits for when it's hot. Take it from a guy that lived in New Orleans for a few years and wore suits everyday. It's not as uncomfortable as you would like to think. You can claim that the "real world" is destructive to humanity, and try to have an idealistic thoughts regarding how your dress can change that, but then reality sets in.

    Judging people based on appearances is not going to change. By trying to avoid that reality you're doing things that are more destructive to you and your career.
  • Context: I'm Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategyLabs, Co-Creator of Digital Capital Week and I presented without pants on today at #140conf - and wore some really fucking comfortable flip flops too.

    I have a few points to make in this regard:

    1) The man you saw in shorts and flip flops (me) has done more before the age of 30 than most people who wear pants to conferences do in a lifetime. Ask around. For you to judge me based on pant length is laughable. You will probably miss out on knowing/meeting/learning from many people in life because you judge them based on arbitrary things like this. I already don't want to know you - I don't keep friends like you around because they drain me of the energy required to do all the hard and important work I do. I already think Iostudio is pretty awful even though I've never heard of them because you represent them. Was that the intention of your post? media strategy........back to the drawing board.

    2) I'm sorry that you have the word social media on your business card. It's like saying you have the words "I can tie my shoes" or "I can write in script" or "I'm the guy that talks to people" on your business card. It's silly and it's a sales tactic for clients that still think social media strategists are smarter than they are. You're not.

    3) #2 is indicative of a few things - a) you probably work at a shitty company b) your bosses have no vision and are doomed to fail and c) you should really leave before you do turn 30 so you don't waste any more of your time. At my company, you're expected to wear shorts and flip flops to work in the summer - you know why? Because it's fucking hot. And people don't hire us because we sweat it suits all day like idiots. They hire us because we're smarter than everyone else, are more creative and the job done. We have better ideas without all that fabric around to weigh us down.

    4) I go to meetings with my clients who are Fortune 500 brands in various states of dress. Usually I wear crazy fucking colored sneakers - you know why? Because I don't give a shit about what small minded people think of my shoes (or my flip flops in this instance). I've spent my life not listening to people like you and its worked out really well so far.

    5) There should be no standard. Go save the fucking world and stop worrying about what dudes are wearing on stage.

    *end rant*

  • captainconfuzzled
    I like how Peter makes it sound like he's a big swinging dick in the SM world sporting a WordPress website for his corporate website. Those small-minded and big-minded people are judging you because you don't care about details. Sorry, but if I were going to hire someone to "experimentally market" for me, I'm for damned sure going to make sure it's smart people that pay attention to details.

    I also like when people throw around the title "CEO" in a company that probably has less than 5 real employees (including the CEO) and a bunch of contractors they hire for piece work.

    What's funny is that you care enough to try and make yourself look like you're a big timer, but then fail at the primary things that exude how "big time" you actually are, or could be. You fail at looking like you're the CEO of a company (in your dress, demeanor and attitude), and fail by not having a site that says, "We are a real company with real clients, real services and real capabilities to develop a quality website to actually use your SEO or 'experimental marketing' or high quality content created by your 'idea foundry' in your 'content creation machine.' "

    You're just another small-timer trying to make it look like you have something special going on, but in reality miss the mark, as you're too focused on your ego and not your clients.

    Mike, good show here man. You're right. I still wear a suit and tie to work everyday, not because I necessarily want to, but because my dress tells the world that I'm here to get things done, make things happen, and make some money. Your dress says more about you than what you do for a living, it says a lot about your attitude, and can say a ton about your attention to details.
  • mikeschaffer
    Point, meet counterpoint.

    Thanks for developing the other side to this discussion, Peter! It's not cut-and-dry.

    Perhaps running your own company (which is awesome and commendable) gives you a much different and still valid point of view, since you call the shots and can throw away social conventions that are still reality for other people. Take a look at Meg's comment below for a really good story on why she puts a lot of thought into her daily wardrobe.

    I trust you I am not small-minded, by company is fantastic, and maybe I am a bit jealous of your crazy-colored sneakers!
  • Peter makes great points. And I, like Mike, am also jealous of his ability to wear crazy-colored sneakers! I hate that I don't have that freedom at my workplace.. but unfortunately, that's the reality of a lot of companies these days. And while I disagree with it and believe that perhaps we should have the ability to not sweat our asses off in the summer in corporate clothing, I don't have that option.

    It'd be great to someday work in an environment that enforced a looser dress code.. but the fact is, most places aren't there yet.
  • Context: I'm Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategyLabs, Co-Creator of Digital Capital Week and I presented without pants on today at #140conf - and word some really fucking comfortable flip flops too.

    I have a few points to make in this regard:

    1) The man you saw in shorts and flip flops (me) has done more before the age of 30 than most people who wear pants to conferences do in a lifetime. Ask around. For you to judge me based on pant length is laughable. You will probably miss out on knowing/meeting/learning from many people in life because you judge them based on arbitrary things like this. I already don't want to know you - I don't keep friends like you around because they drain me of the energy required to do all the hard and important work I do. I already think Iostudio is pretty awful even though I've never heard of them. Was that the intention of you post? media strategy........back to the drawing board.

    2) I'm sorry that you have the word social media on your business card. It's like saying you have the words "I can tie my shoes" or "I can write in script" or "I'm the guy that talks to people" on your business card. It's silly and it's a sales tactic for clients that still think social media strategists are smarter than they are. You're not.

    3) #2 is indicative of a few things - a) you probably work at a shitty company b) your bosses have no vision and are doomed to fail and c) you should really leave before you do turn 30 so you don't waste any more of you time. At my company, you're expected to wear shorts and flip flops to work in the summer - you know why? Because it's fucking hot. And people do hire us because we sweat it suits all day. They hire us because we're smarter than everyone else and more creative. We have better ideas without all that fabric around to weigh us down.

    4) I go to meetings with my clients who are Fortune 500 brands in various states of dress. Usually I wear crazy fucking colored sneakers - you know why? Because I don't give a shit about what small minded people think of my shoes (or my flip flops in this instance). I spent my life not listening to people like you and its worked out really well so far.

    5) There should be no standard. Go save the fucking work and stop worrying about what dudes are wearing on stage.

    *end rant*
  • So, I'm not sure if an #O30Pro opinion was requested, but true to my style - you're getting it anyways :) Jonathan and I were discussing merely the title of your post as each had seen it tweeted but neither had gotten a chance to read at that time.

    I assumed the content correctly and my point stands at this: We argue that CEO's won't take social media seriously yet we think we can dress like beach bums and expect to be taken seriously. SMH! It starts from above...look at the "thought leaders" for this entire conference/chain of events...#justsayin
  • As another #O30Pro, I'm with Lisa. There are enough misperceptions about the value of social media that it's important to put the focus on the industry and not the credibility of the professionals involved. And, dress matters. I wrote a whole post about how I didn't find #Boobquake funny since how women dress in the workplace affects how women are treated and respected professionally. The same holds true for social media gurus. Great post, Mike! Happy that it's encouraged so much dialogue.
  • mikeschaffer
    That is the crux of my point, yes! I don't feel I need to dress to impress my colleagues and peers, as much as the rest of the world that doesn't have the right level of understanding and respect for the industry.
  • MeghanButler
    HA! I was just having this conversation the other day with a co-worker.

    The dress code at my company is business casual and it seems that the upper portion of the managerial team is mostly business and the lower end of the totem pole is mostly casual - like the mullet of wardrobes.

    I personally try to dress more business than casual because I feel that: a) I work in the digital department at a PR company that doesn't quite see my department as equal or even necessary at all times and b) as a #u30pro, it's more difficult to be taken seriously by my higher-ups on a strictly age-related basis so going the extra mile and dressing more professionally goes a long way.

    I want to be taken seriously and treated professionally. I also want the old-school portion of the PR world to recognize the importance and seriousness of social media and I am a representative of that so if they don't take me seriously, how can they take my department seriously?

    Great post!

  • "I want to be taken seriously and treated professionally" Meghan - I couldn't agree more! I love the luxury of being able to wear whatever I want. While there are times that I feel I have to dress to fit the '.com' perception, I think the purposeful slob look sometimes hurts the credibility rather than enhance it.

    Regardless of the wardrobe, the messages at 140 were great!
  • MeghanButler
    I totally agree - and I've heard nothing but wonderful things about the conference!
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks, Lee! Very much agree with your points. Let's all work to enhance our industry's image!
  • mikeschaffer
    Great insight, Meg! It seems like you are climbing uphill when earning respect for your department inside the company.

    Do you think dressing nicer has given you any benefit? Like, do higher-ups take you more seriously than others?
  • MeghanButler
    Absolutely. I've had several higher-ups who were very shocked to learn that I'm only in my early twenties. It's not all dress though, I try to carry myself in a very professional way when it comes to emails, meetings and interactions in general. This is something I've noticed some youngins not do very well with. There's actually a fantastic book I'm reading about all that titled: "They Don't Teach Corporate in College."
  • Just saw Mike's post with your recommend of this book and checked out the site... I want it!!!

    And I couldn't agree more with the dress more business than casual piece of it. Maybe we some people think they shouldn't have to dress a certain way to be taken seriously.. but the fact is, most of the time we do. Especially in the early stages of a career, or, when you're in an up and coming field trying to gain respect from upper management.

    In college, even though I had internships, I definitely spent more money on my personal wardrobe than work wardrobe. Lately, I've started investing more in my work clothes and it's definitely been noticed. The VP of my department and a few others have made some positive comments about it.

    Great post Mike!
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