7 min read

What can we wear in business meetings?

Andy Made By Shape 22 Of 28 Top
Caution! This article is 6 years old, and our opinions may have changed.

I think culture, appearance, language, attitude, passion and first impressions are very important when meeting clients. But is there as fashion checklist we have to adhere too when in business? Or is it industry relevant? I think it depends on what brand you’re representing, who you’re meeting and what impression you want to give. I want to open up a discussion and ask “What are we allowed to wear in business meetings?”

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I don’t think there is a right or wrong, just what works for you and your business. But it would be great to hear peoples opinions on shorts, tattoos, trainers etc. and what impression they get if somebody wore shorts on a day in 31 degree heat.

I think there are certain industries were it becomes the norm to wear a suit. Accountants, Solicitors, Lawyers, Bankers etc and are expected to wear suits and if they didn’t - would this make them look cool or would they not be taken seriously?

I’m going to keep this article relevant to me and what my opinions are on the dress code in the creative industry.

When I started out as a Freelancer at 18 years old, I met a lot of clients, a lot of agencies and networked frequently. I was very conscious, I was young and I wanted to impress. I changed my dress sense according to who I was meeting because I wanted them to like me and relate to me. I thought that because I was young, and had little experience, that clients would not take me seriously so the way I looked played a big part of the meeting. First impressions really do count, but is it all about what somebody wears?

If I skip to the modern day and relate to my position at MadeByShape now, things have changed. We are a well established Creative and Digital Agency in Manchester. We have clients all over the world and receive enquiries frequently from all over the UK. This changes the perspective from when I started. People know who we are, they know of our work, they know of our culture, how we approach projects, our processes, our team members, what we get up to on a daily basis via social etc. Everything they see is curated by us, we already show people that we an informal agency who have fun, win awards and enjoy what we do. That’s why 90% of the time, I wear jeans, trainers and a t-shirt (sometimes a shirt).

Don’t get me wrong, I still dress accordingly - like when I was younger, but I don’t worry about it these days. If I’m meeting a really high end client and I have done my research on them, I will wear shoes, jeans and a shirt. If it’s a really high end brand who are cool, relaxed, their social tells me they wear for comfort - I’ll do the same. But the majority of the time now, I wear what I want - and represent MadeByShape to the best of my ability. If the client doesn’t choose us to work with just because of what I wear… did we really want to work with them? Definitely not. If a client choose another agency because of dress code, then something must be wrong. What if they knew we could provide a better solution but didn’t go with us because I didn’t wear a suit… What’s your thoughts on that?

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As we all know, the UK is experiencing fantastic weather - I feel like I’m on holiday. Within our industry, it’s normal to wear jeans, t-shirt and trainers. But is it OK to wear shorts in this heat? Will people get offended? Here’s some pictures of me in an outfit I wore for a few meetings last week. Is it acceptable? Will people take me seriously? Would you be bothered what I turned up in? Do the tattoos put you off? Etc etc. I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions and let’s all discuss this together.

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I asked Natalie Fahey, who is now Head of Marketing at The Dining Club Group, what her opinions are on the matter. Why, you ask? Because Natalie was once Head of Marketing at a Fashion Brand in Manchester. From a Fashion perspective, I wanted to know her thoughts. 

It would depend on the industry I worked in, predominantly I’m from a fashion background where the office dress code was to express our own personal style so tattoos, jeans, trainers etc would all be fine.

I'm now currently in a more corporate brand that has a smart dress code. I personally wouldn't mind how my guests dressed. We had some guests in from a branding agency last week and one turned up in pink jeans and a stripey tee - it was suited to his role as a creative so was in fitting with the reasons we wanted to work with them. On the other hand if someone was pitching for a big tech contract with us I’d expect them to present themselves more smartly, however I do think that’s a more traditional way of thinking. First impressions do count.

I guess I’d say take the lead from the client as you'll get a vibe for what they expect and what’s important to them”.

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For me, it’s about feeling comfortable and being true to yourself and your brand.

All our lads wear casual clothing in the studio working every day, so why should we change that in meetings? None of us look scruffy? Well I don’t think we do. Culture is a huge aspect of mine and Jasons vision. We want our team members to feel at ease in the studio, to be part of Shape, and what they wear shouldn’t be a chore each day. I don’t think any of my team would enjoy wearing shirt, pants and shoes every day in the studio. And if they did - what benefit would that have for the business?

But is my view tainted? Is it bias because I’m in the creative industry and wearing what we want is the norm? Should I have a more generic view and always overdress just in case?

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If I went to meet an Accountant and he/she was a young, ambitious 25 year old who had been recommended by a good friend of mine who I trust, and they were wearing ‘popular’ clothing that is on trend at the moment… would it bother me? Absolutely not. If they can get the job done, and for the right price. What they wear does not matter. But again, like I said, is this just my vision that everybody should be in comfort.

This article may sound like I dress very casual and scruffy, but for the people who know me, that’s not the case. I just want to hear peoples opinions, if you was meeting with a Creative Agency for the first time and somebody wore t-shirt and shorts to the meeting, or t-shirt and jeans… would it put you off?

Likewise, I’d like to know that if I wore a 3 piece suit to our first meeting, would it put you off? Because I’d probably be overdressed, that wouldn’t reflect our culture at Shape, and it would seem too formal for a first meeting and too formal for the language we reflect on our website.

The other aspect I’ve not mentioned is that sometimes it doesn’t solely depend on the client you’re meeting, the location may matter also. If we were meeting at our studio, at a cafe, a posh restaurant, a pub, a bar etc etc. Every time I do a meeting, I consider what I wear and how it that person will perceive MadeByShape, whether they are meeting me for the first time or seventh.

The images in this article were shot by a good friend of ours, Jake Millers. He's worked with the likes of Reebok and Adidas, so I thought I'd ask his opinion from a creative point of view too:

"When meeting my clients for work, personally I never really think about what I'm wearing. I usually dress casual, with some selvedge denim jeans and a shirt un buttoned over a t-shirt; but this is what I normally wear on a day to day unless it's 30 degrees, then I'll definitely be wearing shorts. If I'm meeting with a clothing client e.g. Reebok, I usually try to wear a pair of their branded footwear. Or at least a brand that is owned by the same company (Adidas). 

I haven't ever overdressed for an interview, from Saville row tailors to pre-wedding meetings; I always wear the same casual clothing, no matter the client. I personally like to keep it as informal as possible, however if I was in a different occupation that could possibly change." 

Go checkout Jakes Instagram @jake_millers because he's a pretty talented chap.

Co-Founder of MadeByShape. Most of my blogs are about business related aspects, not just web design.