Dress For Success Should Be More Than a Motto

Hoosier Perspectives

Young people and old people alike need reminders now and then.

Published on: January 23, 2012

Two adult FFA alumni volunteers, Crystal Cheek and Richard Huffine, came to a meeting of the Franklin FFA Chapter recently to provide a practical demonstration on why dressing properly and using good manners, maintaining good posture and in short, acting professional, is still important today. The FFA members have many contests in the spring of the year, and they're often judged on first impression. Is their jacket zipped? Are they standing straight and engaged with the audience? Is their hair combed? Is their tie straight?

I've always operated on the principle that it's what a person says, thinks and does that's more important than what he looks like, and to some extent, I still agree with that philosophy. After all, last week I shared the story of a guy that looked like a well-dressed bum who borrowed my pocket knife at an event. Turned out he was a shabbily dressed multi-millionaire, according to someone who knew him well. Appearance can be in the eye of the beholder.

There's also the story my late father loved to tell that dates back to Franklin in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Sill a rural town with a bustling downtown at the time, there were stores where men bought suits, other stores where ladies bought clothes, and stores where both bought shoes. There weren't mega-department stores that later wiped out Main Street businesses.

Anyway as my father told it, a sloppily dressed older man, with even a little cow manure on his pants perhaps, obviously a farmer, went into a clothing store where they sold suits. The young clerk spied him and didn't bother to wait on him. Finally, the old guy got disgusted and left. As he disappeared out the door, the store owner came up from the back. "How many suits did you sell him?" he asked the young clerk.

The young clerk soon realized he was serious. As it turned out, the guy who walked out was probably the richest farmer in the county at the time. He just didn't like to dress up. The young clerk's career in the clothing business turned out to be rather short.

So when I wear different colored socks, or worse yet, different colored shoes, which I did once, dressing in the dark, or when my collar isn't quite right, or my hair sticks up, I usually don't worry about it too much. I figure if what I've got to say isn't good enough, than the clothes won't make me better.

The FFA guests did make me think, though. Maybe I should have learned how to tie a tie! To this day I wear clip-ons- it's so much easier. That's when I wear ties at all. Truth is there are times when it's important to not only be the part, but look the part. First impressions can be important. No one will ever know what's in your head if they dismiss you and don't let you get a word or two out in the first place.

Like the young clerk never found out how many hundred dollar bills were in the old farmer's billfold.

I'll try to do better in the future. If you see me around and you think I still have room for improvement, let me know. That's how we learn!