This article has been inspired by a video which I've recently seen on the AS Solutions Facebook's page presented by George Grant on 24/10/2019.
Those of you, who know me personally, know that this topic is one of my soft spots. So, I've decided to share my view and knowledge of how to dress with style and class according to my standards.
When I've watched the video mentioned above presented by George, I was so pleased to see that in our industry, we don’t discuss only our workouts, diets and firearm's training . Nobody denies the importance and need of the hard skills set. However, in the reality, when operating in an executive environment , more than 95 % of the operational work depends on our soft skills and part of those skills are our appearance and ability to dress with a style.
For all of us, who operate in executive environments it is crucial how we dress and present ourselves at network events, in front of our colleagues and potential clients as this has a direct impact on our personal branding and professional success. There is one very old saying “ Wherever you go you will be first judged by your appearance, and only after that by your knowledge. “
According to Forbes magazine, our brains make a thousand computations during the first seven seconds we see someone. Are you trustworthy, confident, likeable, or competent? Within seven seconds, a decision has been made, even though you probably haven’t even said hello.
Following this line of thought if we don’t manage to make good, if not great first impression nobody will give us the chance to show our real worth as we trade and operate in the highly competitive business environment.
Before I go to any deeper into this topic, I would like first to clear up two terms ‘ style’ and ‘classic’. These two words are widely used, mainly in the fashion industry, but in recent years more and more in the business environment. The reason is that the old-fashioned classy “business style” is challenged and pushed by the flashier fashion trends.
- According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word style is a way of doing something, especially one that is typical of a person, group of people, place, or period: In our context, we will look at it how we dress.
- Using the same dictionary as above as a reference classic is having a high quality or standard against which other things are judged: In our context, we will look at it as a classy way of dressing.
As we defined the meanings of the main terminology of this article, I am happy for us to move to the essence of the topic.
George in his video is highlighting that “ everything counts” when we are at networking event or meeting with potential clients and establishing our personal brand, and I am 100 % on the same opinion.
As professionals in our trade, we customise our services towards the requirements and needs of our clients and principals, and our hairstyle shouldn’t be an exception. When operating in executive settings it is highly likely that our principals will work in corporate environments, attend high profile events, or they will be in a public eye.
Therefore, in the first instance, our hairstyle should be clean, and tidy. I would recommend a classic corporate style haircut which is not too short, not too long, and you can’t go wrong regardless of the profile of your principal.
Why not too short? Not too short as we don’t want to stick out, we don’t want to look too assertive, and it may not fit with the profile of the principal.
Why not too long? Not too long as it is hard to maintain the good shape, especially after a long day, will require the use of products in order to keep it tidy and the likelihood to look messy at the end of the day is high.
Grooming and manicure.
Equally as the hairstyle, keeping your eyebrows, nose , ears and facial hair neat is very important when we operate in executive environment. Looking untidy and scruffy can reflect poorly on the image of our principal for which we have a responsibility as mentioned above.
As part of our job, we meet with many people regardless if it is at networking events, business meetings or just escorting our principal around his busy lifestyle. We will meet people, and we will shake hands. Unmaintained , rough hands and dirty nails make a very bad first impression, especially if combined with the sloppy handshake.
There are two main dress codes in our trade; formal and smart casual. And I will share my opinion and standards for the both styles. The dress code requirements are usually given in advance of the operation by the client or the principal, and it is obligatory.
Formal dress code.
The formal dress code is generally a business style suit, shirt and tie. On many occasions, our clients will have specific requirements for the colours. However, if not specified try to stick to the standard business colours such as a navy blue, grey or dark grey. The choice of the colours also depends on the season. For example, during the summer I would recommend lighter colours and winter time darker ones.
When wearing a suit, the most important is to fit your body shape not the brand or the price of it. Many of us can’t afford tailor made suits, but that’s not an excuse to wear badly fitted ones. Always try to have the best buy for your budget, and if you are not happy with the fit, please use a tailor to do the necessary correction according to your body shape, and it will still be cheaper than the tailor-made ones, and you will look the part.
When we have requirements for a smart casual dress code as a standard this means; smart jeans or chinos with shirt, blazer and smart shoes.
Big emphasis here on wearing smart jeans. What I do mean under smart? Any jeans which are not skinny, not faded, nor ripped and a conservative colour. The same applies for the chinos.
When we wear a smart casual outfit, we have to make sure that we have only the top button of the shirt undone not more , otherwise it looks too casual and unprofessional.
The choice of shirt is very important for the overall professional look. Let's start with the choice of collar as they are many types, I will touch only on two most popular ones.
Wide collar or cut away shirt is one of the most popular due to the balanced shape. It suits any face shape and can be worn either with or without a tie. However, in a formal setting I would recommend this type of collar to be worn with a wide tie with a double Windsor knot.
Narrow collar or moderate cut away shirt is preferably worn with normal or thin width tie and a half Windsor knot. This type of collar fits people with long neck as they are relatively high.
Always buy the right size shirt as you must to do the top button of your shirt, and you have to be comfortable with that. Of course, this doesn’t mean to buy two sizes bigger shirt and to have a massive gap between the collar and your neck, it just doesn’t look smart or stylish.
The next important point when we are choosing a shirt is to fit our body type. For example, if you are very fit you should go for slim fitted model not for regular as it will look too baggy on you. Opposingly if you don’t have a flat stomach don’t go for fitted models as, firstly, it will be uncomfortable and secondly your shirt will pull an open gap between the buttons.
When buying shirts, we must consider the colour of our suit too. Ideally, they must match so if the suit is patterned the shirt should be plain, solid colour and the opposite.
The material is very important for our own comfort. Personally, I prefer and would recommend cotton shirts although they are more difficult to maintain. However, many brands now are selling non-iron cotton shirts on very decent prices.
The last thing what you must take into consideration when you are buying a shirt is the length of the sleeves. You don’t want them to be too long or too short. Ideally, they will appear about 1.5 - 2 cm under the sleeves of your suit jacket.
V shape t-shirt
It’s essential for the Professional to wear a cotton body colour vest under the shirt regardless of the temperatures.
Why cotton t-shirt? Because it will keep all the sweat and unpleasant smells away from your shirt and principal and you will never face the embarrassment of the wet underarm patches if you need to take your jacket off.
Why body colour? Because even under a white shirt it will be invisible if you choose the right colour for your skin.
Why V shape? Because it will be completely out of sight if you have your top button undone.
Ties are a very important component of the formal or business look. Personally, I prefer wide or normal width ties as my knot of choice is a double Windsor. The reason for this choice is that you never can go wrong with it regardless of the occasion or environment. This knot for me is like the S class in the vehicles. Always try to use a knot, which is recommended for the collar type, it makes difference.
When colour is not specified by the client or principal always use conservative business ties with no more than two colours, normal width. Don’t combine a striped tie with striped shirt it becomes too much.
If you really want to look classy and stylish is essential all your accessories to match. All the leathers; belt, shoes, watch strap, wallet and the business bag should be the same colour. I would go even further personally I am trying to match my umbrellas too or at least to have one with both main colours black and brown so can match all my outfits.
One of the most common style mistakes is to wear a tactical watch with a suit. So, make sure that all your accessories and jewellery are matching your current style.
Socks should match either the colour of the shoes or the trousers. Personally, I found easier to match them with the shoes as I wear only two colours of shoes black and brown. Always buy high quality cotton socks as on many occasions we spend our days on our feet and if we don’t look after them, they will not look after us.
I think it necessary to highlight the importance of the comfortable shoes especially in our line of work. Therefore, never go on operation with brand new shoes, always try to wear them at home first for at least two days to make sure that they will not kill your feet as you will need them.
Shoes always need to be clean and ideally in good shape. Don’t wear loafers as it doesn’t look professional and in case of emergency if you need to run, you might lose them. Wear shoes with laces. The laces should be black or brown depending on the colour of your shoes.
Probably the most important aspect of the personal appearance it reveals how we feel about ourselves. Self-confidence is crucial for our personal branding and success. Well-groomed professionals look confident even if they may not always feel like. Dressing for success is one of the first steps towards becoming highly efficient and successful professional.
As professionals in the executive protection field, we must make it a habit to look presentable all the time and, in any environment, first of all for our own satisfaction and secondly for the client we represent.
I hope you found this article interesting and of benefit. However, I don’t claim that I’ve managed to cover the topic 100 % as it is so massive that we can write a book about it.
Thank you for reading and please don’t hesitate to share your options ,style in the comment’s underneath.
Written by: R.Savkov BA, MSyI, M.ISRM
Oxford Protection Services
Freelance Security Consultant/ Personal Protection Specialist