In the United Kingdom, this time of year is known for two things: the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and the season of party political conferences. Leaving John Keats’s description of autumn to one side, in fairness, the UK has had a lot going on recently. Over the summer: a dramatic vote to leave the European Union, seismic changes to our political leadership across a number of parties and at the very top of our government, a change of Prime Minster (another woman no less!). In addition, as I write this, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have returned this week with their family after a very successful tour of Canada, and so I am prompted to revisit the topic of the meaning of our choice of clothing. Why? Because what we wear says something – whether we like it or not.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge brought their cherubic children with them on an eight day tour of Canada. Everything they wore was scrutinised for symbolism, relevance and – given the relentless number of photos taken of them – the visual aesthetic. The choice of colours for the Duchess’s outfit (a nod to the Canadian flag when she wore red and white, the maple leaf brooch which was a gift originally given to the Queen etc.) all drove acres of media coverage. When the children appeared, they were colour co-ordinated with their parents to convey family, love, aspiration, youth, the future, adorable, inspiring, in touch, the Monarchy etc. Royal tours create a vast amount of commercial and economic opportunity for both countries, as well as encouraging considerable debate, enhanced education and greater awareness of social, charitable and philanthropic interests which are close to their hearts. We cannot kid ourselves into believing that months of preparation and discussion DOES NOT go into finalising what they wear and wearing what they mean.
As leaders in business, we all have a visual signature. What we wear means something and the question is: do we convey the message that we want the world to get about us? Or do we think it doesn’t matter? Or do we simply never think about it? Whatever group you fall into, let’s be clear, leaders with ‘Executive Presence’ put consistency, intention and alignment in their look in order to support and convey their ‘brand’. Get it right; and we notice the person. Get it wrong and we notice the clothes.