Suits you sir! Is your dress code your undoing?
The Apprentice is back on our screens and I’m sure many of you will be following Lord Sugar’s candidates as they make fundamental business errors on a weekly basis. Of course, with a top-rating TV show come reviews and the irrepressible Jim Shelley writing for the Daily Mail wrote of week one: “Yes it was men against women – or estate agents versus airhostesses as most of them had come dressed as.”
I am not quite sure what Shelley was implying as ‘the boys’, as Lord Sugar likes to refer to them, were wearing suits, not fancy dress costumes. A suit is a suit – worn across the globe by law professionals, doctors, teachers, bankers and estate agents, among others. To my knowledge there isn’t a particular suit style manufactured especially for the property profession. There’s no sign in John Lewis or Marks & Spencer saying ‘estate agent suits this way’. Shelley’s remark is quite derogatory, implying that the entrepreneurs had downgraded themselves by looking like property professionals (and air hostesses).
I’ve said a suit is a suit….or is it? Some feel there is a thin line between a respectable, trustworthy well-dressed professional and a smarmy sales guy. The difference can be as little as the suit the man is wearing. The property industry is doing its upmost to portray a serious, presentable image and a suit is part of the persona but can a suit be too slim fitting or too cutting edge? Can shoes be too pointy or too polished? Not many landlords or home movers want a ‘flash man in a shiny suit’ turning up to their property. Does a slick suit make you look untrustworthy? And the contradiction? Turning up without a suit makes you look unprofessional and too casual. Does anyone have the house rules on sartorial elegance in the suit department?
What’s the alternative? Are there any agents who have eschewed suits in favour of the ambiguous ‘smart casual’ dress code? Is this defined as a long sleeved shirt tucked into jeans with brown leather shoes? Are country and land agents donning corduroy trousers and checked shirts as they hop into their Land Rover on their way to another valuation? Is the answer a uniform, like a high street bank? Or branded ties and corporate-coloured pocket handkerchiefs? It’s beginning to sound a bit silly, isn’t it? So what’s wrong with a good old suit?
* Simon Duce is the Managing Director of the ARPM Group, which provides national outsourced lettings and property management services.