Style / December 2019

How to Dress for a Meeting

The economist Thomas Sowell famously hates them, but work meetings are an unavoidable reality. Here’s how to dress for them and spin them to your advantage.

Jimmy Hoffa is pissed off. And it’s the best scene in Martin Scorsese’s new gangster flick The Irishman. A venting of venom by proxy, one suspects that the be-suited Hoffa - played by Al Pacino - doesn’t apply the same standards to all of his colleagues. But with this guy, arriving as he does, well, it’s just not on. He lets rip.
“Making a point dressing like that?” Hoffa asks, belligerently. “You dress like that for a meeting?”. “This is how you dress in Florida?” replies Anthony Provenzano, played by Stephen Graham, wearing sunnies, cabana shirt - worn undone to mid-chest - and shorts. “For a meeting?” Hoffa shoots back. “Anywhere. Florida, Timbuktu, I dress in a suit. For a meetin’. And you’re late.”
What follows is a heated discussion as to just how late one can be before it becomes disrespectful, perhaps especially in a world in which showing respect is wise for a wise guy. Hoffa says he’s never waited for someone more than 10 minutes; 15 minutes is ok, counters Provenzano. And on it goes. Suffice it to say that turning up for a business meeting late isn’t a smart move. But just how one should dress for it is a much more debatable issue.
Hoffa has a point: the proper option is to wear classic business attire - sober suit, tie, white shirt, polished shoes, the uniform of Gregory Peck’s The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, who may resent it for how it makes him feel like the proverbial cog in the corporate machine, but who’s always presentable nonetheless. As the saying goes, it’s easy to be under-dressed; you can never be over-dressed. That’s patently not true, as anyone who’s turned up to a BBQ in black tie knows - but it’s a good rule of thumb.

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