Dress codes keep us accountable. If you are packing for a business trip to pitch an international client or flying to the Nation's Capital to testify in front of Congress, understanding the culture of your environment can be key to your bottom line.
When Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in 2018, his "I'm Sorry Suit" created buzz and examined the relationship between what one wears in their everyday lives and the concept of dressing up for a special or serious occasion. Whether his tie color was intentionally on-brand in Facebook blue, the significance of wearing a tie indicated he understands the integrity and respectability of dressing up.
This week Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress on the Libra hearing looking every bit the part of the modern, serious CEO in a dark suit, dark tie, and his signature white spread collar dress shirt. The visual impact of his look successfully signals a stylish and age appropriate choice. He nailed it.
Dressing for the Occasion
Capitol Hill is one of the unique destinations in this country that has not loosened it's strong sense of ethics surrounding dress codes. While it may sound dated, guidelines to dress appropriately helps keep the many pages, interns, and newly hired college graduates dressed appropriately midst changing dress codes in an inter-generational culture. Similarly, many Facebook employees follow Mark Zuckerberg's lead of the now standard "tech casual" dress that represents their laid back and youthful corporate culture.
The modern workplace may be following a more relaxed dress code but the House and Senate floors are steeped in a rich history. Each office culture on the Hill may dress a bit differently but once you enter the Speaker's Lobby, jackets are worn. While the suit may be dead elsewhere, it's not dead on Capitol Hill. The unspoken dress code: Leaders voted into office dress up for work.
I tackle questions from clients that range from what to wear to a celebrity studded premier at the Kennedy Center to a swearing in ceremony of a Chief Justice, and from the White House holiday party to the front row of a live broadcast Congressional hearing. The buzz phrase around style in D.C. is consistently "is it appropriate?"
My best advice: do your research and have a strong grasp of your audience. It is always safer to land on the dressier side of an anticipated dress code than be underdressed.
The suit may be a costume for some or feel like the uniform of a bygone era, but many continue to love its uniformity. Fashions come and go and having the confidence to walk into a room wearing the right armor will never expire. The value of a signature style is to remove the daily thinking or over-thinking of what to wear where.