In 1988, newly licensed realtors at the Guelph and District Real Estate Board were required to attend an orientation session held at our boards local headquarters. Not being one blessed with the ability to retain details, only two items from the days proceedings remain with me. First and foremost, the day was an early reminder of the importance of getting to the point. Anything that takes three hours to explain runs the risk of losing the attention of the audience – particularly if I am in it. Secondly, and oddly, – (both that it was articulated at all, and that I remember it) – a professional realtor was not to wear shorts. Real estate sales apparently, was not the vocation for those with overactive sweat glands.
My penchant for rebellion had not yet matured – or immatured depending upon your point of view. So, as a 21 year old realtor suddenly thrust into a mostly adult world, I did the most adult thing I could think of – I conformed as best I could, or, on days when my wardrobe fell short of expectations, I avoided the presenter.
My skeptical feelings toward the dress code were reaffirmed when one of Guelph’s preeminent real estate investors happened upon an open house I was hosting on a hot July weekend. The house was nice, but un-air-conditioned. I was dutifully adorned in woolen pants, a cotton shirt and knit necktie and wool blazer and sweating profusely. In walked said investor, wearing old, tattered, but comfortable looking pants, and a short sleeved shirt stained with last week’s soup, undone to his navel. I recognized him immediately, and knew he probably had enough loose change under his floormat to buy the house we shared together for five minutes. For his part, I am sure he had no idea who I was, nor cared that I secretly admired his attire. I was hot and miserable before he showed up, and hot and miserable after he left, and absolutely certain that there was nothing that occurred in between that impressed him in any way.
“I was hot and miserable before he showed up, and hot and miserable after he left…”It occurred to me, that if I was going to have anything close to resembling a successful career (in real estate or anything else) that I would need to polish up on the substance of my interior before I began to worry about my exterior. That is not to say that how we present ourselves is not important, rather, if the substance of our character and the knowledge we have acquired is not well developed, our dress is irrelevant. I would further venture an opinion, that if the substance of our character is well developed – our dress is, once again, irrelevant. Either way, our dress is irrelevant.
“I would think that impressing others is rarely the concern of truly impressive people.”
We are taught early in life euphemisms such as its whats inside that counts, and then proceed to spend an inordinate amount of our energies caring primarily for the outside. To this day an image of my dress code instructor pops into my head when I walk into my office wearing shorts. While I am certain that I would be a disappointment to her, I am glad that the business casual concept has brought enough allies that I am not an outlier. Being well dressed is great, and social customs still call for a higher level of attire for occasions that involve an altar or casket. For all the days in between, dressing solely to impress others seems a little shallow. I would think that impressing others is rarely the concern of truly impressive people.
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