Wearing My Birthday Suit at Work

Do you remember the 1975 best-selling book Dress for Success? Yeah, I didn’t read it either. That’s probably because I’ve never been considered fashionable unless labor-worn stains and holes are in style. The rules for showing up at a job interview, though, haven’t changed: dress like you already have the job. But now that I already have the job, I just show up wearing my birthday suit at work. I have to say that it’s made a HUGE difference in how others relate to me!

Some Jobs Require a Dress Uniform

A uniform is like an ASK ME button in some jobs. When you go to a restaurant for dinner, you don’t place your order with a man wearing hunter blaze orange and rubber boots. No, you look for a person wearing something like a Chili’s uniform to take your order. When you take your car to the dealer to get serviced, you somehow feel better when the mechanic is covered in grease than if he wore a Bozo the Clown costume. And if a plumber comes into your house, don’t you expect to see at least a little butt crack before you let him rotor out your kitchen drain?

Other Jobs Seem to Have a Sort-Of Dress Code

But some clothes don’t point to any specific profession. I can’t pick out a banker from a lawyer or a hedge fund manager from an Armani sales associate. And the friendly lady I met last week in the elevator at my resort in Vegas…well, let’s just say that I’m starting to wonder if she got paid to be “friendly.”

Clothing Does Not Make the Man or Woman

I remember several years ago heading to the first day of a new job. I wanted to dress so everybody could feel my drip, so I wore a Nino Cerruti suit that cost a month’s salary. Before boarding the train from the suburbs that would take me into downtown Chicago, I purchased some gum (for fresh breath), coffee (for mental alertness), and a Chicago Tribune (for catching up on current events). So far, so good.

In hindsight, it was a mistake to mix those three things together.

The hot coffee literally dissolved the gum in my mouth. Without thinking, I reached into my mouth to remove the nearly-liquid gum. In its gelatinous state, it didn’t come out in a solid piece; rather, it dripped sticky webs from my mouth to the sheet of newspaper I had intended to use to discard the gum.

Did I mention I had a full beard at the time? In my rush to clear the gum out of my facial hair, I used the sheet of newspaper to wipe the gum from my beard and keep my hands from getting even stickier. At the same time, I reactively squeezed my thighs together, forcing the coffee out of my Styrofoam cup to erupt like Mt. Saint Helens, painting me with coffee from head to toe. Brown liquid dripped from my hair, shirt, tie, suit coat, pants, and shoes.

The receptionist at my new office didn’t even try to cover her laughter when she gave me directions to the men’s room. The person staring back at me in the mirror looked like a stabbing victim that had a shiv taken to his neck, chest, stomach, crotch, and legs. His assailants then tried to hide his body in newspaper, which would explain the black newsprint all over his face and hands.

From that day on, I’ve accepted that clothes can be stained irreversibly, and crotches can actually rip from the bottom of the zipper to the top of the waistband, something I discovered while speaking to a group in NYC last year.

Just Wear What You Were Born With

“Elegance is not standing out, but being remembered.” —Giorgio Armani

Besides the day I started that job 23 years ago, I’m pretty sure no one ever remembered the way I looked at work, for which I am grateful.

What I’m saying is I don’t rely on my clothes or looks to make an impression, even though I was born with a lot of hair and a pretty cute tush (IMHO).

“Don’t be into trends….you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live.” —Gianni Versace

Fortunately, my birthday suit, what I was born with, I can take with me everywhere. Part of my birthday suit includes my smile, friendliness, engagement, enthusiasm, curiosity, eye contact, educability, interest, and kindness. Those can’t get stained and outgrown. And the only way I can lose them (like I have done with countless belts and shoes during travel) is to lose perspective.

How Wearing My Birthday Suit Affects Others

When I show up at work in my birthday suit, people usually treat me very well. I often get better service than those traveling with me. I get invited–and invited again–to take part in meetings where others aren’t welcome. People often seek out my opinion on a wide range of subjects, even when most of the time my help comes in the form of asking questions and showing empathy. And it seems like others want to spend time with me, and I know it’s not just because of my hair or cute tush.

But the real kick is that, more often than not, others strip down to their essences and join me in wearing their own birthday suits. I see it in how they smile, interact, say kind things, engage, show excitement, and forget about the stresses of the world for a time.

So I ask you, in your humble opinion, what’s the best part of your birthday suit?


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