Is there a gap between who you really are and how you show up to others professionally? As a small business consultant and branding expert, I see it all the time. It’s one of the biggest marketing problems entrepreneurs and business owners face. But our recent experience of switching from in-person to Zoom meetings just may have a helpful lesson for us. It turns out, there can be some surprising business benefits to not wearing pants.
With so many of us working from home lately, there’s been a lot of joking about what people are wearing, and not wearing, on Zoom. The gist of it is you only need to really dress from the waist up. Even I’ve been affected. Recently, I commented that I was seriously considering not ironing the back of my shirt. And I Iove to iron! The whole thing had me wondering if I would ever get my class back.
But it also got me thinking. Maybe there are benefits to not wearing pants at work. Aside from the ease, comfort, and reduced laundry, it can literally be the shedding of a facade.
Style makes the man--or woman!
Let’s make it clear from the outset: I get business decorum. I am all for professional attire and dressing in a way that fits your career. But as the ever wise RuPaul has said, “We’re all born naked. The rest of life is drag.”
Everything we wear reflects our attitude and situation, and the clothes we choose--or shed--can highly influence our way of being. That’s why we often “dress for success.”
In LINGO I talk about style as being the emotional trigger that stops people in their tracks. If you want to get your ideal customer’s attention, present your business in a style that speaks to them. The goal is for them to recognize themselves in your style so that you create resonance. They should see the way you present yourself, and say, “That’s so me.” After all, isn’t that what you say when you find the perfect shirt or blouse? “It’s so me.” We see ourselves in styles and we want our style to tell the world, “This is who I am.”
The power of professional style
Besides striking a chord of familiarity with our ideal customers, style also influences our own mood. When I first started speaking, I was always barefoot. Crazy, I know. But I was so nervous as a new speaker that I needed to ground myself. And the only way I knew how to do that was to recreate the feeling I got doing yoga. Being barefoot was an emotional trigger for me, bringing me back to the feeling of being on the yoga mat. It calmed my nerves, and gave me the grounded feeling I needed.
But as time went on, I gained experience and a fair amount of confidence as a speaker. One day, I sat down at an event to take my shoes off, and a realization struck me. Being barefoot was actually reminding me to be nervous. So I left my shoes on, and now? Now I wear shoes that get attention.
Thankfully my first audiences were all photographers, so they were used to eccentric personalities. But I did have well-meaning people tell me that I should put shoes on because I will sound...more professional. Maybe you’ve heard similar advice. Smile when you talk. Smile when you answer the phone. People will hear it and you’ll sound more professional.
This is good advice--to a point. But here’s the risk: You may not be presenting yourself as YOU.
Here’s how not wearing pants can help
Let’s clarify something here as well. I’m talking about not wearing pants when you’re not being seen not wearing pants. So this is at home. Otherwise it’s just creepy. And by not wearing pants I’m assuming and hoping you have something on. Just maybe not something that goes with your top. For me these days, it tends to be sweat shorts.
How does that help? It may just be possible that not wearing pants behind the scenes allows you to present yourself more authentically. More casually. More at ease. Have you noticed feeling more relaxed on these Zoom calls? Could it be that you’re lighter, more joyful, maybe even more humorous? That you’re letting the true you shine through? Take notice on your next Zoom call--does not wearing pants make a difference in the way you present yourself?
The website-Instagram divide
The real reason you feel and present yourself differently is that you’ve let the facade of professionalism down a bit. You’ve committed to being present, and spending a little less time caring about image.
I see this facade all the time. One of the biggest places it shows up is in the gap between people’s websites and social media presence. As a business coach for entrepreneurs, I review a lot of websites. Beforehand, I have people fill out an application that asks some probing questions. And I’m blown away by the answers. I see passion. Drive. Purpose. I get what’s in their heart, why they do what they do, and the value they want for their customers.
But then I go to their website, and nine times out of 10 it feels nothing like the heart-centered, passion-driven mission I just read about. It’s flat, boring and not compelling. It’s a watered down version of who they are. A polite, calculated to please, generic version that tells me nothing about what lights them up and inspires them.
Where do I find that compelling messaging instead? More often than not, it’s on their social media platforms. On their Instagram page they’re alive and authentic, posting motivational memes and expressing their business in a heartfelt way. But on their website, they’re buttoned up and playing it safe.
Losing the facade
Why does this happen? I believe it’s because of a facade. Like professional attire, we think there’s a way we’re supposed to present ourselves on our websites. There might be a standard in our industry of how we’re supposed to look online. There’s a way we think we’re supposed to look and put ourselves out in the world. But supposed to’s don’t make you stand out.
If there’s a disconnect between who you really are and how you present yourself, it’s time to lose the facade. Let go of what you think a website should look like, and be you! Find the places where you feel like you’re not wearing pants. If it’s your Instagram or Facebook page, bring more of that to your website.
If you want to shine as your authentic self, let down your guard. Maybe not wearing pants can help your business by helping you loosen up and stand out. Just don’t stand up.
Are there places on your website where you’re not showing up as you really are? Click here for a Brand Message Review to help you spot the gaps and stand out to your ideal customers.