The Entrepreneur’s Dress Code

Updated on 12 February 2015

Subscription Form (#66)

The entrepreneur's dress code

One of the biggest advantages of being an entrepreneur is that you are free to create your own rules. This freedom also extends to deciding on your personal dress code.

There are often no set rules for how entrepreneurs should dress, complicating the matter further is that what is considered appropriate varies greatly across industries.

However, it is still important for entrepreneurs to be aware of how what they wear can impact how they are perceived by investors and potential clients – and how this could potentially affect their business’ chances of success.

Making the right impression

Research has shown that first impressions have a great deal of influence on the way people perceive you. According to a study done by Harvard University in 2006 entitled Very First Impressions, it only takes approximately seven seconds to make a first impression.

“As an entrepreneur you are the reception point of your business”

The study goes on to say that once a first impression has been formed it takes eight subsequent encounters for that impression to be changed. This is a luxury that most entrepreneurs can’t afford, as you are most likely to only get one chance.

Tracy Gold, a professional personal stylist, fashion writer and image consultant based in Cape Town, says the way you dress and how you present yourself not only affects the way you feel, but your productivity and confidence levels.

Gold suggests wearing clothes that you feel good in, and which raise your confidence levels. This she says, makes a big difference in the way you think and feel.

“For an entrepreneur being confident is extremely important” she adds.

The modern day entrepreneur

Ntombi Nhlapo, a wedding
planner has to look the part.

Ntombi Nhlapo is the owner and MD of Extravaganza Weddings, a Johannesburg based wedding planning and bridal makeup artistry company. ​

Ntombi says when she started her business at the age of 22 she knew she could not dress like a regular 22-year-old when she had meetings with clients or suppliers.

“I need to look like I handle all the details, all the time”

“It was hard to attract business if I dressed like a regular 22-year-old with awesome sneakers, a pair of leggings and a cute top.” she says.

Now 27-years-old, Nhlapo explains that her wedding budgets can sometimes run up into the hundreds of thousands of rands, and people need to know by looking at you that they can trust you with their money.

Ntombi says she has found a balance between looking professional but also feminine which includes always being groomed by having her hair, nails and makeup done.

“I need to look like I handle all the details, all the time”, she says.

Entertainer, fashion designer and entrepreneur Masego Maponyane says people take him a lot more seriously because he is well packaged.

“People pay more attention when I’m speaking, they are interested in what I have to say” he says.

Well-known personality
Masego Maponyane makes
sure he always looks
his best.

Masego explains that he enjoys looking good and for him it’s more of a lifestyle than a job.

Masego believes that as an entrepreneur you are the reception point of your business and you should therefore show you have made an effort. As the face of your business you always need to be well groomed, smell good, smile and be confident, he says.

Masego last year collaborated with fashion label Augustine to create a menswear range called OCD that features elements of his personal style.

Dresscode advice from the professional 

Follow Tracy Gold’s advice for how entrepreneurs can make a good impression.

1. Always give thought to the look you want to create

According to Gold, showing you have made an effort says a lot about you as an individual as well as about your business.

“Think about how you would like to represent your brand and dress according to that thought.” This includes paying attention to the colour and style of the items of clothing you wear. “You may not be able to control people’s perceptions of you, but you can sway them to have a positive attitude towards you,” she says.

2. Effective grooming goes a long way

Grooming goes a long way in making you look neat and presentable. “Men specifically never feel they have to be groomed but more males these days are investing time into grooming themselves,” says Gold.

As an entrepreneur sometimes hygiene is more important than a fancy suit, she adds.

It is important to always make sure your hair is neat; that you do not have unnecessary facial hair and that your nails are clean and tidy.

3. Confidence plays a role  

Gold explains that you are the voice and face of your company and you have to stand proud and tall in order to represent it. “Shake people’s hands firmly and always ensure you look them in the eye when you address them,” she says.

As an entrepreneur you want to ensure you stand out from others in your field and also be memorable.

Get Weekly 5-Minutes Business Advice

Subscribe to receive actionable business tips and resources.

Subscription Form (#66)

Feeling Stuck?