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Look your worst, feel your best

One of my favourite hobbies is to dress like absolute garbage, then tell strangers I like their outfit. It’s amusing to watch them consider the source, caught between flattery and despair.

Another great hobby is to let my hair and beard grow wild and unruly, pushing the limits of respectability to their absolute limit, before having everything clippered back to something that wouldn’t be out of place in the mid-20th century. It’s a great way to get compliments, beginning with the barber (who’s really tooting his own horn, but yeah, thanks for showing me what the back of my head looks like, as if I’m going to demand edits when I’m so close to escaping this chair and resuming my life).

If you spend too much time on yourself every morning, there’s no room for a dramatic improvement. When you’re always immaculately put together, nobody’s going to applaud you for dressing slightly better on some special occasion like your wedding, or to address a room of ornery shareholders. But if you spend most of your time in bright orange T-shirts from the gift shop at the Dog On The Tuckerbox, all it takes is a good goin’-out top that involves some buttons and a quick pass of the iron to bring in the plaudits and/or standing ovations.

You’re probably thinking about the importance of dapper professional attire and only having one chance to make a first impression on clients and colleagues, but that’s akin to a spruced-up dog hoping for a rosette from judgemental appraisers. Can anyone honestly say they prefer those dog-show canines to the mud-covered mutt who can’t wait to show off the new stick they just found? (Aside from the people who go to dog shows.)

Maybe it’s because 93% of my work interactions take place via phone and email, but I’m more impressed by a person who does an amazing job in an outfit that wouldn’t be out of place in a Keating-era mufti day, or wears the same dumb thing every day like some Silicon Valley icon who won’t stop talking about reducing the number of decisions they have to make every day.

The only thing I draw the line at is men with long fingernails, especially if said nails are meticulously clean. Call me shallow, but that’s not a person I can trust with my business.

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