Monday, September 22, 2014

As Long As I Got My Suit and Tie.....

No, this is not a blog about the Justin Timberlake song ,as much as I think it's great (well, I could do without Jay-Z's part, but I quibble). It's about dressing--more specifically, dressing appropriately. If you know me, or have ready any of this blog, you know that I'm a criminal defense trial lawyer. So, a suit and tie is my normal dress. In a world of "business casual", criminal law is about the last bastion of "business formal". I prefer what I refer to as an "East Coast Big City" style--dark suit (sometimes pinstripe), nice dress shirt (color is not a bad thing, sometimes French cuffs, but never button-down with a suit), tie with some color and/or pattern (not regimental stripe, and silk not wool), silk pocket square (coordinates with, but does not "match" the tie), wingtips. When I first moved to the South, I saw lots of seersucker--sorry, not me. Also saw lots of blazers and khakis. For court? Nope. Again, not me.

But this is not really a fashion post either. What you wear and how you look MATTERS. Sorry, it does. Always has. Probably always will. When I walk into a courtroom, I am sending a message. To the judge, to the prosecutor, to the other lawyers in the room, and most importantly, to my client and the jury. I am here, I am ready, I am the big league. This is business. I am here to win and if you think you can beat me, think again. Should it matter? In a perfect world, perhaps not. Your intellect and brilliance should shine through. But, in case you hadn't noticed, the world is not perfect. And if you don't send the message with your appearance, many will never give your intellect and brilliance the chance to shine. Now don't get me wrong. You can look impeccable, and if you are unprepared the perfect knot in your tie won't help. But it is the setting on the table.

Now, this brings me to an interesting juncture. I am pretty far left politically. Not what you would think about a guy who just spent two paragraphs telling you about suits and ties and how important they are. Although (actually, I would contend because) I am quite far left, I am not a huge fan of President Obama. But I find a lot of the criticism of him by the far right fairly juvenile. There is one area where he has been criticized recently that I think does have some merit, and it is precisely this topic. When the situation between Russia and Ukraine was beginning to heat up earlier this year, there was a photo that the White House put out of the President speaking to Vladimir Putin from the Oval Office on a Saturday. It was characterized as a very serious call, and the President was warning of sanctions. He was wearing jeans and a button-down shirt with no tie. He appears at a lot of speeches and press conferences with no tie (now, I am not knocking the tan suit. It may not have been my style, but I thought it was fine). Sorry, that's a mistake. If you don't think those "optics" (the current word for it) matter, you're kidding yourself. As I said before, the message is "I am here, I am ready, I am the big league. This is business. I am here to win and if you think you can beat me, think again".

And on top of conveying a sense of seriousness and purpose, dressing nice has other benefits. Just ask ZZ Top:

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