Working My Way Up The Ladder
A few years ago, I would never have thought about what to wear to a conference let alone what that proverb meant. Probably because I did not have any to attend. I then volunteered to be a part of the famous World Water Week in Stockholm. I had to wear a light blue polo shirt and a terrible, bright orange scarf to make things worse. People were buzzing around in their fancy suits while I was wearing something that reflected my position in the world at that point. I did a great job though and I had a mission: To be remembered.
The next year I returned as a volunteer. Over 3000 people attend this conference and many remembered my name.
Last year I got a call from the organisers to help organise the conference. I was finally working my way up the ladder and dressed a little better, though I sacrificed looks for comfort.
Finally, this year I was able to attend as a delegate. Or better say…..as a Kingsman?
This article will cover my thoughts on appropriate conference business attire and more specifically which outfit I chose to wear during World Water Week 2018.
First Impressions Matter
Don’t listen to anyone that tells you otherwise. In big events you will be surrounded by people you do not know and they will not know you. The first thing they will notice is your clothing and your posture. So make this initial impression count and look like a person that is worth approaching.
I am very familiar with the City Conference Centre in Stockholm, the venue of the World Water Week. I feel comfortable in there and it shows. As a result, I was standing on top of the stairs in a powerful posture with my back straight and legs open at shoulder length and people were coming to me. A young man from Bangladesh actually asked me to tie his tie because he was too nervous about speaking in an upcoming session.
Remember though, a good pair of clothes will not fix a stuttering voice or an unprepared boring individual. Know your goal, know your target, have your unique business card and your 30 second pitch ready and conquer that objective soldier.
Here’s a list of all the clothes I chose to make a lasting impression on my first day:
- Navy Blue Double Breasted Suit – Suitsupply (Review Part 1 – Part 2)
- Light Blue Dress Shirt – John Henric
- Iron Man Tie Clip – John Henric
- Loake 1880 Dark Brown Aldwych Oxford Shoes – Loake Shoemakers (Review)
- Red Striped Power Tie – Brothers Sverige
- Handkerchief And Socks – Brothers Sverige
- Dark Brown Parma Leather Briefcase – Tuscany Leather (Review)
Double Breasted suits have been making a comeback for the past few years. Ever since I saw the first Kingsman film I wanted my own version. Interestingly enough you can find the actual suits from Mr. Porter. They cost an arm and a leg though, so your next best option for 1/3 of the price is the Suitsupply offering.
Having been on the same conference for 3 years I had ample opportunity to observe and see what people wear. I did not see a single Double Breasted suit and this was my opportunity. I wore mine with confidence and I can tell you that everyone remembered me.
You should use your finest suit when you want to make the best impression but stick with the classic charcoal and navy tones. I would avoid pinstripes unless you are a banker or a lawyer or less formal patterns. This website is directed towards us younger guys out there so being in a well-tailored suit will let you stay ahead of the pack.
I promise you that a good Double Breasted suit will not go unnoticed.
The Shirt And Tie
If the suit is the foundation of your outfit, the choice of tie and shirt is what will define it. For a professional setting you should use a solid business shirt – usually white, light pink or light blue. You should wash it and iron it so it looks crisp and clean.
Since the shirt is plain but professional the tie is what makes the outfit standout. Use a tie that projects what you want to show. Red for power, brown for sales, blue for calmness and dependability. The list goes on.
I chose a light blue shirt paired with a red tie with blue stripes to indicate that I mean business. I might be the youngest man in the room but I am not short on confidence or experience.
Another important building block is your choice of shoes. Darker colours are more formal. Navy blue works generally best with brown colours and grey with black shoes.
Make sure your shoes are polished and shinned as there is nothing worse than trying to seal the deal with dirty shoes. Bring something comfortable but formal but for me the only choice of shoe for a conference is an oxford. I feel that the Double Breasted set up would look empty without their elegance.
Here you can see that I have used my trusty Loake 1880’s as they match the outfit perfectly. For more information on dress shoes, check out this guide.
Or you can just visit The Noble Shoe!
You have your suit, your shirt, tie and shoes and have created a great outfit. Now it is time to accessorise it and put the finishing touches because I don’t want you to look great, I want you to look fantastic.
Step 1: Wear a simple elegant dress watch – Do you think a Kingsman would not wear a watch? Plain and square a timepiece will always look good on a man’s wrist. And it tells you the time. Magic huh?
Step 2: Use a pocket square – A handkerchief is not there for you to wipe your nose. It adds personality and a splash of colour. I really like the presidential fold. It is simple and very formal. Experiment but don’t go overboard. We are younger and we need to show that we are more mature than people think.
Step 3: Get a real briefcase – No shoulder straps or fancy bags. Classic will never go out of style. Definitely not a backpack unless it is an IT or comics convention. But you are not here for that right?
Step 4: Use a tie clip – If you are using a Double Breasted suit chances are that a tie clip will not be visible. I wear my Iron Man tie clip though underneath and I feel like a superhero. It is my own thing and you should find your own personal expression too! If you go Single Breasted and use a vest DO NOT use a tie clip. They serve the same purpose.
My pants have side adjusters so a belt is not needed. The most important piece of advice I have for you is to stay calm, classy and avoid overloading your outfit with accessories. Try to keep things consistent by matching the leather on your watch to your shoes and belt or briefcase. You will thank me later.
Bonus: For a complete guide on suit accessories, check out my detailed article.
Manners Maketh Man
Focus on the little details, follow these guides and you will create the perfect outfit that screams you. Be comfortable in what you wear, look like a million bucks and achieve whatever goal you had in this conference or your life.
To end this I will share a little story that happened when I was leaving the conference. As I was checking my phone on the sidewalk a man in a grey suit and tie approached me. His name was Prince.
“You look really good and you have put a great outfit together, much better than anyone else I usually see in this city“.
We had a small talk and then he asked for my Instagram account and went to church. I smiled all the way back to Ms’s Misiu.
Have you been inspired by a movie? What is your go-to suit for conferences and networking events? I would love to hear your comments.
Thank you for reading,