June 11th - 2012

Keep clothing professional even in summer

As the weather warms up, hemlines seem to get shorter, necklines get lower and toes begin to make public appearances.

As the weather warms up, hemlines seem to get shorter, necklines get lower and toes begin to make public appearances.

The rules that govern clothing for much of the year seem to relax as the mercury rises -- but maintaining a professional look is vital for real estate brokers and salespeople even in the dog days of summer.

Exposed toes, Hawaiian shirts and T-shirts are not right for a business situation, says Nicole Schwartz, ownerWhat NOT to wear at work of Next Image Consulting in Toronto. “Everyone recognizes that hot weather means lighter clothes, but I still don’t feel that shorts or flip-flops are appropriate when you’re on duty.”

Neat grooming and professional clothing will help you to project the image that you want your clients to receive and remember, according to several sources who spoke to REALTOR® EDGE.

“In real estate, you are your own brand, so it makes sense to present yourself in the best possible light,” says Schwartz. “Although the younger generation tends to be more casual, the most important thing for people of all ages is to dress appropriately for the situation.”

If you’re a REALTOR® and you’re on the job, you may be meeting clients or potential clients, says Schwartz. “That means a certain dress code, regardless of the weather.”

For men, a suit-and-tie combination can often be a smart choice, she says. However, in the depths of summer, men can forego the necktie in favour of a clean, pressed lightweight shirt with slacks and perhaps a sports jacket. A collared shirt keeps the look professional if the temperature gets too hot and you feel the need to remove the jacket, she notes.

For women, a cotton dress, a blouse with pants or a skirt -- or a lightweight suit -- work well. Summer shoes can be stylish and professional at the same time, she notes, with options such as ballet-style flats, pumps, or driving shoes in a range of colours. Too much exposed skin around the neckline or legs can distract from the business at hand, says Schwartz. 

Jeans can sometimes work if they are dark denim or summer white with no rips, fades or stains, but jeans are best paired with a jacket and collared shirt. Even then, Schwartz advises everyone to think about the occasion when choosing an outfit.

“The dot-com companies ushered in a more casual workplace, but that sometimes gets taken a bit too far,” she says. “People are often confused about what’s appropriate, and if your outfit is sloppy, revealing or too casual, it sends the wrong message. If that’s how you look, people may think that’s how you work.”

Casual Fridays in many offices may also have lowered the bar, she says. “There are ways to dress that can accommodate warmer weather and a lighter tone that still convey that you’re ready to do business and take charge.”

Keep yourself looking sharp and think of it as a business investment, she notes. “You want your clients to trust and respect you, and your presentation of yourself is part of that equation.”  

“Be clean and tidy and respect your client,” says Mike Douglas, a broker in Barrie, Ont. “People and situations vary -- as does the definition of business attire. In many markets, neat and tidy may not imply a designer suit, but that certainly doesn’t suggest that jogging pants and a Grateful Dead T-shirt are suitable business clothes. A sharp shirt and nice slacks can work well.” 

In summer resort towns, business casual attire works well, says Dianne Alexander, a broker in Bayfield and Goderich on the shores of Lake Huron, which she describes as a “Great Lake and a great spot to be.”

“Clients coming here in shorts to see a cottage on the beach aren’t expecting me to wear a suit, but a nice sundress and lightweight blazer are appropriate,” she says. Alexander likes to colour-coordinate her outfits, shoes and purses, and is known as a sharp dresser. “Appropriate dress means nothing too skin tight or revealing,” she says. “You want your clients to focus on the house you’re showing -- not on your cleavage.”

A professional appearance is important regardless of your location, says Schwartz. “I’ve heard the argument that you should dress to match what your clients are wearing, but I just don’t buy it,” she says. “If your clients show up in shorts and T-shirts at a farm or cottage property, that doesn’t mean that you should do the same. Although I wouldn’t advise white tie and tails in that situation, you’re still at work even if they are not, and therefore your standards should be higher.”

For more information, visit www.nextimageconsulting.com

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