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Kiwi Leaving UK: Who Needs Shiny Shoes Anyway?

Kiwi shoe polish to disappear from shops as SC Johnson says most people don't care about shiny shoes anymore.

Big deal, so what, you might say; why should we be worried about this?

In and of itself, Kiwi exiting the UK is unlikely to sink the economy.

However, Kiwi's exit suggests people don't care about having shiny shoes anymore.

And if people aren't taking pride in having shiny shoes, they might take less pride in their overall appearance.

Take the "So What" Test

Again, let's ask ourselves so what?

Well, if you take less care in your appearance, some might ask, what's really going on "up top"?

You could be wearing the most magnificent clothing, but if your shoes are scruffy, with streaks of mud or badly scuffed, then that would completely undermine your entire appearance.

As a teenager, I was in the Air Training Corps (1098 Squadron, drums please) and we were encouraged by our CO to take great pride in our appearance, in the way we presented ourselves to the world - especially when in uniform.

That meant razor-sharp creases, hair cut neatly over the ears and tapered at the back and, most important, parade boots were always spic and span with toe caps that were so shiny, you could literally see your face in them.

The military's thinking at the time was that shiny shoes actually meant something. They believed shiny shoes or boots were the very essence of being a disciplined cadet.

To prove the point, I remember the almighty fuss created when Her Majesty's armed forces actually considered issuing non-shiny ("drab") boots to all personnel in order to maintain a consistent look on Parade. (in fact, Kiwi even made a special "parade ground" super shiny edition of their shoe polish, especially for the military).

That idea was quietly abandoned "after consultation."

This thinking that taking pride in one's appearance - even down to the shine of our shoes - could affect or reflect (pun intended) the pride we take in our jobs, our professional responsibilities etc is not just confined to the military.

As a rookie salesperson selling to big investment banks in the City of London, I recall dress-down Friday being introduced in the workplace.

Dress down Friday, what does that even mean?

Well, it meant that, Monday through Thursday, people were expected to wear formal business attire. For men, this would mean dress shirts and necktie; heaven forbid if you dared take your jacket off during the day!

On Fridays, however, the dress code was more relaxed; weekend smart/casual attire was allowed (within reason) and jeans, sneakers, and an open neck shirt could be worn by men, and its equivalent worn by women.

That trend continued for several years and was adopted by almost every bank I worked with.

Then, in March 2001, everything changed. The tech-heavy NASDAQ stock index crashed, falling 78% in just a few months. The so-called dot-com era was well and truly over.

More than a few people blamed the crash on sloppy working practices, people taking their eyes off the ball with disastrous results. Many regulatory changes were implemented, including Dress-down Friday quickly being reversed. From now on, it was formal dress only!

JP Morgan was amongst the first such bank to make the switch and the rest of Wall Street and the City of London banks quickly followed suit (I know).

The thinking behind the move was that the way we dress, taking pride in our appearance, must surely equal taking pride in your work.

I have a fair degree of sympathy for this point of view.

Fast forward a few years (okay, 20 years) and here we are after a pandemic where it seems anything goes regarding how we dress for work. Since the pandemic struck, we've all had to adjust to new working practices; those that could been work from home did so but in 1 fell stroke, dress down Friday returned only this time it was more than just Friday!

In our house, we call it zoom-casual. You wear something smart up top - on camera - but whatever you like down below: jeans for some, trackies for others. I shudder to think what some mischievous people wore on their bottom half.

Are We in Danger of Becoming a Nation of Slobs?

Are we in danger of becoming like The Slobs?

Now that the pandemic is over (sic), employers are trying to coax their people back to the office. Most of them are not pressing staff to come in for the entire week but they are "strongly recommending" 2-3 days in the office.

Could the current challenging business landscape of high inflation, extraordinarily high energy costs and stubborn GDP growth at all reflected in how we dress for work?

That would be very hard to prove but I do think it's worth pausing for thought.

So, my question is:

Does the lax dress code we've all experienced the last couple years have anything to do with the challenging trading conditions we are currently facing?

Put another way, could raising the dress code for work - suits and ties for men and the equivalent standard for women - mean people would do their jobs any better, faster, more efficiently?

Could a more formal dress code help us be perceived in a better light with a corresponding increase in productivity and output?

One reason I believe there could be a grain of truth in this is the arrest and indictment of Sam Bank-Friedman (or SBF, as he's known), founder of the FTX crypto exchange.

Sam Bank-Friedman in Court

Last week, SBF was arrested and charged with multiple counts of defrauding investors following the collapse of his FTX and Alameda Research companies - a loss in value of $32 billion almost overnight.

SBF was "famous" for his sloppy appearance; often unshaven and almost always dressed in shorts and a T-shirt (he did live in the Bahamas to be fair).

However, it was interesting to see him being led into court wearing a smart suit, dress shirt and a fancy tie (probably on the advice of his legal team).

What does SBF's sudden change - or upgrade - of dress code really mean?

At the very minimum, it signals his respect for others in high office - he wants to create a good impression for the judge and the jury - not easy when you've just lost $32billion of investors' money; he probably felt like he needed all the help he could get.

And if it's true that reverting to a smarter dress code means we are perceived in a better light by our contemporaries, then this could lead to more decisions going our way.

Perhaps the time has come for us all to think more carefully about our own dress code.

What do you think?

Let me know at

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