Clothes Make the Man (This Also Goes for Women)

Going back through history, this quote, “Vestis virum facit, Clothes make the man,” (Erasmus, Adagia 3.1.60) and “The apparel oft proclaims the man” (Shakespeare’s, The Tragedy of Hamlet) is still essential today.

The only difference is today, people would say, “Clothes make the person.”

Let’s look at some examples of why this is true.

Why this is true:

Example: 1 Engineer Student

During his second semester in university, an engineering student noticed recruiters in the school canteen every day. He saw they always dressed very nicely. He even joked to his friend, “Look at these guys wearing suits, and we’re sitting in our jogging pants.”

After a time, he noticed the recruiters knew who the engineering students were.

They even walked up to some of his classmates and asked if they wanted to intern at their company. Even though he had better grades than the others, they never approached him. He went as far as asking them about a job or internship. He only received the reply, “Go look at our web page.”

He eventually realized the students they approached always came to school dressed professionally. But, of course, they weren’t wearing suits but at least dressed as “Business Casual.”

Eventually, he dressed in Business Casual clothes for school, and two recruiters approached him before the semester ended.

Example: 2 The Business Student

A young man explained he learned early that people only like to speak with people who are like them.

He wanted to get an idea of what it would be like to work in a company as a sales executive. So, he put together a resume saying he wanted to do a short internship.

Then he went to the company he targeted wearing Chino/Kaki pants and a Polo shirt and spent some time in the lobby just outside.

He took the time to see who the top managers and executives were. Then, after noting how they spoke with each other and what they were wearing, he went home.

Though he couldn’t afford suits like the top executives, he knew he should wear something nice. So he returned the next day dressed in the same suit style as the top managers.

He timed it so that when he walked in and asked to speak with the CEO, they let him in because they thought he was one of their clients.

In this case, he also already learned how to be a good salesman, so when his look got him to see the CEO, he walked out with the CEO’s business card, and the CEO said he could start an internship between classes when he started university.

He says if he didn’t dress in the appropriate clothes, he wouldn’t have the chance to see the CEO, let alone land an internship.


In both scenarios, the people learned they would only advance if they wore the right clothes.

Even though in the example of the first student, he was the same person when he changed clothes as the semester before, people only took him seriously based on how he dressed.

There are many other cases like this. Of course, you don’t always have to be in a suit and tie, but you should take the advice from the 1988 Pop song from Roxette, “Dress for Success.”


  • Ken Tillery

    Ken holds a Master of Science in Global Management and currently works as a Global Project Manager and has worked as a Global Service Delivery Manager. Ken spent the last 15 years leading globally dispersed teams with team members located in multiple countries. Has also given classes on how to deal with cultural differences and related issues when working with project teams with members located across borders and continents.