Mark Zuckerberg may want to rethink that ubiquitous hoodie. According to a study by Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky, wearing certain clothes can influence your psychological process. In one experiment, Northwestern University researchers demonstrated that wearing a lab coat, which is associated with “attentiveness and carefulness,” boosted study participants’ selective attention. In another, subjects who wore a coat they believed was a doctor’s coat showed increased sustained attention compared with subjects who wore a coat they thought was a painter’s coat.
What we wear not only influences our own performance; multiple studies show that it influences the way others perceive us as well. (But you’ve known that since third grade, when you suddenly realized the sneakers your parents bought you at K-Mart weren’t doing you any favors in the popularity department—wait, was that just me? Never mind.) So how can you project confidence and business savvy when you’re pouring all your money into your company and not your closet? We asked fashion insider Kimmie Smith for tips. We caught up with the celebrity stylist, co-founder/creative and style director of Athleisure Mag, and co-founder and co–executive producer/host of Athleisure Studio, in between runway shows at New York Fashion Week. (She has non-celebrity, businesspeople clients, too.)
VentureClash: Is there a rule of thumb for what entrepreneurs should wear to fundraise?
Kimmie Smith: I’m a big believer in people dressing to reflect their style. I don’t believe in rules per se; however, when going for funding, you need to dress for your audience. If the firm you’re seeing or the investors you’re pitching lean toward wearing suits, you need to think about a look that incorporates your personal style with a business suit—perhaps a suit worn with limited edition Vans or Converse and a fun woven shirt by Robert Graham, which is known for fashion-forward prints and a variety of fits such as slim and relaxed. If you go with a suit, think about brands such as Suit Supply, which is a great European brand with twists on classics thanks to their fit and colorways. Another alternative is a fitted vest over a woven shirt paired with slacks or jeans. Cuff them for a cool look and pair them with modern oxfords.
VentureClash: Does clothing matter that much?
KS: Your style speaks for you before you open your mouth. It shows whether you’re present and that you have carefully crafted your presentation. It also allows your audience to see if you can fit into their culture while keeping your perspective and point of view.
VentureClash: What are some good items to look for if you’re strapped for cash?
KS: Regardless of your budget, fit is key. Find a good tailor in your area—many don’t charge that much. If you can’t get an item of clothing tailored, don’t buy it! Any item from Forever21, Zara, Tom Ford, etc. looks amazing when it fits your frame. If you’re going to buy a suit, pick a navy or gray one. Buy crew or V-neck shirts and sweaters in classic styles from brands like Forever 21, Zara, James Perse, or Hanro; there are a number of great options to fit all budgets. Woven shirts in solids, stripes and print styles are also a great choice. Get clean Converse sneakers in either white or a leather option, and get a great messenger bag, such as one from Dagne Dover, Victorinox or Super Dry to hold your laptop and papers. Nan jewelry is always a do—whether a simple chain, beaded bracelets or a talisman. These items add visual texture to your look and can be great conversation starters or movers when there’s lag time.
VentureClash: What other style tips do you have for entrepreneurs?
Kimmie Smith: You may be strapped for cash or time, but the dedication to your business is always a sacrifice. You’ve missed experiences with friends, worked late, scraped together money for mistakes that have popped up—if you get the opportunity to pitch an investor, sacrificing a bit more for your look is key! Consider your friends’ closets as well, and make friends with people who work in fashion, because they can get you a discount or let you borrow a key piece. Finally, be mindful of how to maintain your clothes—pay attention to labels that specify “dry clean only,” and be aware of special washing instructions so you can keep your clothes looking good for as long as possible.
Ready to wow us with your technology and your style? (Hint: We care a bit more about the former.) Apply to VentureClash today.