In a world full of carbon copies, I encourage my clients to wear one simple item – a “differentiator” – that is unique to them and tells a story. I wear my Dad’s ring. It’s obviously not mine, as it has his initials. The ring always reminds me of his life’s values and the respect he has for humanity. I happily share stories of my Dad with anyone who notices and comments on the ring.
Pierre Trudeau, as I’ve often mentioned, wore a rose in his lapel as a mark of distinction and individuality. The rose added a touch of class and distinction to a man who exuded a class of his own.
Sometimes it’s a sentimental item, but it can just as easily be something more deliberate or strategic. One of my clients always carries the fountain pen his girlfriend (now wife) gave him when he graduated from law school. Being relatively rare these days, his fountain pen often leads to conversations reflecting his family values and the nature of his personality. Another client is a bankruptcy trustee. He’s a nice guy in a very adversarial business, who often finds himself in heated discussions. He found a novel way to defuse some of the inevitable tensions that arise during bankruptcy meetings: he wears red Mickey Mouse suspenders, which he reveals and tugs when conversations start to get heated. It usually brings a few chuckles and calms the environment.
The differentiator should be subtle and reflect a special aspect of your personality. That said, it should never dominate the outfit. I’ll never forget the well-dressed financial advisor who came to my office to try and get my business. He wore a fine suit, beautiful accessories and so on. I can’t remember anything he said, but I distinctly remember the bright pink socks he wore that attracted my attention through most of his presentation. Your differentiator should give insight into your personality and the image you wish to project – the stuff that gives your clients confidence.