What (not) to wear in Davos

January 27, 2010

As World Economic Forum kicks off in Davos in earnest on Wednesday, one focus (of the fashionistas) will be what key movers and shakers are wearing.


While it’s snowing outside with temperatures often dipping below zero, inside the main congress centre is boiling hot not least because participants are engaged in heated debate over how to reshape the world.

The dress code is smart casual, but from my own experiences people wearing anything but black or dark blue would stand out, just because everyone would still be wearing normal — or boring — business suits.

At the opening reception last night, I did see ladies wearing some colour dresses at the bar sponsored by South Africa, but apart from that it’s still a very much black and grey affair here.

Flicking through the inflight magazine on the way to Zurich from London, I found an interesting survey which showed how clothes you wear can influence the success of your business presentations.

In one experiment, a man in a suit and carrying a briefcase at a pedestrian crossing was followed by three times as many people when he walked directly into the road against the lights compared to when he wore casual clothes. “This explains why staff on department store cosmetic counters are often dressed in white uniforms — it conveys a sense of expertise,” management consultant Steve Martin writes.

“The same is true for our business presentations. So when we are dealing with someone for the first time, it is important to dress at a level that matches our true credentials even if the company we are hoping to do business with has a more relaxed dress policy.”

Davos participants may be discouraged to turn up in their anorak and ski boots then.

(Except perhaps for “purple” badge people who apparently cannot check in their coats and boots at the cloak room… due to strict badge policy here in Davos (white, orange, green, etc).)

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