The British Army is renowned for the impression that it makes through its style and panache on the parade ground, whether that be the highly ‘bulled’ boots of the Foot Guards, and Household Cavalry, or the highly ‘bliffed’ boots of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery. The spectacle that is the Trooping of the Colour and the ceremonial 41 Gun Royal Salute in Hyde Park has its roots in our history and is as much an important way of reinforcing spirit de corps in the parading units, as a modern tourist attraction. While the public only experience the immaculately turned out individuals and marvel at the precision of the troops and massed bands, what they do not realise is that this spectacle that looks so effortless has taken hours of practice, sweat and tears to perfect. Some might suggest that certain parts of the Army only attract only those individuals who like to dress up in historical uniform and relish looking dashing, while other parts avoid parade ground ‘bull’ at all costs and focus on the more camouflaged art of warfare.
Irrespective of which part of the Army an individual hails from, there is a sense of uniform whether ‘on parade’ or even socially. While the days are long gone of senior officers spluttering and muttering behind ruffled sheets of the Times at the sight of young officers wearing the ‘devil’s cloth’ (that’s denim to you and me), I love the reminder of the age old advice that first impressions count, from an anonymous senior officer of a Regiment that shall remain nameless which is reproduced below!
But it is not only the military who consider image and that all important first impression as important. Research by colleagues at the University of Strathclyde’s Scottish Centre for Employment Research have looked at a number of different attributes such as age, weight and body art in the hospitality and retail areas of the service sector. Professor Dennis Nickson has found that ‘surface-level manifestations of stigma’ such as unattractiveness, obesity, piercings and body art negatively impact an individual’s chances of finding employment in these sectors, irrespective of an individual’s knowledge, skills and experience. In the Service Sector, it was found that women on the upper end of a normal and medically healthy BMI range face greater weight-based prejudice compared to men who are clearly overweight. Their research identified that even in behind-the-scenes jobs, the “heavy but healthy” women were rated lower on employability than the slimmer women, but there was no statistically significant difference between the overtly overweight men and their original faces. So it would appear that first impressions do count if you are a woman!
A Senior Officer’s guide to dash and panache!
Thank you for supporting Officer Recruiting events this term and, specifically, for sending your Young Officers to host the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Officer Cadets at next week’s Expression of Interest Evening.
I am taking this opportunity to remind you of the importance of your subalterns presenting the correct image of the Regiment at these events. The individual officers have already received their instructions which include specific details on dress; however, I do expect the regiments to take responsibility for ensuring that these instructions are adhered to. Please find below some sartorial pointers for your subalterns on hosting duties and indeed all your officers (M&F) who may wish to consider the more general dress points found below:
- (M)A good, clean well pressed suit with a Regimental tie for the men and (F) suits with the Regimental brooch (worn on the left lapel) for the ladies.
- Only the middle button of a 3 button (M) suit is fastened. It is a coat not a tunic.
- If your suit has a belt, so be it, but a slim elegant leather suit belt and not a Harley Davidson Buckle Belt is to accompany it.
- (M) Long socks that do not show your flaky, spindly hairy twiglet like shin and absolutely not a selection of ghastly cartoon characters. There is nothing evenly remotely funny about having Poundland crackers fight for your custom as your tailor.
- Black (after 7 pm) brogue/Oxford type shoes, polished and in good repair or a good quality slip on loafer are fine, but anything resembling 4WD with a heavy tread and a big fat square toe won’t do justice to your well cut suit…you wouldn’t put ketchup on a Dover sole. As a rough rule of thumb, if your footwear is in anyway similar to that seen on a Balkans’ coffee shop waiter then Q4 applies.
- The shirt must be pressed and if wearing a suit (or blazer) then it shouldn’t have a pocket and MUST fit correctly at the neck. Pockets carry Cross pens as used by NASA scientists and whilst we are a technical/combat arm we aren’t there yet. Black, red or other dark ‘Emo’ colours are to be swiftly and safely consigned to the Camp Esperanca deep hole recycling facility.
- Double cuff shirts are not mandatory; however, the quality of the shirt is the main factor. If you must wear a silvery/grey Gary Lineker number then make sure it is a really good one and wear it with confidence. If however, it looks like a nylon prop from the OPTAG dressing up box then recycle it (safely) and go traditional with a Jermyn Street number.
- The tie should be correctly tied, close to the collar and checked regularly. The knot must not be big fat Grange Hill special or be seen adorning the neck of a semi finalist on the Apprentice (M&F). The tie should just reach over the waist belt, not 6 inches above or below.
- You are to be freshly shaved when attending any evening function and enough has been said about sideburns.
- Make up (F) should not be over excessive and most importantly, hair should be tidy and presentable. The whole ‘train crash survivor’ clambering up the embankment look. is unattractive and inelegant.
- Oh yes, diving watches/laptop/GPS type watches furiously scrunched up against your shirt cuff look awful. Try and use a thin elegant dress watch – even Sekonda has some relatively pleasant ones.. The same type of gShock watch is cracking for CS95 but should not be worn with SD, black tie or mess dress.
These are elements of dress guidance and they are not hard and fast, Edwardian or even particularly contemporary but they just set a rough line on where our YOs should be heading. We are a broad church and we should not exclusively ape the armed wing of Boden, Primark, Fat Face or New and Lingwood, but I am constantly amazed by what some think is acceptable dress. It is not just the quality but the untidy scruffy manner in which it is worn –this must sharpen up. I would rather discover an officer through his witty, polite and engaging conversation than clocking his cloning through his dress, but please disseminate this lick of polish onto our fantastic, brave and impressive cohort of young officers.
Whilst light hearted pse pass on these tips– if in doubt follow HRHs Princes William and Harry for civilian clothing direction…”
Nickson, D, Timming , AR, Re, D & Perrett, DI 2016, ‘Subtle increases in BMI within a healthy weight range still reduce women’s employment chances in the service sector‘ PLOS One, vol 11, no. 9, e0159659. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0159659
Timming , A, Nickson, D, Re, D & Perrett, D 2017, ‘What do you think of my ink? Assessing the effects of body art on employment chances‘ Human Resource Management, vol 56, no. 1, pp. 133-149. DOI: 10.1002/hrm.21770
Nickson, D & Baum, T 2016, ‘Young at heart, but what about my body? Age and aesthetic labour in the hospitality and retail industries’. in E Parry & J McCarthy (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Age Diversity and Work. 1st edn, London, pp. 539-559.