Thoughts

Are You A Designer?

Written by Mark ShaylerFuture You

I get asked this a lot. When I say “I”, I really mean us. Both my wife and I. For the record this has nothing to do with me designing anything other than myself.

We’ve always been more dandy than smart — casual

Indeed we both enjoy playing at dressing-up. I don’t mean like that, mucky buggers. When we were younger, around the time that we got married, we were quite adventurous in the way we dressed. This was at the back-end of the “baggy” era. We didn’t dress baggy, we dressed like mid 60s beatniks. Whilst this was driven by desire it was aided by the fact that many of the clothes in second-hand shops were around 25 years old (this in turn means that the clothes in these shops now are from my early 20’s. I think this means that I’m now “vintage”). Even growing up I, and my wife (we went to the same school) both dressed in a jaunty manner. I think this was down to a number of reasons:

  1. From Glam Rock to Punk to new romantic via ska to the Smiths and the mighty Stone Roses, flamboyance was hardwired into us.

  2. Growing up in a small, non-descript Midlands town where people who stood-out were given a hard time made both of us want to stand-out more. Weird but true.

  3. We both followed paths that could be considered non-creative and in response/reaction we played with creativity and self-expression in terms of what we wore.

All of this goes some way to explain how we dress like we do. It is compounded by the inevitable competition between us. If one of you dresses like a dandy its hard for the other to dress like an accountant on their day off.

We did both have a wobble in our late 30’s though. I call these the “suit and Howies years” and for my wife, the “Boden and Paul Smith” years. There is nothing wrong with these brands at all, but we had abdicated responsibility for how we look to someone else. This can be beneficial for some but in the process we forgot who we were. My friend and mentor James Victore has a great saying “the thing that made you weird as a kid makes you brilliant today”. He is right. We spend 8- 12 years being ourselves and then a chunk of time trying to be someone else, trying to be what others want us to be, trying to fit into society. In this process we prune ourselves, we deny our weirdness, hide our flaws, and create a veneer. Later in life we realise this and desperately hunt for the real us. If we are lucky there is a shadow, there are enough breadcrumbs to follow back to the real us. If there isn’t we enter “mid-life crisis” mode. For many, a mid-life crisis is a realisation that they’ve drifted so far from what they were and a desperate attempt to get back on track. They’ve forgotten who they are and what they’re for. This is not just about the way they dress, its what they do, who they are with, how they think about themselves. Like a horcrux in Harry Potter they’ve lost a little bit of themselves. Again, there is nothing wrong with this but maybe its a little less disruptive to allow more of you into the rest of your life rather than finding a concentrated version in a crisis.

I coach executives (these words are hard to type). I love this role. I see significant changes in confidence, direction and leadership. But I rarely talk about my client’s businesses, or strategy. I nearly always help them become more them. This is a gift. Better people make better businesses, better businesses make for a better world.

So, be more you. Wear what you want to wear. Remember the weird kid you were. Remember the bands you loved. Channel all of things and dress like you want. It’s a small step but it’ll help you behave more like you because as our dress-sense is modified by society so is our behaviour.

The world needs less clones and more eccentrics; less managers and more leaders; less of the same and more different. Be more you.

For the record, I work with designers a lot. Not all of them dress the way they want to. There are unspoken rules and conformity there too. That sector is no different from any other; conformity is compelling. You’ve all seen that great experiment where someone in a lift faces the back of the lift and slowly everyone in the lift turns around? If you haven’t have a look through your search engine of choice.

Be more you. What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that can happen? Whichever you think will happen, will.

Written by
Mark Shayler
Eco-design and Environmental Stuff
Thinker. Doer. Creator. Speaker. Author. Mark Shayler helps big companies think small and small companies think big. Making stuff better and making better stuff. He runs an innovation and environmental consultancy called Ape, where he helps businesses to develop new products and services – and in the process, save them shed loads (technical term) of carbon and (to date) over £100 million. He's a public speaker (quite funny), trainer, a foundin...

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