greenwatchThis post is courtesy of Future collaborator, Mike Burn

Why fit in when you were born to stand out?―Dr. Seuss

“Your glasses are too funky, your shirts are too loud and your watch is too green. If you want to succeed here you should try ‘mirroring’ the executives, you’ll be a VP in a year.”

This sage, enlightening, and simultaneously horrific statement was given to me once as well-meaning career advice. My advisor even got more specific, suggesting I go to Brooks Brothers and spend $300 at the sale rack. The most tragic aspect of this advice? It was absolutely spot on.

Obviously I didn’t go off and do it; it sounded more like part of a sick and twisted sociological experiment than career advice.

But what is so threatening about a green watch?

I am genuinely amazed by the number of people who comment on my watch—it’s started many a conversation. The comments fall into three categories:

• observational – “You have a green watch.”
• contemptuous – “You have a green watch?”
• aspirational – “You can have a green watch!”

I’m not raising the stereotyping associated with this watchism to a level of hateful prejudice here—but it does seem to be an effective technique for identifying close mindedness. Stereotyping and closed mindedness being symptoms of groupthink, and its associated desire for conformity. The next stage of this cycle is self-censorship, with the peer pressure asserted against deviant watch-wearing behavior bringing about the switch to a more consensus-driven timepiece. A tried-and-true, gold, with a brown leather strap edition perhaps?

Once the pattern of morality, peer pressure and group belief in what is right and appropriate is in place, the status quo and uniformity get continually reinforced. The guards are in place to prevent both outside and internal dissent.

The drift towards homogeneity starts. The watch, the blue shirt, the pleated khakis and the shiny slip-on shoes with brass ended tassels, then the Brooks Brothers sales rack, and the mirroring, and the promotion, the title, the success. And once you’ve made it, don’t rock the boat, don’t speak out, don’t stand up, just go along to get along, we all agree, we’re all on the same page, we know how to do this, everything is just fine as it is—and don’t let the crazy dude with the green watch in.

Of course, this is not just about watches—this is about ideas and thinking wrong. And incidentally…the green watch at the top of this post belongs to another Future collaborator, Marty Butler. Coincidence?

Future is on the lookout for places where green watches are challenging the status quo. Green watch = thinking wrong. Check it out here.

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  1. Future Post author

    The Green Watch saga continues—one of our Future Mavericks received this email from a career advisor, who goes so far so to say that you’re better off avoiding watches altogether!

    All:

    I just want to make this point extremely clear: the right wardrobe is a must for your interviews. It is not optional. No if, ands or buts. If you don’t look the part, you won’t get the job not matter how well “scripted” you are. The competition will look the part.

    You need a good CONSERVATIVE suit that a banker would wear and it has to fit you VERY WELL. Syms or Burlington coat factory crap doesn’t cut it. Brooks Brothers is the classic compromise between the right look and price. Only navy blue or charcoal grey. NO BLACK. Solid, no funky fabric, no pin stripes. No Euro / fashion forward, sloping shoulders or tight fitting / form fitting / metrosexual suits. No suits to “go out in”. PERIOD. I’ve been out of the process for a while but I’d say a classic BB suit will run $600 +/-. Student discounts maybe available. REMEMBER YOU WILL NEED TIME FOR THE BB TAILOR TO MAKE ALTERATIONS AND MAKE SUBSEQUENT ADJUSTMENTS. Hickey Freeman is also a classic IB suit, but you are over $1,000+ off the rack. Higher quality than this (e.g, Oxxford) and you run the risk of looking better for than your interviewers which is a no no.

    Shirt: solid, (no pattern) white cotton, no french cuffs (normal button cuffs only), spread or semi-spread color (no pointed color). BB has them. I personally avoid shirts with pockets on them but this no big deal as your suit jacket covers the shirt during all interviews.

    Shoes: black, cap toe or wingtip lace up. High end slips on (Alden) also work but they can’t be a casual shoe in drag. No Gucci or Gucci-like hardware on the shoe. NO FASHION FORWARD SQUARE TOE OR THICK SOLES. Well polished is a must. Have someone do it for a few bucks.

    Tie: conservative, with contrast to the suit (e.g, no blue on navy blue), small geometric pattern or stripes. Red or majority red goes well with navg blue suit. BB has them. NO NEON, BRIGHT COLORS. NO HERMES TIES EVEN THOUGH THIS IS THE CLASSIC IB TIE.

    Socks: DARK – NAVY BLUE, BLACK OR CHARCOAL GRAY. I personally match the suit color, others say match the shoe color.

    Watches: No expensive flashy watches that peak out under the cuff. Frankly to be safe, no watch. You’re bb / phone can provide the time should you need it. FOR MEN, NO VISIBLE JEWELRY OF ANY KIND (e.g. bracelet), EXCEPT A WEDDING BAND (WHICH NONE OF YOU HAVE…OR AT LEAST THAT I KNOW OF).

    SINCE I CAN’T SEE YOU IN PERSON FOR A DRESS REHEARSAL, SEND ME PICTURES OF ALL WARDROBE ITEMS EITHER OWNED OR TO BE PURCHASED FOR SIGN OFF.

    Think of this an important investment in you, much like spending $200,000 on your education. Once you get your signing bonus, you can easily repay any credit charges incurred to look the part.

    Email me with any questions.

    ACS

    With this kind of encouragement, no wonder ingenious ideas are few and far between in traditional business settings.

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