What American Bandstand Teaches Us About Image

As a youth, I recall anxiously waiting to watch American Bandstand on Saturday mornings. For me, American Bandstand was all about who had the most innovative dance moves and who had on the best outfits that made them memorable.

It was obvious that these dancers had their personal brands top of mind in their attempt to out-work and out-dress their counterparts. Looking back, I see the show as American “Brand” Stand.


Back in those days, competition was fierce, since dressing was a symbol of status and influence. In 2019, however, it is rather easy to out-dress your counterparts, with the proliferation of Casual Fridays and their spreading to the rest of the week.

First Impressions

Just because other firms are dressed casually day to day doesn’t mean that we all have to comply and follow suit (pun intended). People expect leaders to lead with style and grace.

Imagine what your prospective or new client is expecting your personal brand to be when you first come around the corner to great them.

Even if they were expecting you to be in Khakis and a polo shirt, I don’t think they would be disappointed if you were dressed to da nines.

I can tell you from experience that I was in the same situation once, with a friend who was the prospective client. The attorney came around the corner dressed sloppily, and I looked at my friend and said, “If that’s your attorney, you lost!”

I was only 17 at the time, so what did I know? But it turns out that I was wise beyond my years. Now more than three decades later, I have attorney clients who tell me, “If I’m going to bill $600/hour, then I have to look like I’m worth $600/hour.” Being well dressed is always worth the price.

Worth the Investment

There’s a story about a young lawyer who did not have any clients. What he did have was the wherewithal to know that he needed to save and invest in a fine custom navy suit (that he wore everywhere, by the way). The young attorney would go and merely stand in the local courthouse clad in the aforementioned suit. He had individuals approaching him saying, “You look like you are a successful attorney. Can you please represent me?”

This young counselor figured out how to expand his ways and means of marketing himself by appearing as a person of influence.

Our personal brand is the mark we leave on people we encounter. It could even be the impression we add aesthetically to the environment via our clothing. The mega brands understand the value of consistent branding, and so should we.

Since the world is complicated, moving at such a fast pace, it behooves us to be noticed and to remain visible and relevant in your particular marketplace, just like the big brands and firms. One of my clients says that he keeps it super simple by focusing on how he can convey his gregarious personality, rather than immediately concentrating on the firm, per se.

“My firm speaks for itself,” he says. “I have to guarantee that my image is congruent and in alignment with the firm’s image.”


Generally speaking, brands are created on the edges with the assistance of a PR firm and advertising agency. Sartorially speaking, personal brands are created and designed with the help of a trusted wardrobe advisor. Most high-performing professionals hire experts and coaches, be it for financial or personal growth. The professional that is determined to leave no stone unturned probably has someone who is accountable for their image and wardrobe.

Believe it or not, Michael Jackson entrusted his brand to a surfer by the name of Mike Salisbury. He told a youthful MJ to sport one white glove with a tuxedo, because both gloves would be “too Mickey Mouse.” That was the beginning of The King of Pop, as we knew him.

MJ will always be remembered for tilting and flinging his fedora. However, according to Huffingtonpost.com, “No one tilted his fedora better, wore a bow tie cooler and made a suit look so effortless” than Frank Sinatra. Yes, it may have seemed effortless, but the best nonchalant dresser has intentionality in what they want to convey to their audience and world.

So, whether you are on your way to becoming a global icon or already a seasoned professional or just out of law school, dress as if you are a subject matter expert about to perform on American Brand Stand. Because paying attention to your personal brand and looking like you mean business is the ultimate financial leverage. Trent Clark

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