Tailor Made to Change

David Postlethwaite
November 15, 2017

“To define is to limit” - Oscar Wilde

Working with Orenda the topic of personality and self-presentation is frequently brought up in discussion both on a professional and casual basis. Part of our work is figuring out what sorts of people are talking about a particular brand vs. competing brands. After many discussions we continue to wonder whether the brands we associate with or not actually say anything about our expression or idea of ourselves as individuals. When you choose one brand over another, is your decision explained by your personality?

This idea was brought up at work recently when we were trying to connect what groups of people are more likely to be loyal to certain brands or not. Stores clearly market to certain divisions of society and not others. However, when asked, I could not even name any brands that I was particularly fond of because I cannot see how anyone can form a relationship with a perceived image. Even though I could not identify this trait in myself, that does not mean that others do not observe and recognize what image I am communicating to the world with my appearance or style.

During a similar discussion someone mentioned that if they had to pick a category they thought would describe me, that it would be a ‘Dandy.’ I had never heard the term before and being unclear about the social groups or clique it could be compared to we had to look up what exactly a Dandy is, and how the categorization would fit me. According to Wikipedia: “A dandy, historically, is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies, pursued with the appearance of nonchalance in a cult of self. A dandy could be a self-made man who strove to imitate an aristocratic lifestyle despite coming from a middle-class background, especially in late 18th- and early 19th-century Britain."

I was interested in learning more about this categorization that I've never heard of, particularly one that I potentially belonged to. It made sense that I had never held on to one particular image or one network growing up. Anyone who knows me would agree that my style has always been different. At 13 there was a trench coat, replaced at 15 by two belts haphazardly attached to jeans that fit perfectly on their own. Eyeliner, did that too. If you can imagine any embarrassing trend in the past 15 years, I have probably done it. Having moved around a lot when I was younger gave me the opportunity to take on a new identity whenever I arrived in a new place. Part of that practice was fitting in while maintaining a sense of individual identity, each new school brought with it new cliques, trends, and ideas of what is considered ‘cool’ but for me it was all about adapting to the new environments.

After much consideration, being a Dandy describes my idea of individuality and style. At the same time, it kind of summarizes the fake it until you make it philosophy, and for that reason it can extend to startups as whole and the positions within them. Being part of a startup requires that you take on a number of roles, regardless of your background or training. Adaptability is a must, and that's something I am comfortable with.

To be successful in a startup you have to channel the perspective of a dandy; fake it until you make it. In a software company like ours, we need to do everything that an established business does including operations, marketing, and sales. Similar to imitating an aristocratic lifestyle, the employees of a startup need to take on responsibilities they may never have considered as a part of their job before. As a trained programmer I never thought I would be overseeing the scope of work that I do, it is not all related to my field either, there are times where I feel out of my element coordinating projects and meeting face to face with potential clients. My coworkers agree, they go outside of their scope and adapt to the needs of the business. Even today I have donned the role of a writer as a way to help our startup succeed.