Shiny boots don’t win wars.
But it teaches the military to pay attention to details.
And this attention to detail wins wars.
This principle applies to civilian life too.
Dressing professionally improves self-discipline.
It prepares you for the war you're going to face in life.
Your attire is your everyday armor.
The lessons I learned from Quantico not only apply to the military, but to life.
This article is going to cover 10 lessons I learned from the Marines and explain how they can be applied to a civilian lifestyle.
Lesson 1: Your Personal Presentation Is Important
The military is far beyond a physical training ground that prepares men and women for combat. It cultivates honor, teaches respect, sharpens integrity, and builds your understanding that personal presentation is critical.
This understanding is part of the fabric of everyday life while in Marines. Most are aware that the military is based on a precise ranking system. It is ingrained into each marine’s DNA to pay attention to and follow this ranking system. It demands order and helps to ensure harmony. These elements are integral when serving together because conditions will vary.
This attention to detail comes in handy as a civilian because there is a covert ranking system that exists outside of the military. Unlike the military, there are no strict guidelines to follow in this unwritten status system but if it’s not followed there could be subtle penalties.
Your appearance is critical in the value placed on people in our society. Simply put, we are judged and categorized based upon what we wear and how we are groomed. Fair? Not always. Accurate? Yes. So why not use your appearance to your advantage?
A sharp pair of slacks with a crisp button up shirt that’s adorned with a blazer and a well-shined pair of shoes will communicate that you are a man of means and status. This “uniform” will give you a high rank to the general public and open you up to relationships and opportunities that otherwise might not be available to you.
Lesson 2: Learn The Style Hacks Of Squared Away Marines
One tenet of the Corp was to remain sharp dressed and polished…..especially when in garrison.
That's REALLY hard when you have little time to prepare and expose your clothing to extreme conditions.
Examples: Inspections – Military Parades – Changes Of Command – Drill Performances at 8th & I
I learned early on the best way to dress sharp quickly was to learn the secrets of the best dressed Marines in my battalion.
Spit-shined boots every day? There is a secret to it. Perfectly folded shirt sleeves – there's a method.
Keeping your shirt tucked in despite having to march around in your dress uniform all day?
The secret hack is the Shirt Garter (or also called shirt stays)!
So – you may be thinking “Shirt Garters” (or Shirt Stays) don't look or sound masculine. BS – this style tool is used by all branches of the military and police to keep their uniform shirts in place when they have to work hard and look good.
Think about it – shirt garters allow you to run, walk, even do pull-ups without your shirt ever coming untucked.
Oh – and they keep your socks up as well!
Quality shirttail garters will help provide the same slim and polished look for your shirt, whether it's 1 minute after you got dressed or 10 hours later!
No need to re-tuck your shirt every 10 minutes or pull up your socks – just a crisp clean look with no muffin top!
Lesson 3: Details Define a Man’s Style
Let me dispel a myth. The strict uniform rules of the military do not rid a person of their individual style. The stringent regulations that the military provides help to amplify an individual’s attention to detail.
Every facet of your personal appearance is examined and corrected should it not be up to standard. This type of scrutiny is what drives servicemen to spit shine their boots or make sure their grooming is razor sharp.
Civilians may look at a platoon of soldiers and see a bunch of people that look the exact same. That’s not the case as the 1st Sergeant will look at the details of every member and be able to immediately discern the hard-core guys from the average ones. In the same fashion, the 1st Sgt. will be able to find the soldiers who need “special” attention.
The same thing happens in a corporate environment. Think about it. During an interview, the hiring manager or department head is examining the overt detail of your appearance. They are looking at if your shirt is pressed and paying attention to the neatness of your facial hair.
Furthermore, I have never experienced or heard of a corporate dress code that dictates the fit of a suit or whether a team member should wear a whole cut shoe or a semi brogue. Yes, there are requirements but there are many ways to express personal style with the details of your “uniform”.
I work with an individual who is a faculty member at a state university and he stylishly distinguishes himself from his colleagues by getting his suits tailored, adding colored accessories, sporting shoe variations, and wearing patterned shirts – while still adhering to the university dress code.
Lesson 4: Respect for Protocol (AKA Dress Codes)
The rules of the military have taught me to have respect for protocol.
As an active service Marine, the rules are in place to help you protect yourself, the guy next to you, and to accomplish the task at hand. Breaking the rules puts everyone in jeopardy.
So when I get questions from guys asking about black tie dress code and if it’s ok to change it up with trouser and a sports coat, I go back to military training and answer “no”. If the environment calls for a specific dress code (white tie, black tie, business professional, etc.) then follow the rules. It’s disrespectful to the host of the event or the person in charge if the rules are not followed.
If you notice the picture to the left, Justin Timberlake attended the Marine Corps ball and he didn't try to stand out. He was in a setting where peacocking or underdressing would be inappropriate. He respected the environment and event and dressed accordingly. His classic clothing met the standard that was set.
Lesson 5: Always Have Your Equipment Ready
In the military, it is essential that everyone is prepared. Lives can literally depend on it. During peacetime, that is one of the primary goals of military leaders. Inspections can be scheduled or unscheduled regardless of the size of the unit and can be as simple as a uniform check or a detailed inspection to ensure combat readiness. Again being ready can help save lives!
As such, I make it a priority to be prepared for any foreseeable opportunity or challenge that may come my way. I rotate my shoes so that I can preserve them and polish them on a schedule. I iron my shirts days before I need to wear them. I’m disciplined about taking my suits to the dry cleaners. My accessories are organized and cleaned regularly.
Is it tedious?…yes, but is it worth it? Absolutely. The time it takes to prepare on the front end will inevitably pay off in the long run. Days are sometimes hectic. I’m a husband and a father so my life is not my own. When time is tight, I can count on this part of my life to be organized.
Lesson 6: Our Appearance and Behavior Reflects Our Associations
As a member of the military, we are held to the highest of standards. When in another country we represent the entire nation. Every action that we do (or don’t do) lays the foundation for the perception of America.
If some idiot gets off the ship in another country and causes havoc, America’s reputation is stained. Whether or not you’re in uniform, you’re always representing the United States Marine Corps.
As men, we have to understand that this fact applies to us as well. What we do, how we speak, and what we wear is a reflection on our families. It gives insight into how we were raised. We are ambassadors for the companies we work for and the social groups that we are a part of.
We should have an internal code of conduct that we abide by so that we are representing ourselves and those connected to us in the best possible light. It doesn’t matter if you are a blue collar worker or a CEO, you are representing someone or something else. Remember affiliations and reputations can open great doors for success and growth. Don’t tarnish them with unnecessary tom-foolery!
Lesson 7: Appreciate Your History
Tradition and history are embedded in the USMC; it’s inescapable.
If you ask any US Marine what the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor represents – get your pen and pad out and be prepared to take notes as a history lesson is what you’re going to get! Every detail of the uniform has significance. Every color represents an ideal or standard. Uniforms are vestiges of the past that units carefully chronicle and new recruits study.
Why is this important?
It’s because history gives us perspective and keeps us grounded. A man that knows his history is a sure-footed individual that knows the stock that he comes from. Apply this to style and a man with this kind of perspective will not try to be anything he isn’t.
He will not lend himself to every fleeting trend that hits the market. Instead, he will understand the purpose and strength in a classic and timeless wardrobe. When he does step outside of the box he understands the history of why he’s doing it. He’ll understand that French soldiers wore lapel flowers to battle and take pride when he sports his lapel pin!
Lesson 8: Sharpen Your Perspective
Basic training is tough. When you’re going through difficult days of intense physical training and long hours of studying you have to keep your eyes on why you're there in the first place.
The goal of becoming a member of one of the most elite organizations in the history of the United States needs to be at the forefront of your mind. Knowing the pride that your family will exude when you graduate has to be a driving force as to why you’re going through this. Understanding that your country is counting on you to protect and serve has to remain solid in your mind.
As a man, we have to know why it is that we must show the best possible version of ourselves. We’re leaders of our families, communities, and jobs. All are counting on us to build and protect these environments so that all members can be successful.
Keeping your appearance sharp will place you in conversations and places that will allow you to do such. Keep your eye on the goal of being a great man.
Lesson 9: Know That You’re Not Alone
When in basic training or combat you have to depend on the guys in your unit. Everybody has a job to do so that everybody can come home safely and/or accomplish the mission.
When things get rough you have a band of brothers to depend on. You don’t have to go through it alone and there are resources and opportunities available to help you as you sojourn.
It’s the same in growing in your style. Some guys may feel that it’s too much and become overwhelmed by what it takes to sharpen your image. Admittedly it’s a lot, especially if you haven’t been exposed to it before.
Know that you’re not alone. There are hundreds of blogs, online communities, and publications that are filled with guys who are traveling through style. Attach yourself to one that speaks to you and dive in. Once you’re around other lads who have the same goal as you, it becomes easier.
Lesson 10: Leaders Lead From The Front
Have The Courage To Be The Best Dressed Man In The Room
Leadership is a quality that is developed while in the military as it is a necessary element to be a marine and serve your country. A Marine will potentially have to lead men into battle and he has to have the courage and moxie to do such. As a Marine, I didn't have the option not to set the tone for the guys that I was with.
The same lesson applies as a man of style. There may be times when a casual aesthetic is allowed at a certain event. That's fine but have enough nerve to set an example of excellence.
Or perhaps you're on a sales team at work and the uniform is very basic. Don't be afraid to take your uniform to the next level. Even if the uniform is a simple polo and khakis, you can still take it up a notch.
– Grab some sharp shoes and keep them shined
– Make sure your watch is well maintained and clean
– Your belt should not be frayed and worn
Doing things such as this shows leadership and a continued commitment to excellence that will fair well with all. The best-dressed man in the room or on the team will set the tone for the rest of the team (leadership) and most will respond in a manner that will benefit all.
Bonus Tip #11: Discipline and Humility Will Separate You From The Average
The military beats discipline into your head and heart. There are protocols and routines that must be followed. One of the central reasons that this is done is to provide and/or strengthen discipline.
It takes discipline to spit shine your boots every day. It takes discipline to wake up at 5:00 in the for a forced march. It takes humility to take orders from an individual who you do not know.
When creating your style and perfecting your image, it takes the same amount of discipline. Spending time during your busy day or week to read a blog takes discipline. Friends or consultants saying that your outfit looks bad takes humility.
Spending time preparing your outfits for the week on Sunday can be a heavy undertaking. All these and more are necessary for building the better you through style. A strong and confident person is the result.
Click below to wath the video – Style Tips Learned From The Marine Corps