Christopher: Hello, and welcome to episode 57 of the Art of Lawyering Podcast. As always, I'm your host, Christopher Small, and I am super pumped to be here with you today. This is going to be a pretty short intro, only because, quite frankly, I am kind of tired. I've been sick a little bit. I just want to get this bumped out so that you all can take it in.
This is a pretty interesting episode. It's different than probably any episode I've ever done before. Today's guest is not a lawyer. Today's guest is actually the owner of a couple of men's fashion websites. He is, I guess, an expert, basically, in men's fashion, particularly when it comes to suiting and just looking like a badass, like all of us attorneys want to.
When I had the opportunity to get him on talk a little bit about – not just about how to dress, but why it's important to dress well, and the effect that it can have, not just on you, but on your potential clients, on your colleagues, and just across the board.
It's a cool interview. We talk about a lot of fun stuff. It's a shorter interview, too, because I could only get him for half an hour. We knocked it out. Asked him a bunch of questions. It's pretty informative. I'm really excited to get to that.
Before we get going all the way, I want to remind you about my free e-book that I'm giving away on Facebook, How to Market Your Law Firm on Facebook. Basically talks about how you can get people that – go to your website. You can stay in touch with them. You can present your law firm to them when they go on to Facebook over and over again. It's cheap. You don't have to have a lot of likes on Facebook with your page. You don't have to have a lot of posts. It's an extremely effective way to market your law firm.
If you're interested in getting that, again, it's free, so what have you got to lose? You can go to theartoflawyering.com/facebook or you can text “facebooklawyer” – one word – to 33444. That's my only little plug of the day. Let's cut the chit chat and get to the show.
This is the Art of Lawyering podcast, a show all about making more money, being a badass attorney, and loving your life. The Art of Lawyering is all about becoming the best you possible. Whether you are a law firm owner, an associate attorney, or somewhere in between, this podcast is built to help you get the most out of life.
Christopher: I'm pleased to welcome to the show today Antonio Centeno. Did I say your name right?
Antonio: You did, Christopher. Thank you. I appreciate it. Good to be here.
Christopher: Okay. Excellent. You've already heard the intro, sort of. You know who you are. We know you own a couple of men's style websites. You are also an entrepreneur. Tell us about you in that context. What is your startup story? How did you get to where we are today?
Antonio: Sure. Well, Christopher, again, thanks for having me on. I know that we've got an audience of lawyers. I'm going to really try to be laser specific to you guys. Let me just ask you, wherever you're listening, wherever you're at, does your presentation matter?
I can tell you, my experience as a Marine Corps veteran, I remember being Corpus Cristi. We have what's called the Marine Corps ball. I was actually out with a Jag as well, which is out Marine lawyers. We're out there, and we wear our uniforms. We feel like a million bucks. We feel indestructible. We are having a great time. Let's just say that I love Chaparral Street. I had no problem starting conversations with the ladies that night. Usually, I'm a pretty introverted guy, but it's just – you feel great, and others treat you differently. All of a sudden, people are coming up, thanking us for our service, shaking our hands, buying us drinks all night.
A lot of guys don't believe that their presentation really makes a difference, but it does. The thing is – and what I developed an entire business around – is reminding guys, opening up their minds to the power of it, and showing them the science.
I've got a science background. I have a degree from Cornell in origins of behavior. I also have an MBA from Texas. I've got all that fancy education stuff, but really, I love going through the stacks, finding the science and the research that shows guys conclusively that if you dress this way, you're going to have more influence, you're going to be looked at as more dominant, you're going to be looked at as more powerful. When you jaywalk in a suit, you'll have three times as many people follow you.
When you can show a person how powerful that is, all of a sudden, you can really trigger and get them to build up the habit of dressing better. Then I bring in my experience as a custom clothier to help them build and design these wardrobes. I also bring in a bit of the history.
I've got some Canadian lawyer friends, and up in Canada, I know they still wear certain outfits in the courtroom. Doesn't really happen so much in the US. Actually, lawyers are some of my best clients and some of the people I really enjoy speaking with on this, because they do understand the power.
You've seen the movie The Cut? My cousin, Vinny. Right, Christopher?
Christopher: Oh, yes. Of course.
Antonio: You remember that part where he gets thrown out of the courtroom because he's not dressed appropriately?
Christopher: Right. He's wearing a leather jacket or something, I think.
Antonio: Yeah. He goes and he finds that just horrible suit. But he ends up figuring it out, and the thing is, even smart people, they aren't trained to look past our appearances. It's very difficult for us to do that. It's something that I find lawyers, they can use this, especially if the other guy's not paying attention. It matters not just when you're in the courtroom, because we know that rarely ever happens, but really, when you are out on the town on a Saturday, and you happen to run into that judge, or you happen to run into that prosecutor that you've been trying to build a relationship with. How are you presenting yourself? That's the stuff I really like to get guys thinking about.
Christopher: Yes. As lawyers, I think we tend to be relatively analytical. I was curious because of your background, what – and I don’t know, everyone's experienced this; I certainly have, exactly what you said: when you wear a great-fitting suit, you feel different – what is it about that? Why is that?
Antonio: Well, I've done a lot of research on this. Northwestern University is one of the leaders. They've got a whole body of science called “in-clothe cognition”. I think the New York Times wrote about it a while back, but there is evidence. One of the classic study – or now becoming classic study – is half of the group were told they were doctor's jackets. The other half were told they were painter's smocks. What they found is when people though they were wearing a doctor's jacket, they were more careful about how they answered the questions in the quiz. They were more thoughtful. They thought through the whole process more in the sense that the [0:08:04] [Audio Glitch] the jacket gave them almost made them feel like they had to be doctors or they had to be more careful. With the painter's smock, it had no effect.
The idea of in-clothe cognition is that what we wear does have an effect on us. Another extreme example would be let's take a football player. I grew up in Midland Texas in the Dallas cowboys. I'm a big fan of them when I was growing up. Hershel Walker was the running back at the time.
Hershel Walker, I remember, was very controversial. He was practicing ballet in the off-season to help control muscle movement and stuff. If Hershel Walker walked out in the cowboy stadium in a tutu, I don't care how well-toned he is, he's going to feel a bit odd, because he'd be wearing the wrong uniform to the event. He goes out there in his pads. When a football player puts on his pads, it puts him in a certain mindset. You see football players talk about this all the time. “Hey, we just suited up for pads for the first time. Mindset shift. I'm ready to hit. I'm ready to knock somebody out.”
That's what you want when you put on your suit, when you put on that power jacket that you have practiced wearing. That's another key thing is you've got to practice dressing right. A costume is a costume because we're not used to wearing it. It's something we put on for an event and to send a signal that we don’t normally send.
A lawyer should not ever be wearing a suit or a sports jacket that he hasn't practiced wearing, he doesn't feel confident in, and he hasn't worn before. You should have power outfits. You should have outfits which you know are dominant. That's where I get super excited, because there's so much science and information about this.
Like the color red. Wearing a little bit of red, whether it be tie, whether it be a pocket square, whether it be a little bit of red in your shirt – not a red shirt, but actually wearing a bit of red in the shirt – helps you become more persuasive. When you know that, why would you not use that to your advantage?
Christopher: Right. This brings up an interesting topic for you, and that's the notion of casual dress. I'll tell you, I don't wear a suit, but I wear a dress shirt and a tie and slacks every day to work, even if I'm not meeting anyone or doing anything, because I think it gets me in the mindset. But I know that there are a lot of people that aren't like that. Do you think that that approach makes a difference in your day, in your work quality?
Antonio: I think it does. I think the most powerful men in the world – and women as well – they've got a uniform. They don't want to think about what they're wearing. If you think of Steve Jobs, what do we remember him wearing?
Christopher: Black turtleneck, right?
Antonio: Exactly. Yeah. And tennis shoes, running shoes, and dad jeans. That was his uniform. He didn't have to think about that. It connected him. In fact, when he showed up to events, he would have people dress like him. Yet we think of him as someone that design and clothing didn't matter. Whatever. That's BS. That's how he built Apple, on design. On the fact that people wanted something beautiful to interact with. It's the same thing with human beings.
I'm not saying that you need to wear dress shirts or trousers or dress slacks, because you may be in a really casual town. You may be in New York City, and you actually probably should wear a suit, even on the weekends. What I am saying is you need to examine your situation and say “Okay, what is expected of me?”
If I’m a lawyer in a construction company, or I’m a lawyer in a New York law firm, they are going to be very different expectations when I show up to work. If I work – I'm the lawyer at a construction firm in let's say Des Moines, Iowa. The way I dress is going to be different. Still, you are the lawyer at that 500-person construction firm. You shouldn't dress like a blue collar worker. But on the other hand, you don't need to wear a full suit. You can definitely dress that down.
But when it comes down to it, when you walk in the room, everyone should know that oh, this is the lawyer of the company. You should have the courage to be the best-dressed man in the room. The CEO, he's probably selling. He's leading the company. He may wear the polo. He may wear the nice jeans. But what you're wearing is what's representative of you as the attorney of the company.
Christopher: Right. It's important to make sure that you are conforming – not necessarily conforming, but meeting those expectations of what other people want to expect more than what makes you comfortable.
Antonio: Exactly. Meeting expectations, and more importantly, not betraying expectations. My wife is Ukrainian. One of the dishes which really threw me off when I was in Ukraine – and if anyone's ever eaten Russian or Ukrainian or Belarusian food, you probably know what I’m talking about – it's called kholodets. You can look it up. Basically, if I tell you it's jello with meat chunks in it.
Christopher: That's great.
Antonio: I like jello. But what betrayed the expectation of jello – me growing up with it as a sweet dessert – and gelatin comes from bones being boiled and all this stuff. Their version, kholodets, makes a lot more sense than our version, to be honest. But it betrayed my expectations of what jello should be. Because of that, I reject it.
You do not want to be that rejection. You don't want to be when someone expects lawyer and they see you, and they're like “Oh, really? This guy? I don't know if I trust him.” When you're talking, if you're a lawyer and you're working, you've got a 1000-person company. It's blue-collar at a factory, and you're coming in to help these people draw up certain agreements, maybe you're even helping them – it's a company service, you're helping develop their will. I don't know. We did that in the Marine court with the legal officers. But if you don't meet that criteria, they may not even trust your judgment. They're like “Well, he looks just like me, and I'm going to question some of the things that are being said here.” You don't want that.
Christopher: The next step in that process for me is let's say just for example, you know what you need to wear. Let's say just for example you know it's probably appropriate for you to wear a suit or a tie and slacks. How do you find your style? How do you find what you look best in?
Antonio: One of the things I really promote – the three Fs: fit, fabric, and function. In this case, you really want to find what's going to function best for you at this point.
You may love suits, but honestly, if you're out in the forest industry – I just spent four days camping with a bunch of cub scouts – wearing a suit – even though I may love them – in that environment is wrong. First, focus on the function of your clothing, and make sure you have to look around your environment. Unless you're a creative, you've got to be careful about sticking out too much, because you may draw unwanted attention to yourself.
There's a lawyer over in Sweden I know about. This guy's got piercings. He wears really anti-culture kind of stuff. I've seen a guy similar to this in Austin, Texas. That works in that area and for setting yourself apart, but for the vast majority of this, we need to make sure that what we're wearing actually is functional in our profession and in our area. Your environment and your profession.
Next, you can look to take it up to, well, just because you have to wear a suit – maybe you don't like wearing suits. You always feel a bit stuffy. Well, you know what? There are a lot of people that wear suits, but they wear the suit. The suit shouldn't wear you.
This is where you start to focus on the other two Fs: on the fit, and on the fabric. What do I mean by fabric? I mean the quality of what you're wearing, and the way that you wear it. The way it fits on your body. Because there are men that just go into the Men's Warehouse, and they grab something and never get it adjusted, and they wear it. To be honest, that doesn't look that great.
Nothing against the Men's Warehouse, but you want to be able to go in and find something that you are like “Wow. I want to wear this. It's a suit of armor. I feel like a million bucks.” Even though it fits you good off the rack, you still get it adjusted to fit you perfectly, and you get it adjusted every six months.
The fabric – you maybe spend a little bit of money, because maybe most people can't see the difference between you spending an extra $400 to get a higher-quality fabric, but you know that the inner lining is handmade, and it's a floating canvas. All of a sudden, you start paying for those. You know the buttonholes are working and that everything is individually – they're all hand-sewn on by a local tailor. Perhaps they're in New York or Chicago.
Those are the things you're starting to pay for, because the right people notice those details. Most importantly, you notice and you know. We never forget. We know who we are. When you sit at that table, that permeates the room. You feel stronger. You feel more confident. That translates into your client trusting you and to the people across the table saying “Okay, this guy, I don't know you yet, but you could be bluffing.” But they're just not going to risk it, because this guy seems like he knows what he's talking about, and he comes off as – I don't want to mess with him.
Christopher: Yeah. That brings me to the next question. A lot of people that listen to this podcast are either new lawyers starting a law firm, they're trying to build their law firm, they may be on a budget. If you had a choice – I’m going to lay you out a little hypothetical, all right? This is lawyer stuff.
Let's say I had some cash, and I had the option of buying three mediocre suits or one nice suit, but I need to be able to wear this suit maybe two or three – or I need to wear a suit maybe two or three times a week for work. How would you tackle that situation? What would you do?
Antonio: I would say if you're just starting off, what you want to do is find the best deal. I know some of you guys are saying “I don't have time, and I don't have money.” I know. But really, when you think about it, you took out quite a bit of loans probably to go get that law degree. I'm not going to go down that path, but I would say that you need to figure out and find a way to get the money. Dressing and appearing the right way, this is going to validate – it doesn't matter if you've got a Yale law degree or if you went to Marquette or DePaul or whatever school you went to. No one sees that past once you've been hired.
What they see is how you present yourself. Understand that your presentation as a law professional is incredible important. But let's get back to the reality of you've taken out that hundred-thousand dollar, $200,000 in loans, and you're not going to have any money. What you do is you go to thrift stores. You watch sales. My friend Joe over at Dappered has a great website where you can go on email alerts. You go in, and you put in the time.
I know some of you guys, you know, “Well, I don't have time.” Well, you stop watching television, and you spend that time going to the best clothiers in your area. You find a brand that works for you. That brand may be J Crew. You may go to Nordstrom. Nordstrom has some pretty good deals a couple times a year. Men's Warehouse we talked about. They're a fine company, and if they have a deal, but you get that clothing adjusted.
Maybe you say “I don't have the money to get it adjusted. Well then, you learn how to sew. We put people on the moon. You can figure this stuff out. I would say the first thing you need to do is get out of your way, throw out the excuses, and if you don't have the money, you don't have the time, you're going to probably have to pick up a few extra skills, maybe spend time at those thrift stores.
I knew one guy that actually talked with some of the women that worked in the thrift store, and he gave them his exact measurements, told them his situation, and put a bounty out on good-looking suits, because believe me, there are men who die every single day with 25 suits that are your size, and they get donated to a thrift store, and they're selling them for $20, and the suit was a $2000 suit. If you dedicate yourself to understanding the basics of adjustments and suits, you can find some amazing deals.
Christopher: That's awesome. That's a good idea. Great advice. We're almost done. I've only got you for half an hour. I have this thing called the Lightning Round that I ask everyone. It's questions that I just personally want to know about people. I would like to ask them to you, if that's okay.
Antonio: Sure. Yeah. Do I get to slam a beer during this? That's how we used to do that.
Christopher: You can if you want. The thing is, with the Lightning Round questions, you can answer as short or as long as you want. It's fine.
Antonio: Let's do it.
Christopher: First one: do you have a morning routine?
Antonio: Yeah. I like to spend time with my kids and my wife and have breakfast with them. Spending time with my family before the day gets crazy.
Christopher: Next one: what is the best advice you've ever received?
Antonio: I would say it's probably – just really quick – never stop learning. It's not something, when you graduate from school, it means you know a dangerous amount. You've got to keep applying yourself. Never stop learning.
Christopher: That's nice. What is something that's working for you right now? Oh, by the way, before I ask you this question, I would love to hear this from a business, a marketing perspective. What's something that's working for you right now?
Antonio: I would say YouTube has really been working for us for the last couple years, and I'm loving it. I'm enjoying it. I would also say, from a marketing perspective, putting together a media kit. As lawyers, you guys may want to have – almost like a portfolio that artists or anyone has where you can literally if someone wants to make a decision about you, you can submit a PDF which sells you very well. That's something that's worked well for us.
Christopher: That's great. You can only recommend one book t someone. What book do you recommend?
Antonio: I've read this multiple times. I'm a big fan of his products, but I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi.
Christopher: I love that book. Tell me about the one habit that you have that's helped you achieve success.
Antonio: I would say I approach things with a opportunity mindset. I try to avoid the scarcity mindset. I've often taken what people perceive to be my competitors, and they've become my friends and business partners.
Christopher: Excellent. What is the one question that I didn't ask you that I should ask?
Antonio: I guess you could ask me what's most important in my life, and I would say “My family.” I try to live that. On a daily basis, I try to spend time with my family, with my kids. I try to develop things. I think lawyers, because especially when you're first starting off, it is so easy to get wrapped and tapped into growing your business, but don't forget what you're aiming towards. Set up things in systems so that you are almost forced to spend time with your family.
We've got actually in our schedule family fun nights. I just spent four days camping with the cub scouts because I scheduled that months in advance. I was a parent leader. That forced me to spend four days out in the woods with my son. You've got to do that, otherwise your kids are going to be — or your family or your wife – time's going to fly by.
Christopher: Right. That's one of the big things I talk about here is the idea of making your business work for you instead of just creating another job for yourself where you're working a hundred hours a week for nothing.
Great. We still have a couple minutes left, but I know that you have some great resources for people out there like us, people that want to dress well and look well, be confident, and get results. Give us a little bit of where we can go, and maybe a resource that you have that people can get if they're interested, and how they can track you down if that want to know more about you.
Antonio: Sure, Christopher. Over at Real Men Real Style, I've got hundreds of free videos, over a thousand free articles, tons of information. I've also got a course, though, called The Personal Image System. In that, we actually have a case study of – I talk about one of my clients, an attorney, actually. About 10% of our clients are attorneys. I use those case studies to show you exactly what you would be able to go through this course. It's kind of like the course you wish you would have had in college that would get you up to speed on how you use image as a weapon so that you can use it to your advantage.
Christopher: Excellent. I want to keep you for as long as I can. I'm going to pepper you with a couple questions I've got right now for myself. There's one small, tiny thing that you can change about the way that you dress. What's a tip that people can implement for today to make a little bit of a difference in the way they look forward?
Antonio: Well, Christopher, let me ask you, what's the name of your tailor?
Christopher: I don't have a tailor.
Antonio: Exactly. Most men don't. I feel a lot of men, we've really gone away from the time period when you knew your lawyer, when you knew your mechanic, when you knew your accountant, when you knew your tailor, and you knew them by name, and you had a relationship, and you got everything adjusted to fit you well.
That right there, if you can do that, you will be so far ahead. Most men, their clothing simply does not fit them. We live in a world that the clothing is manufactured to fit a hundred different body types. That's why it's so hard to find anything that fits you. A tailor can work wonders, and he can get it to fit you a lot better.
The dangerous part about this is you may eventually get into custom clothing, and you may find clothing that fits you perfectly, but I would say that's the first thing a man could do is simply get to know his tailor and start taking his clothing in. You can drop it off, get it adjusted, and next thing you know, you just start looking better. People think you lose weight, and you haven't changed anything.
Christopher: Right. How do you get over the intimidation factor in that? The first thing that comes to my mind you said is I agree that that is something that I should do, but I'm just like “How do I find it? How do I find that person? What if it's going to cost me a ton of money, all these things?” What's an easy action step to take to get there?
Antonio: Maybe go to Target or go to the thrift store, find a few shirts that fit you somewhat well or close but you would like to get adjusted, and you take those three shirts which cost you $3 each to a tailor, and you're going to pay maybe $20 to get those adjusted, darted, maybe the sleeves shortened. There, you can examine their work. If it's shotty work, you just say “You can keep the shirt. This is a complete fail.” Right there's your insurance.
But the other way, you may find “Hey, these guys cost me $16. They had a one-day turnaround. This shirt now looks great on me.”
Christopher: Last question before I let you go, because I know you're on a really tight schedule, how would you find someone like that? Just go to Google? Just go to Yellow? Would you ask around?
Antonio: All of those are going to work. We've got a great article, Seven Ways to Find and Communicate with a Tailor. I've got a Seven-Step process that you look at to find that person. But everything you just mentioned from Google reviews to Yelp, to even do they have a Facebook page? – tailors are really – it's an old school industry, so it is one of those things, just because somebody has no reviews or they've got one negative review, I think it's worth trying them out, but go with your gut.
This is one of those things where you do have to spend a bit of time to drop it off, however, once you've done that, once you've zeroed in on your measurements, you should then be able to go bring in ten shirts and get them all adjusted, and next thing you know, it seems like you've got a new wardrobe.
Christopher: Excellent. Well, I will link that article that you just referenced as well as everything else in the show notes. We are at our time. I know you have a hard out. So I want to just thank you for coming on. Thank you for sharing all this great information. I know I took a bunch away from it. Thank you so much, and I appreciate you.
Antonio: You're welcome. Take care, Christopher. Good to talk to you and your audience.
Christopher: Yeah. Have a great day.
Antonio: You too, man. Bye-bye.
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