Dear President Obama,
Where is your tie? As President of the United States, you don’t need to dress down for any occasion. You are there to represent the office of the President of the most powerful country in the world. Just as an expert speaker wears a tie (but not a jacket) when he does a workshop at a weekend retreat where the dress code is “casual.” He walks into the room with a powerful presence and commands immediate authority. He doesn’t “offend” the audience by not dressing in khakis and a polo. When you’re the “outside expert” you don’t dress for so-called “rapport” – you dress to impress!
Wearing a white shirt with a blazer and no tie sends a mixed message. A white shirt is the most formal of all, and it begs for a tie. It is a classic example of “business casual” but the jacket must not be removed, because then, the white shirt looks like a fish out of water when its tie is missing. A French blue shirt, on the other hand, does not look so out of sync without a tie – with or without a navy blazer.
My suggestion: wear a French blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a striped business tie. You are there for business, not to attend a picnic. In my corporate workshops, I show side-by-side photos of a man in a French blue shirt with navy blazer and no tie, and the same man in the same shirt, but worn with a tie. I ask the audience which man has the most capability and authority. The man with the tie gets 90% of the votes every time.
Please note that your staff, and many audience members wore ties out of respect for you. They also get it when you dress to impress them !