In every industry, there’s a different look that successful people have. Every up-and-comer in the industry tries to copy that look in the effort that this will contribute to their success. We know this as the “fake it til’ you make it” philosophy.

In the most obvious example of dress code for an industry, let’s talk about the hip-hop industry. When you look at rappers, everyone knows them for their gold chains and nowadays, for their designer brands. I reached out to my friend Sean Famoso (co-founder of LVRN, the group that manages Raury and 6lack) to ask him why rappers like gold, and how this relates to success in the industry.

“Successful rappers wear whatever they can that relates to the culture at that time. At one time it was all about platinum, at one time it was all about Tommy Hilfiger… Yes, gold has had its position in hip-hop for a while, but some of the game’s biggest legends have never worn jewelry as a sign of their success.”

Sean Famoso, Co-founder LVRN

Hip-hop is like many industries in that there are financial barriers that prevent most people from dressing like the huge successes in their field. This makes it much easier to see people who are fake, and likely are not who they seem to be. What’s most interesting is that when you look to the top of the hip-hop game, these financial barriers are incredibly clear but harder to see.

Real success changes from chains to designer brands. Using clothing to show wealth is much harder to see than chains, but is obvious to a trained eye. This trend carries through into the business world as well, with custom suits and higher end clothing that uses subtlety to disguise its value.

It’s different as an entrepreneur.

In the entrepreneurial world, it’s harder to figure out who is for real because of:

  1. Casual Dressing: The icons of our entrepreneurial world have established a t-shirt and jeans culture that every eager wantrepreneur jumps at the moment they have an idea that they want to pursue. This results in legions of young people, all obsessed with dressing in plain clothes to match the successful entrepreneurs. Because of this example set by our biggest successes, it is hard to discern fake people by how they look.
  2. Differing Norms: If you meet other entrepreneurs, it’s really difficult to know what the standard dress codes are in each person’s industry and locale. This means that you can easily slip into trusting someone who is dressed well, but may be from the financial industry, where everyone is in suits.

We’re all striving to spend time doing business with people who do what they say they will do. Especially people who do it on time. It’s important to know who is real, and who is fake because fake entrepreneurs embody a personality that exaggerate connections and skillsets.

They usually negotiate in a very short-sighted manner. These are the people to watch out for in business.

As young entrepreneurs, we get confused by the fake Rolex wearers of the entrepreneurial world. We haven’t been burned enough times to really be able to spot fake people. And if you think these fake people are easy to discern, tell that to the investors who put money into Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

You will rarely get a clear picture of someone’s business. The press mentions are the gold chains and designer clothes we wear as entrepreneurs. Especially if the trend of dressing casual holds, we will only be able to use social media followers and media mentions as indicators of success.

And these indicators are easily game-able, leading to a business climate that makes it nearly impossible to distinguish what a successful entrepreneur is like without deeply knowing them.

This begs the question, how can you tell if someone will truly commit to doing what they say they will? Without judging their success on what they choose to wear.

A general rule of thumb is that flashy is usually bad. People who dress or act in ways to get attention, especially in the business world, are often not the successful ones. If these people were truly successful, they’d be slammed with so many business proposals they would be sick of it, and more selective with where they showed up and how many people noticed.

The rappers that will tell you who they are, usually do that because they want to be noticed, and they want approval so they feel successful. It’s the same thing in business. However, there is no end-all rule to really distinguish between who is real and who is fake. It will take time to build this skill, and you will get burned a few times.

But it makes you wonder if we would all have an easier time doing business if successful entrepreneurs wore gold chains and Gucci flip flops…..Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Partha Unnava
Partha is recognized as an industry expert in the early stage medical device space as well as in youth entrepreneurship and speaks regularly on the topics at conferences and universities around the world. Partha has been invited to the White House to present to President Obama, been named on the 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30, been featured on CNN, and received numerous entrepreneurship awards.