Personality / June 20th, 2016

Is Being “Fashionably Late” Actually Fashionable?

This is a guest post from Matt Smelser. Matt is an avid reader, passionate mentor, and—according to his mom—is also quite handsome. Matt challenges his generation of millennials to live thoughtfully and virtuously on his blog Get Your 20’s Right. His readers are also very handsome, so you would definitely fit in.

Everyone likes to be first… except when it comes to arriving early.

It’s uncomfortable. Small talk is required. You could even be mistaken for someone with a lame social life, desperate for friends.

Arriving “fashionably late,” on the other hand, is quite awesome. It ensures you avoid awkwardness. It displays to everyone that you’re quite important and your time is (apparently) very valuable. It’s easier to avoid strangers and find the group of cool kids.

It’s a great confidence boost.

But what if being “fashionably late” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

What if all the perks of being fashionably late are really its major downfalls?

What if being “fashionably late” is actually harming your social life more than helping it?

The “fashionably late” attitude isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In many ways, arriving “strategically early” will earn you much more social influence than you ever received from being late.


Status. Power. Fame. Glory. Significance.

Whatever you call it and however you get it, everyone has an innate desire to be important. But there’s a big difference between appearing important and actually being important to others. And the tactics for both are quite opposite.

How to appear important – To appear important, you have one goal: prove that your time is more important than another person’s time. The “fashionably late” attitude is very effective if this is your goal. Show up late to a party. Delay your arrival to work every day. Check your phone often. Use phrases like, “I need to be somewhere.” Get in the habit of standing people up. Don’t leave your importance to the imagination; make sure it’s common knowledge.

To appear important, simply believe that one minute of your life is equally as important as 20 minutes of anyone else’s life. You won’t be able to help arriving late.

How to be important – To actually be important to others, you have a different goal: prove that another person’s time is more important than your time. The “strategically early” mentality is just one way to communicate you value someone else’s time. You can also ask thoughtful questions. You can turn your phone on silent. You can be present and engaged. You can go out of your way to help someone (even without them asking!).

To be important, simply believe one minute of your life is equally important as 20 seconds of someone else’s life. If you treat someone like they’re the important one, they won’t be able to disrespect you.

Whether it’s a date, party, business meeting, or picking up your kids from school, your arrival time communicates a lot.

It communicates how highly you value the time of another person.

Sure, there are bigger ways to communicate how much you value someone, but it’s the simple things that reveal the attitude of your heart. And if your attitude is to see others as more important than yourself, they will automatically assign you importance in their life.

Want to actually be important? Rethink your “fashionably late” strategy.


OK, but let’s be real. Arriving early kind of sucks sometimes.

For large gatherings—say, a church service, wedding, or house party—being early kind of ensures it’s just you and the other weirdos who decided to show up on time.

You may be one of the cool people, but most other cool people still arrive late. If anything, arriving late to large events is simply an intelligent way to avoid talking to anyone new. When you arrive late, you can make a beeline for your already-formed clique of friends and minimize the risk of talking to a stranger.

But here’s the thing… sticking with your like-minded clique of friends isn’t a good idea. Let me quote a smart person to explain.

“Our strong ties feel comfortable and familiar but, other than support, they may have little to offer. They are usually too similar—even too similarly stuck—to provide more than sympathy. They often don’t know any more about jobs or relationships than we do… as we look for jobs or relationships or opportunities of any kind, it is the people we know the least well who will be the most transformative.” -Meg Jay, The Defining Decade

What psychologist Meg Jay is saying is our dependence on “strong ties” or “the urban tribe” does little to further our lives. Our network of “weak ties” is what enriches our lives the most. Those people with whom you are too careless to talk are the ones most likely to make your life more awesome. They are the ones with the hidden opportunities. They are the ones that know about the job openings. They have the connections that you don’t.

So what does this have to do with being fashionably late?

Well, all of those awkward conversations with strangers you’ve avoided by showing up late… they were the ones that could have actually changed your life.

That short window of time before a party or a meeting gets going is incredibly valuable to connect one-on-one with someone you hardly know. Developing “weak tie” relationships is far more beneficial to your future than a few extra minutes of grooming. Arriving “fashionably late” robs you of one of the most valuable networking times at any event.

Next time you go to a gathering that includes more than close friends and acquaintances, show up 10 minutes early. Embrace the awkwardness and talk to a stranger or a weak connection.

Try to find one or two common interests. The goal isn’t to turn a weak connection into a strong connection, but to find ways to benefit them and expand your network. Ask for their business card and see if you can connect them to someone valuable. Networking is all about embracing awkwardness and finding ways to serve others.

Have you had trouble in the past building a network? Rethink your “fashionably late” strategy.


When I envision the stress-free life, I think of my friend Ace.

Ace is from Hawaii. He carries a ukulele and wears slippers everywhere. His pace of life is very slow and relaxed. He even uses a planner.

When I envision the stress-filled life, I think of another friend (who shall remain nameless because I’m not a jerk). This other friend is not from Hawaii. He always needs to be somewhere else. He is successful, but stretched to his limits. He rarely passes through a door without rushing.

Guess who’s always late?

This may be fairly anecdotal evidence, but from my experience, the chronically-late person is not the laid-back, pulled-together, fun Hawaiian guy. The guy with the most pulled-together and stress-free life is the one that is early to everything, not late. He is on top of his priorities. The guy with the fewest insecurities is the one who has the most margin to be on time.

The chronically-late (or “fashionably late”) person rarely strolls into a room. He’s usually rushed and frantic. He is usually embarrassed and apologetic. He always has an excuse. He isn’t late because he lives a slow, relaxed, worry-free life. He is late because his life is boundary-less and un-ordered.

I’m not saying that arriving late is the reason for a stress-filled life. But it might be a good indicator of one. Maybe the fashionably late excuse is simply a way to cover-up the disorder of your life. Maybe your inability to arrive anywhere early or on time is due to your fear of solitude. Maybe your stress is an indicator that you are past your limits and you need to buy a ukulele.

Being “fashionably late” doesn’t project “fashionable.” It projects disorder.

Is your life stressful and un-ordered? Rethink your “fashionably late” strategy.


With all of that said, there’s nothing wrong with being five minutes late. But those 5-10 minutes could be better spent. The habit of being chronically early—rather than late—could do wonders for your public perception, your professional network, and your stress levels. It’s only a few minutes.

Why not ditch the “fashionably late” excuse and give “strategically early” a try?