Un-Dressing for Success

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This topic contains 58 replies, has 24 voices, and was last updated by  Corey McCarren 5 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #155198

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    What’s in a tie? Most of them have goofy patterns. I know because I have a hundred or so in my closet on two racks. They’re a pain to tie, untie and re-tie again to get the length right. Guys like Steve Jobs didn’t wear them, and Mr. Jobs was a Bazilionaire.

    I’ve been in meetings where even accessories are criticized. My suit was $2500. My tie was $110. My shoes were $400 (I really loved those shoes), and my socks were $85 a pair. If my pen didn’t have a little white snow cap or say Waterman on it, eyebrows would raise. No taking notes with a Bic or Skillcraft in those rooms.

    I also learned about heart burn there. Guys had all manner of stress related chronic diseases. My silk socks disintegrated in no time. Those bloody ties frayed. Honestly, expensive clothing falls apart quickly! Oh… and one of my favorite pens in in truth the Pilot G2 07 – probably the finest pen ever made for $12.40 per dozen. What was I thinking?

    When I came back to government, I wore a suit and tie every day. I believed image was important, and I wanted to be neat, clean and professional. I could carry my Pilot G2 07 again, but the tie routine still cut into my morning every day.

    Then, ironically, I was promoted through the GS-15 ranks and truth mattered more to me than appearances. I wanted to relax. The tight-wad, collar-choking, stuffed shirts around me seemed empty. The games, the gambits, and the jockeying for attention became repulsive. I started looking for the simple and elusive hand shake my father used to talk about – the one where real people made real promises and stood by their word. The clothes of the tight wad had to go.

    I hung my tie up and donned a mock turtle neck and occasionally an open neck button down dress shirt with a clean, neck-high t-shirt underneath. Oh, I still like my sports jackets, and I still love my good shoes, but my ties started collecting dust and my socks come from Target instead of Winn Brothers.

    When I left government and went into business for myself, I discovered that many people are, in fact, offended by the suit and tie thing. It’s like a clothing barrier that says “I’m better than you.” The tie was no longer welcome.

    Do I still keep my ties and my suits? Sure I do. The suits are a little big on me because when I lost the stress, I also lost weight, but I keep them. I know that there are still meetings where a polo or a mock turtle neck say “I don’t belong here.” I don’t want to stand out in a bad way or be offensive to people I’m working with, but I will admit to pulling that tie off as soon as I get into the car.

    Australian News.Com published an article titled Collar and Tie to Die Out in the Workplace, New Survey Claims yesterday. It’s a pretty good read. Have a look, then come back here and share.

    What’s your opinion of the dress code?

    Do you think the tie is on it’s way out like powdered wigs? Or is it a timeless classic that will always have it’s place in the workplace?

  • #155314

    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    I go with a tie and dress pants once or twice a week, I like it sometimes, but I don’t have to do it nor do I do it because of how it makes others perceive me (at least as little as one could, everything does have to do with perception from others). I just like doing it occasionally. I also go into work with a polo that I’m comfortable in and comfortable khakis. I think the problem is when the dress code stifles workers, I believe strongly in creativity in the workplace and I think having stuck-up dress code rule can damage that immensely. Also, people don’t like doing things just because they have to when there isn’t a good reason. A suit and a tie dress code every day doesn’t make sense if it makes good, productive employees unhappy.

    If the tie is going out of style, I’ll still keep my collection and wear them when I feel like it!

  • #155312

    I come from a completely different background — the world of radio — where some people had the opposite problem. (No lie, one of my co-workers would come into the newsroom in pj pants. Granted, it was the overnight shift, but still …). I think dressing well is the key. Don’t come into your place of work looking like a slob or as though you just rolled out of bed. One would look downright silly showing up to some places of work in a suit and tie (or pantyhose) — but this doesn’t mean you can’t look nice. I always try to show up in “business casual” and I very rarely wear jeans on days other than Fridays. It also, of course, has a LOT to do with office culture. Some places still demand everyone look uber professional, while others are more laid back. I always err on the side of caution on my first day at any new job, though. First appearances are often key.

  • #155310

    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    lol the first day I worked at a laboratory I wore a suit and my CEO was in like those types of pants you would wear around the house. I pretty much wore street clothes after that! I suppose when the business is just you and your husband it’s not the most important thing to dress up.

  • #155308

    Jack Shaw
    Participant

    Business casual goes a long way in my business, but I try to dress appropriate to the client—if not quality-wise–style-wise. Don’t tell the world.–Whoops. Gave a talk about media acceptance in a towel, but that was second to what everyone else was wearing: nothing. It was a true naturist hotel and they sat on the towels they had and since I was standing… About 10 seconds later their nervousness about me wearing a towel went away. I have worn a tux to a formal occasion, a military uniform legally, of course, Bermuda shorts to talk on ship, but that wouldn’t matter; they put me between the Glee Sound Alike Club and the Bingoers. I should have worn just a towel, but I don’t think any would notice. Seriously, if you catch me on a corporate day, I wear a suit for a private business owner, generally sport coat and pants, for corporate hospital-suit, hospital regular staff, including doctors-business casual-usually coat and tie. Cruise ship line-corporate. Government appointee-corporate/patriotic (sometimes) tie. Government GS/some SES-casual. Early job in government-never scene without a coat and tie central office, regional office-stopped when realized everyone was judging my tie and realized I brought central office with me–attitudes and all–and there was no regional dress code except when you traveled and no one told you what it was. Used the basic rule, one step up. Felt like wearing my cave man fur. My rule now: be me. But when I go to someone else’s house, it’s not always come as you are and sometimes it is. By the way I got more jobs not putting on the Ritz, but being myself. I say dress nice and appropriate and what you feel you look good in right down to the underwear, which I hope they don’t see. You’ll be remembered even if they forgot your name (they shouldn’t), but you could be the guy in the red sweater. “I liked him. Find him.” Dress codes depend on your audience–everyone is different, but who you are trying to impress…that’s different. Dress codes. Are they here to stay? No. At least from the top up Internet-style. Haven’t tried a powered wig, but if I could get one that fit and some beautiful Great Danes to stand on either side of me, I have remarkable presence. Nice to know what the company wants.

  • #155306

    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    I put on a tie for a funeral of someone close to me or whom I respect a lot. Apart from that, nobody deserves so much subservience on my part that I should choke for them. I’ve been lucky to have met a bunch of people in my life who have changed the world as we know it. They were gracious to me despite the absence of a tie, and none of the folks I encounter, right on up to the loftiest official, are or will ever be as important as them.

    Normally, I tend to come to work dressed like a bus driver: black or dark navy semi-casual pants, and a good blue shirt. I think bus drivers and letter carriers have it pretty much nailed when it comes to work clothes. Well, them and the Amish/Mennonites//Hutterites. Plain, simple, and respectful is good in my books. Some Fridays I come in my overalls and a t-shirt. Funny thing. I get a LOT more respect (all of it undeserved) from people in hardware stores or at Home Depot when I’m wearing my overalls than I’ve ever gotten anywhere for wearing a tie and suit.

    People. Go figure.

    Sometimes I think clothing plays the same role among managers that pheromones play amongst other species during mating season. It’s the remote signal of status, approachability, etc.

  • #155304

    Stephen Peteritas
    Participant

    The real answer here is just wear the Santorum sweater vest for all occasions.

  • #155302

    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    hahaha. They probably don’t even keep him warm, right?

  • #155300

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Jack – this looks to me like a perfect example of “When in Rome…” You chose the dress to suit the occasion, do your best to be honest about who you are and what you like, and take other people’s customs into consideration.

  • #155298

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Ha! Stephen, your photo… is that a sweater vest we see?

  • #155296

    Stephen Peteritas
    Participant

    Naw, just the more traditional sweater. On a more serious note the only reason I would recommend not dressing down too much is it’s much easier to dress down then it is to dress back up. Wearing a suit and tie isn’t difficult if you do it everyday, but if you do it every month it becomes increasingly more uncomfortable. Believe I’m still all in for casual but now those days where I have to go big on the dressing up are downright painful.

  • #155294

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    I rushed an athletic leadership fraternity many years ago. Part of the process included showing up in a suit and tie. Everyone else showed up in ripped up jeans, t-shirts, etc. I was made to stand on a stool in front of the group, wear a beanie with a propeller, chew a toothpick, and balance a baseball bat with two fingers while I answered questions. My status was obvious.

    Donning the clothes of the group we’re affiliated with seems to be part of our culture.

  • #155292

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Interesting. So getting dressed up is sort of like exercise. If you do it regularly, it comes easy, but if you take a month off, it hurts.

  • #155290

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    I’m pretty confident I would look silly in pantyhose in just about any environment, Dorothy. 😉

    They do, however, make good bug barriers when worn under cami’s in bug infested environments. A tip I learned from the Marines. 🙂

  • #155288

    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    Actually, our agency had a president some time back who regularly wore a sweater vest. I thought he was a terrific president. Very approachable, and a real champion for his employees. The sweater vest only served to underscore that.

    But then, as I’ve publicly declared here, Mr. Rogers is one of my heros….so I’m kinda biased.

  • #155286

    Shannon Kennedy
    Participant

    Luckily for me, I’ve never had to deal with the pain of wearing a tie (although the guys could say the same for wearing tights), but I do think you’ve made some great points. My theory with clothing, in or out of the workplace, is that it is better to be overdressed than under-dressed. We have a pretty relaxed dress code in my office, but depending on the day, I’ll break out dresses and skirts. Sometimes it’s fun to wear business attire…but jeans are always a nice option to have!

  • #155284

    Julie Chase
    Participant

    I’m a “blue-collar” girl through and through. I wouldn’t trade my blue-jeans and casual shirt for heels, pantyhose and pencil skirt for anything.

  • #155282

    Robert Bacal
    Participant

    And worn by some pretty famous football players to prevent muscle pulls…so long as you wear them UNDER your pants, it’s all good!

  • #155280

    Robert Bacal
    Participant

    For a good several decades, I couldn’t stand the suit and tie thing. And then I realized that whether I REFUSE to wear a suit and tie, or I have to wear a suit and tie, in the zen thing of things, it’s all the same…being controlled by beliefs about superficial things.

    Now, I don’t mind either way…except the tie thing. If there’s one thing worse than wearing no tie, it’s wearing a badly tied, tie. ANd…um…that’s me.

    Also have to say than when doing speaking and training, I prefer to be comfortable, but after receiving a few comments about my “unprofessional experience” I put a stop to that issue. Whatever you wear should NOT get in the way of doing your job. And, for a few people, wearing casual clothes did get in the way.

  • #155278

    Debbie Hopkins
    Participant

    There’s a whole arena of nonverbal communication that’s focused on the messages sent by our choice of clothing/attire.

  • #155276

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Debbie – that would be an interesting link to follow if you have one. 🙂

  • #155274

    Scott Horvath
    Participant

    I agree that you should dress for the occasion. I, emphatically, dislike suits/ties/dress slacks, etc. I find them very constricting, uncomfortable, and bothersome. There was a time when wearing a suit was a sign of accomplishment and authority. Those days are gone. Some people still wear suits and if it works them, that’s great. I’m not knocking someone else’s dress preference. However, I can’t work in a suit and to be quite honest, if I knew that I was expected to wear a suit to work, I wouldn’t take the job.

    My dress code is much more casual. I firmly believe that it’s not about what I’m wearing, but more about how you carry yourself, how you interact, and how you show you know what you’re talking about. It’s about your confidence. Just because I wear a suit doesn’t make me intelligent. Likewise, just because I wear jeans doesn’t make me an idiot. Right now, I’m wearing jeans, comfortable black shoes, a light zip-up hoodie from Old Navy. Is this Friday attire? Sure. Is it also what I might wear on a Monday or Tuesday? Absolutely. I dress comfortably, but not obnoxiously or sloppy. I still iron my clothes every morning so I’m not wrinkled and I dress in casual style. I work better this way.

    Note: This post is of my own opinion and not that of any organization.

  • #155272

    Barry Williams
    Participant

    There’s always a dress code. The issue is what kind. My guess is context is always involved.

  • #155270

    Mark L Tessmer
    Participant

    Now that I’m older I think I can pull off a professional look in a nice dress shirt, slacks and nice shoes the same as I could in a suit and tie when I was younger. 😉

  • #155268

    Andy Melton
    Participant

    I love Jerry Garcia ties and my wife loves to give me new ones on special occasions. I don’t mind wearing ties but coats make no sense to me. As soon as I get to the office, I shuck it and go to work. However, now I’m in an office where we dutifully put on our jackets to walk into the boss’s office even for a 5 minute conversation. I realized the last time I did this, as soon as we stood up and I started to walk out, my boss took off his jacket and I took off my jacket. Man it felt almost oriental in the formality of that experience.

    I think adopting a more business casual atmosphere would allow concentrating on work vice appearances.

  • #155266

    Eric Melton
    Participant

    One can certainly dress well for a LOT less. $85 for socks?!?… they’re still socks.

    Having said that, dressing well in business attire is important (in office settings), tie or not, and lends an air of professionalism.

  • #155264

    Michael Horn
    Participant

    We all used the tie as a symbol for something like authority, professionalism, etc. We can let the tie go because now we have new symbols – which we hold in our hands. Try going to a meeting these days with a paper calendar/planner and see what happens. Apple’s various “i gagets” give us the latest way to signify in-group status. We no longer need to show status using silk.

  • #155262

    Deb Green
    Participant

    There is nothing more liberating than being able to wear something other than a suit. My previous life required a dark suit, closed toe, closed heel, pantyhose and small post earrings at the most. While I love suits (just ask my husband about going shopping with me at Macy’s) I love the fact I don’t “have” to wear one now. I wear one because I want to. My job is very different now, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m way higher in “rank” but the nature of my current work means I need to be accessible, credible, and open. It’s hard to engage with employees if come across distant and don’t look open to engaging.

    It did take me a while to wear open toed shoes to work. And even longer to wear a skirt without pantyhose. *shock* Now, I’d never go back!

  • #155260

    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    Ahh, same mental illness, different symptomatology.

  • #155258

    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    I think having the freedom to dress down or wear business clothes is important. I’m wearing jeans right now, at some point next week I’ll probably be the opposite, just because I feel like it that day. I don’t know if I’d want to wear business clothes ever if I was looked down upon for not having on a tie.

  • #155256

    Jennifer Sardam
    Participant

    I’m still reeling over the $2,500 suit…

  • #155254

    Jennifer Sardam
    Participant

    Wow, good point.

  • #155252

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Good food for thought, Michael! Have our devices become the new symbol? Do we NEED our symbols?
    I carried my iPad to a meeting/networking event tonight – but that was mostly because I can’t find my way back to the parking garage without a GPS device. I’m sure there is a system for walking around DC, but I haven’t figured it out yet. My Blackberry should have been replaced months ago. Carrying it until it dies.

  • #155250

    Jack Shaw
    Participant

    Presence is more than clothes and toys masquerading as business tools. This is worthy of much, much discussion, Only in America.

  • #155248

    Emily Landsman
    Participant

    When I started my old job, I was 23 and still pretty much looked like a teenager. My clothes were all pretty high end for someone just a year out of college, mostly because my grandmothers were excited for my new opportunity and bought me lots of nice things. I had Ralph Lauren suits and Brooks Brothers no-iron shirts. I got dressed every day for work and for the one to two conferences I had per month. I still feel that really had to do it, otherwise I’d look like a kid and would get even less respect and attention than I did.

    My personal style has changed since then and relaxed a bit, but I still insist on getting dressed for meetings and workshops. A bit less business formal and more business casual. Because I have a decade of professional work behind me, I’m more confident in my work and dealings with people, so I feel more like an equal and that I don’t need to hind behind “grown up” clothing.

    However, nothing beats jeans and a tshirt for day to day work now that I run my own business 🙂

  • #155246

    Amy
    Participant

    Ah those girl ties were real big in the ’80s. And as with all fashion it will likely come around again.

  • #155244

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Dress code by context… and interesting idea. I think there is truth in this.

  • #155242

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Age is another context factor, for sure. So is there an age appropriate dress code?

  • #155240

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Andy – custom, culture and context again… This is an interesting ritual you have. It really sounds like clothes are used to say more than “I’m neat and professional” in your environment. They (in this case jackets) are used as a visual icon for respect and recognition of authority.

  • #155238

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Yeah… I don’t recommend $85 socks.

  • #155236

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Your clothes say “freedom,” “accessibility,” and “openness,” Deb. Awesome!

    Your comment makes me think that the clothes people wear are an important signal of the underlying culture of a given environment.

  • #155234

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    LOL! I’ll sell it to you for half price. 🙂

  • #155232

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Very true, Jack. I would love to see THAT discussion!

  • #155230

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Emily – I like the idea of a sort of sliding scale approach to your clothing choices. They’ve evolved as you’ve matured. I think this is probably true for most of us. I wonder how many people “Hide behind grownup clothes” as you suggest. I’m betting a lot more than will admit.

    BTW- I can totally relate to the jeans and t-shirt theme now! Running a business affords us a few luxuries. 😉

  • #155228

    Jeff S
    Participant

    My agency requires men in ties and on casual Friday no jeans or tennis shoes. Some of the older employees still put their suit jacket on if they are going out into the hall. Needless to say the strict dress code is not appreciated or even necessary but we must abide to appease our upper management.

  • #155226

    Deb Green
    Participant

    It most absolutely is! One of my colleagues works in a place where “casual Fridays” meant TOD (typical officer dude) attire. Khakis, polo, dress shoes. And don’t you dare wear jeans.

    Shockingly, his organization doesn’t have a climate that embraces change or is terribly engaging with employees. More of that “power over” than “empowering” organizational psychology.

  • #155224

    Dora Porter
    Participant

    The norm at our agency is Business Casual. We have Agency Logo shirts that we can wear as well. Occassionally the suit and tie are seen by the men and suits and hose by the woman and the immediate assumption is that you are going for an interview because you have opted to dress outside of the norm.

    Coming from 12 years in Corporate America we were asked to ensure we were in suits or business dresses when meeting with Government Clients but other days in the office we could do the business casual thing.

    My concern now is the interns that come in that are not even sure how to dress so flip flops and lacey tank tops are being considered as okay as everyday wear. They are not being taken seriously when they want to pursue full time positions.l

  • #155222

    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    The point that iPads are the new “ties” is really interesting. It’s quite unfortunate, really, because to be frank a lot of the people who are so reliant on their technology couldn’t function without it. It’s great to have a mastery of technology and extraordinarily important today. No doubt iPads and the like help people with productivity as well (I’d be lost without Google Calendar on my Android reminding me about meetings), but an ability to take notes on an iPad as opposed to a piece of paper does not make for a more professional, well-rounded individual.

  • #155220

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Dora – your comment reminds me of a contract staff that used to work for me. They got dressed up every time they came to see me. I realized what was going on when I ran into them one day when they were not expecting to see me. From that point forward, I tried to get them to relax the dress code. It represnted a barrier I did not want between us.

    I felt that staff meetings were a place to relax, have frank discussions, honesty, and “let our hair down.” A look at my profile pic will give you the context behind this joke.

    I was unable to override their corporate policy on dressing for the client, but I was proud that I at least broke them of calling me “sir” when the door was closed.

  • #155218

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Jeff, sounds like they’re trying to make a statement about the corporate culture. What affect do you think this has on them, on clients or on employees?

  • #155216

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Corey – I never would have found the parking garage on Friday night if I didn’t have my iPad and build in GPS with me. Seriously, I get lost walking around DC whenever I come down there. I suppose I’m one of those people you refer to who can’t function without my gizmos. 😉

  • #155214

    Julie Chase
    Participant

    Where do you get your agency logo shirts?

  • #155212

    Dora Porter
    Participant

    I like the “let your hair down” approach for staff meetings as well. We try to do that in our staff meetings but sometimes we get a little too carried away… if that is possible. Since we spend the majority of our lives with these people at work why do I have to be so formal. Why do I need to waste my good clothes to sit in meetings and be bored to death by powerpoint presentations and pontificators. I like face to face interaction but keep it brief. Whewww…that’s a whole different subject. My apologies. 🙂

  • #155210

    Dora Porter
    Participant

    I work for Department of Homeland Security and we have shirts that are available for HQ as well as each component has distinctive clothing. I have at least 5 shirts, a jacket and a hat. I rarely wear the hat but the jacket stays on the back of my chair and on Friday’s I opt to wear my shirt with jeans or slacks depending on my meeting schedule.

  • #155208

    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    Haha oh I hear ya, I’d forget to eat breakfast if it wasn’t for Google Calendar and a white board. I just think some people forget they have the ability to think as well! Technology should enhance the individual, not be him/her.

  • #155206

    Cynthia Riegler
    Participant

    I go with Banana Republic-style of clothing: semi-casual/semi-professional, most of the time. I’ve always worked in communications for the US federal gov and, at times, a suit was required, particularly if I had a stint with the vice president or the agency or administrator, department secretary or anytime I had to deal with senior staff. Most of the time these days, though, I’m in the semi category. I don’t like to dress completely casual for work. I just feel uncomfortable; i.e., unprofessional in a professional environment if dress like I’m at home.

  • #155204

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Banana Republic has some good clothing. Casual and professional combo.

    I think it’s reasonable to expect anyone working with the Vice President will likely have a suit. I’d even put on a tie for that meeting. 😉

  • #155202

    Carol Davison
    Participant

    Unfortunately people make decisons about you in 4 seconds. A suit buys influence in that time in a way that jeans doesn’t. Otherwise I’d be sitting here in my levis and polo shirts. Considering that I am a visionary and typically leading my oranization’s transformation, or encountering opposition by those who got promoted doing what we’ve always done, I NEED all the influence a suit can buy me.

  • #155200

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Interesting observation, Carol. I can’t disagree with the 4 second rule. I think the target audience has something to do with the winning formula. In my experience, suits are automatically marginalized in some circles – particularly in Defense (on the operational side) and similar circles. If I wanted to appeal to the field operators, a suit would immediately identify me as a cheese ball who may not have any experience or a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of surviving. A clean pair of 511’s or Tru-Spec pants and a polo goes a lot further.
    I’m betting weather also plays a role. A suit says “hot” and “stuffy” in this weather, whereas a white button down collared shirt and a nice pair of slacks may say “Hello. My hand is safe to shake without fear of sweat.”
    I’d hate to think the suit made more of a difference with regard to influence than my ability to use common sense and adjust to the environment I was in.

    What do you think our ability to adapt to situation and circumstances has on influence?

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