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Dressing like a grown-up

July 24, 2013

Don’t worry, all you people who wear any old thing to work. I’m not here to judge you but to explain my own lazy, irresponsible, unprofessional and antisocial behavior.

I like to go to work dressed like an adult in shoes, dress pants, shirts with buttons, often in a suit and sometimes even wearing a tie. Of course I wear T-shirts. As underwear, not office wear. Why do I go to the trouble and discomfort?

  1. Personal expression
  2. Respect and authority
  3. Discipline

so the trouble and expense are worth paying for and, because my clothes fit, I’m perfectly comfortable. (Admit it, most jeans are not comfortable. Slim cut and low rise are the modern equivalent of the “iron maiden”).

1. Personal expression:  Being groomed and put together, if not dressed up, is my personal aesthetic. I think It looks professional, which is what I am. By wearing traditional office clothes I’m saying, “I’m a serious person who is here to work.” Clients like that. When you wear clothes that you’d wear to do anything or nothing you’re telling everyone that your work is not important to you. That your attitude is “I’m here. Whatever.” What you put on your body tells everyone where your head is.

That’s not to say that wearing typical professional drag gets me mistaken for a bean counter. Bookkeepers don’t wear saddle shoes.The choices I make concerning style, color and pattern counteract any hint of conformity. When people look at me they believe I’m creative, and I get things done.

Would an accountant wear this tie?

2. Respect and authority: A necktie is a totem of authority. They are worn by doctors, lawyers, politicians, C-levels and officials of all kinds. By dressing like a person with power, I get the respect of a person with power. If you wear the right clothes, people will think you know what you’re talking about. Try it. Wear your Sunday-go-to-meetin clothes to a meeting where everyone else is casual. You’ll get more attention from your colleagues, your managers and especially your client.

You don’t have to wear a tie or suit to be da man once you learn the arcana of clothing. A few years ago I was part of a posse the boss assembled to meet a celebrity and his ‘people.’ The boss wore khakis, penny loafers, a polo shirt and blazer. He looked like every software salesman from Atlanta. I was in linen pants, a raw silk, knit polo, and (I think) pigskin bucks. The big shot’s people thought I was the decision maker (or maybe it was because I was the only one from the agency who wasn’t overweight).

Dressing up also shows respect for the people you are with or going to see. That’s why interns get out their leather shoes and put on their dry-cleanables.

3. Discipline: When you are dressed-up, you act dressed up. You sit up straight, pay attention, use your indoor voice and remember your manners. Dressing for work helps me do my work. Clothes separate work time from playtime. When I get home changing my clothes is like shedding my professional skin. But if I socialize directly from the office, it’s the professional me you’re bound to get.

So that’s why I dress for work. I recommend it. Books are judged by their covers; apparel does proclaim the man; and we know our enemies by their choice of footwear (Never underestimate the power of shoes. Wear the very best you can afford).

And, no, I don’t expect art directors to listen to a word I say. All the same… there’s only one art director I ever knew who was serious about clothes. Today he has his own successful company. Not just a design shop but a full-on, full-service marketing agency. Coincidence?

By their footwear shall ye know them (socks always optional).

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 25, 2011 11:08 am

    Nicely put. Couldn’t agree more.

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