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How to not step on the boss' toes?

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
Ok, so here's my question. Everybody says that you don't want to outclass your boss with the clothing that you were to work. But, what if your bosses really don't have that much of a fashion sense and just wear Joey Bank suits and brooks button downs to work everyday, are you supposed to dress similarly? The reason I ask is because I'm going to be working as a summer associate at a law firm this summer, and I like clothes and I like to look good in them, but a lot of the lawyer's I've met at the firm weren't really as into clothes as I am; so, should I leave the spread collars at home and go get some buttondowns?
post #2 of 29
I have personally always had a problem buying into that philosophy. I might as well speak poorly as well so as not to highlight the fact that my manager sounds like a third grader at show-and-tell. I dress better than my boss, his boss, and her boss. The key, in my opinion and experience, is that my dress is not to such an extreme that it is interpreted as inappropriately stuffy or conceited. Then again it might all depends on how your co-workers (and boss) will perceive you...
post #3 of 29
I'd like to hear some replies for this as well, because I'm in a similar situation... If I wear jeans and a t-shirt to work (which I've done for the past 4+ years, everyday) I'll fit in with most people and be below the managers and higher. However, should I wear anything nicer that I've acquired, I'll be way over-dressed (even if it's just a pair of wool slacks and a dress shirt, no tie or jacket). Even the executives around here wear worn down/cheap looking pair of slacks and a buttondown of similar quality. The only people you'll see with a tie would be the president and sometimes one of the directors. Anytime I put something nicer on (anything above jeans and a casual shirt) I get people stopping to take a second look, or get asked if I have a job interview that day LOL I'd like to wear my newly acquired SB navy blazer once in awhile, but then I'd be above the exec level
post #4 of 29
Wear what you want, as long as it is generally conservative and appropriate to the type of worki. If you look nice, your boss shouldn't complain. He or she might not even notice. You'll be retained or fired in a law firm or most anywhere else based on your work habits and skills, i.e. your profitability, not whether your clothes are too nice.
post #5 of 29
My co-employees are slobs and show it eight hours a day, Monday thru Friday. I wear a shirt and tie everyday. I try to mix it up with colors, styles etc. This is far better dressed than 99 % of all the employees here. I don't care what they think or say. This has become a country of poorly dressed slobs and I will not become one ...
post #6 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
My co-employees are slobs and show it eight hours a day, Monday thru Friday. I wear a shirt and tie everyday. I try to mix it up with colors, styles etc. This is far better dressed than 99 % of all the employees here. I don't care what they think or say. This has become a country of poorly dressed slobs and I will not become one ...
That seems like a good attitude if anything is going to change. I just don't want someone looking at me and thinking to themselves: "gee, he looks like he wears expensive clothes, we must pay him too much" or "gee, this guy seems to put a lot of thought into what he's wearing, maybe we're not working him hard enough and he has too much time on his hands."
post #7 of 29
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(JLA @ May 05 2005,14:55) My co-employees are slobs and show it eight hours a day, Monday thru Friday. I wear a shirt and tie everyday. I try to mix it up with colors, styles etc. This is far better dressed than 99 % of all the employees here. I don't care what they think or say. This has become a country of poorly dressed slobs and I will not become one ...
That seems like a good attitude if anything is going to change. I just don't want someone looking at me and thinking to themselves: "gee, he looks like he wears expensive clothes, we must pay him too much" or "gee, this guy seems to put a lot of thought into what he's wearing, maybe we're not working him hard enough and he has too much time on his hands."
If that is really a concern, then in addition to not wearing nice clothes at the office: (1) don't buy a nice car-- someone might see you in the parking lot; (2) don't own a nice home or rent a decent apartment, and if you do, don't ever mention it to anybody at the office; (3) don't wear a watch that costs more than $300; (4) don't let your wife or girlfriend be seen by your employer driving a nice car, wearing nice clothes, jewelry, etc., because presumably you paid for it; (5) don't have kids, because they are expensive and your employer may think he pays you too much; if you do, don't carry pictures of them in your wallet or put them on your desk; and for the love of God, don't send them to private school, take them to the doctor or dentist, or feed them. This kind of reasoning is silly. Employers by and large do not give a damn how their employees spend their own money. They certainly don't make decisions about the employee based upon such irrationalities, unless they themselves are irrational. In which case you're better off working somewhere else so you can live your own life and spend the money you earn. There is a difference between dressing nicely and conservatively, and dressing flashy or obnoxiously. The latter is wrong for more reasons than offending your employer.
post #8 of 29
Oh, and another thing: Nice clothes make people, i.e. your clients, believe you are prospering. Why is this good? Because your clients see it as an endorsement by other clients that you are a good lawyer (or achitect, or whatever). It's not everything by any means, but it's something. You will find that other lawyers will also tend to think the same thing.
post #9 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
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(odoreater @ May 05 2005,13:05)
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLA,May 05 2005,14:55
My co-employees are slobs and show it eight hours a day, Monday thru Friday. I wear a shirt and tie everyday. I try to mix it up with colors, styles etc. This is far better dressed than 99 % of all the employees here. I don't care what they think or say. This has become a country of poorly dressed slobs and I will not become one ...
That seems like a good attitude if anything is going to change.  I just don't want someone looking at me and thinking to themselves: "gee, he looks like he wears expensive clothes, we must pay him too much" or "gee, this guy seems to put a lot of thought into what he's wearing, maybe we're not working him hard enough and he has too much time on his hands."
If that is really a concern, then in addition to not wearing nice clothes at the office:   (1) don't buy a nice car-- someone might see you in the parking lot; (2) don't own a nice home or rent a decent apartment, and if you do, don't ever mention it to anybody at the office; (3) don't wear a watch that costs more than $300; (4) don't let your wife or girlfriend be seen by your employer driving a nice car, wearing nice clothes, jewelry, etc., because presumably you paid for it; (5) don't have kids, because they are expensive and your employer may think he pays you too much; if you do, don't carry pictures of them in your wallet or put them on your desk; and for  the love of God, don't send them to private school, take them to the doctor or dentist, or feed them. This kind of reasoning is silly.  Employers by and large do not give a damn how their employees spend their own money.  They certainly don't make decisions about the employee based upon such irrationalities, unless they themselves are irrational.  In which case you're better off working somewhere else so you can live your own life and spend the money you earn. There is a difference between dressing nicely and conservatively, and dressing flashy or obnoxiously.  The latter is wrong for more reasons than offending your employer.
I'm not sure that I agree. If you show up on your first day of work at a law firm, driving your bmw, wearing a $2000 suit a $1000 watch and $800 shoes, I can see people being irked by this and therefore having little sympathy for you in the amount of work that you're assigned or the bonuses you get. I also don't think it's totally inconceivable that when the compensation committee is sitting around with limited bonuses to give around and two associates who have similar quality work products to be more favorable towards the guy the drives a ford and wears the $300 than to the guy who drives the bmw and wears the rolex. Maybe this is irrational, but people act irrationally and make irrational decisions every minute of every day. If you wanted to avoid irrationality by quitting jobs where other people act irrationally, then pretty soon you would find yourself not working anywhere. It's easy to make all these lofty proclamations about rationality and what not, but I don't think that they take into account the reality of the workplace and office politics. If there are partners that like you and take you under their wing, you will be very successfully. If everyone thinks that you're just trying to be flashy and showing off, people will be turned off by this. And I'm not talking about wearing a Magic Johnson suit, I'm talking about wearing something as basic as a spread collar instead of a straight point collar or a buttondown. As to all of the other stuff you mentioned, no 24 year old Summer Associate is going to own a nice home and if he's driving a nice car it's probably because thier parents bought it for them. I'm not talking about someone who has been at the firm for years, I'm talking about summer associates, who are at the bottom of the totem pole.
post #10 of 29
The partner who I'm working for right now in NYC wore a Hickey Freeman suit today. I'm wearing an Oxxford today. During lunch we removed our jackets and it was clear that we each caught a glimpse of the jacket labels, and it was clear we both knew what we saw. He said pleasantly, "You dress up very nicely" (the first time he met me I had a bad five o'clock shadow and was wearing jeans and a t-shirt).
post #11 of 29
Back in the day when I worked for The Man I always dressed better than my boss (not that it was too hard) and I never concerned myself with what he thought. In fact, it became a joke in the office to see what the latest purchase gordgekko would come in with after a lunch hour spent at a local haberdashery. I know "dressing above your station" could irk some bosses but I believe us worker bees should spend our money any damned way we want and if that means nice clothes, so be it.
post #12 of 29
Quote:
I'm not sure that I agree. If you show up on your first day of work at a law firm, driving your bmw, wearing a $2000 suit a $1000 watch and $800 shoes, I can see people being irked by this and therefore having little sympathy for you in the amount of work that you're assigned or the bonuses you get. I also don't think it's totally inconceivable that when the compensation committee is sitting around with limited bonuses to give around and two associates who have similar quality work products to be more favorable towards the guy the drives a ford and wears the $300 than to the guy who drives the bmw and wears the rolex. Maybe this is irrational, but people act irrationally and make irrational decisions every minute of every day. If you wanted to avoid irrationality by quitting jobs where other people act irrationally, then pretty soon you would find yourself not working anywhere. It's easy to make all these lofty proclamations about rationality and what not, but I don't think that they take into account the reality of the workplace and office politics. If there are partners that like you and take you under their wing, you will be very successfully. If everyone thinks that you're just trying to be flashy and showing off, people will be turned off by this. And I'm not talking about wearing a Magic Johnson suit, I'm talking about wearing something as basic as a spread collar instead of a straight point collar or a buttondown. As to all of the other stuff you mentioned, no 24 year old Summer Associate is going to own a nice home and if he's driving a nice car it's probably because thier parents bought it for them. I'm not talking about someone who has been at the firm for years, I'm talking about summer associates, who are at the bottom of the totem pole.
I guess you've got it all figured out, then. Better stock up on those buttondowns. Seriously, what did I say? I said raises and retention are based on productivity, not how a guy dresses. I also said you shouldn't dress flashy or obnoxiously. If you do, then people will think that you have poor judgment. If you think that means buttondowns only, then I guess we just have to disagree. Spread collars do not equal "flashy" or "showing off." Neither do nice, tasteful clothes. Dress within your budget, of course. That goes without saying, just as a matter of sound fiscal policy. As for the rest, I stand by what I said. Suppose you're a 5th year associate, not a law clerk (what they used to call "summer associates," or people not admitted to the Bar.) It's just further down the continuum. Buy the nice house? Or go with something less than I can afford? What will the partners think? Who gives a damn. The partners want their associates to dress the part. Frankly, it is more likely that a partner feels (s)he has earned the right to dress like a slob and that you ain't there yet. Kind of like you may be expected to work weekends. Alone. While the partners go out on their boats. Or why they can go home at 4:00 and you'll be expected to stay 'til 6.
post #13 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
The partners want their associates to dress the part.  Frankly, it is more likely that a partner feels (s)he has earned the right to dress like a slob and that you ain't there yet.  Kind of like you may be expected to work weekends.  Alone.  While the partners go out on their boats.  Or why they can go home at 4:00 and you'll be expected to stay 'til 6.
Hmm, this is actually a really good point and a really good way to look at it. In fact, I'm going to ingrain this thought into my mind and just look my best all the time. By the way, I wasn't saying that I have it all figured out or that I'm just going to buy all buttondowns. I was simply looking for the advice of those that have tread down this road in the past on what to look out for and how others might perceive me when dressing in a particular way. So, that's why I find this insight particularly enlightening.
post #14 of 29
I didn't mean to be rude. Sorry. I've never had a conversation with a partner about an employee dressing too nicely. When someone dresses nicely, it is ALWAYS taken by us as a positive thing. On the flip side, we do grouse about what slobs the secretaries and support staff are sometimes.
post #15 of 29
I just finished a summer associate position at a NYC firm last summer. I'm going to say you can dress well without having to worry about outshining the partners. The ones that care about dress will be dressed well, and the ones that don't care about how they dress won't care how you dress. Over lunch, my liaison partner told me how annoying it was that more and more, summer associates are dressing like slobs, looking unprofessional, etc. And he didn't strike me as a particularly clotheshorse-y, but he just wanted a lawyer to look like a lawyer, in a suit and tie. So, I would say that you shouldn't worry about dressing well; although remember that if it's a conservative wall street law firm, I wouldn't go with the real flashy stuff. But aside from everything, no reputable law firm will not decline an offer for their summer associates based on attire that are within an acceptable range. You will have to do some rather extraordinary things (by law firm standards, of course) in order to not receive an offer after the summer, so I wouldn't worry too much either way. Don't worry too much and have fun over the summer. It is quite nice being a summer associate. Very.
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