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How Important is Clothing Quality to One's Career?

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
I'm curious about people's attitudes about the importance of clothing quality in terms of professional perceptions and career advancement. Obviously, a lot of the people who visit this site are interested in the finer aspects of clothing out of their own personal interest, but how important do you think it is for your career?

I see many people who dress neatly and professionally but either can't afford to spend a lot of money on clothes, or don't know a lot about clothes, or just aren't 'into' clothes or what have you. In your company or industry how important is it that people dress in high-quality clothes? If someone in your company had a neat, professional appearance but tended to wear stuff like cotton-poly blend shirts, Macy's suits and Florsheim shoes, do you think it would it affect his career and the way people perceived him?
post #2 of 32
Yes, I think if you wear quality, classic, it shows an attention to detail. It says you take your job serious enough to invest in your own career. You also look like you have you act together. Our company still has people wearing Kenneth Cole shoes, ridiculous blackblackblack KC shoes at all business causal meetings. I think you are taken more seriously, look by management as a leader, and potential advancement potential if you look the part.

If you look like you have your act together, then you probably do.

Also using a well made pen, a well kept, organized high quality wallet, business card case, and cell phone/palm also says alot about your potential. You are judged by your shoes, choice of watch, etc. also to some degree.

Clothes that fit, are well made, and put together are signs of a professional IMO.
Also, I believe with what the Brioni head says, when the materials anchor the look, hence why it is to your advantage.

Bottomline:
PS-- You have to back it up though with work performance, otherwise you then will just look like a peacock.
post #3 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quirk
If someone in your company had a neat, professional appearance but tended to wear stuff like cotton-poly blend shirts, Macy's suits and Florsheim shoes, do you think it would it affect his career and the way people perceived him?
No. In fact, that would be an improvement for many of the people who hold equivalent jobs to mine but in more 'prestigious' situations.

Honestly, unless you're in a high powered situation in a major metropolitan area, having clothes of particularly high quality won't be noticed or cared about. A well put together, professional appearance matters more.
post #4 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanC
No. In fact, that would be an improvement for many of the people who hold equivalent jobs to mine but in more 'prestigious' situations.

Honestly, unless you're in a high powered situation in a major metropolitan area, having clothes of particularly high quality won't be noticed or cared about. A well put together, professional appearance matters more.

Agreed! My situation is becoming even more dire. The head of the company wants his men to wear clownish logo shirts instead of coat and tie at the major trade shows. (At least in my industry, most of the serious players do wear coat and tie, at the very least, at these events.) I am hoping for an exemption, but if I am forced into this nightmarish procrustes bed, I think I shall send off to Beau Ties for a couple of their largest (3 1/2-inch width, I think) polka dot bowties. If I am forced to dress like a damn clown, I might as well accessorize accordingly!
post #5 of 32
Maybe you should take matters into your own hands by commissioning a corporate tie from Talbott's.

I think it's pretty unusual for clothes per se to make that much of a difference. You notice the outliers (at least I do), but unless your career entails trying to fit into a snobby social set it's unlikely that fine points of style will carry the day. Looking "proper" and comfortable is more important. That being said, I work in a small niche of the investment industry, where people in general have more money for clothes than average. So we may define the outliers differently than store managers in Flint, MI.

My own reason for getting good clothes (and wearing them, sometimes) is fit. Without the security of feeling comfortable, it is sometimes hard for me to focus on what is really important. Sadly, with my body, really good fit is elusive and generally expensive.
post #6 of 32
The appearance of being well put together is much more important than the quality of your clothing, etc. For example, to most people, black cap toes are a classic style. Very few will know or care whether those cap toes are by Bostonian or by Edward Green. The style is more important than the quality. In another example, it's better to wear a suit that fits, even if the quality isn't top notch, than a high quality suit with a bad fit. Very few are going to be able to look at a suit and discern it's quality. Everyone will be able to tell if it looks like you're wearing a potato sack.

You have to dress within your budget. However, it's pretty easy to look professional, even on a limited clothing budget. These days, it seems that more and more men are not willing to put in the effort (even in a business casual setting).

As was mentioned above, of course the quality of your work comes first. However, appearance does count for something.

As a postscript, if you're working somewhere that judges you on whether you're using a Mont Blanc fountain pen instead of a Bic ballpoint or whether you're wearing a Rolex instead of a Timex, it's time to find a better job.
post #7 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by JBZ
The appearance of being well put together is much more important than the quality of your clothing, etc. For example, to most people, black cap toes are a classic style. Very few will know or care whether those cap toes are by Bostonian or by Edward Green. The style is more important than the quality. In another example, it's better to wear a suit that fits, even if the quality isn't top notch, than a high quality suit with a bad fit. Very few are going to be able to look at a suit and discern it's quality. Everyone will be able to tell if it looks like you're wearing a potato sack.

I agree, but:

Quote:
Originally Posted by JBZ
As was mentioned above, of course the quality of your work comes first. However, appearance does count for something.

As a postscript, if you're working somewhere that judges you on whether you're using a Mont Blanc fountain pen instead of a Bic ballpoint or whether you're wearing a Rolex instead of a Timex, it's time to find a better job.

I just came back from the Maastricht antiques fair ( www.tefaf.com ), and the level of dressing there, particularly on the closed preview day, was very, very impressive. I work in that business, and I think that in any job within any sort of "arts", people are much judged by appearance. Again, you don't really have to wear the most expensive stuff, but it has to be of some minimum level of quality and show some level of conscious dressing. The fashion business is the most obvious example, but also in other "visual" areas of business, your taste in and knowledge of dressing might very well influence your career, I think.
post #8 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucky Strike
I agree, but:



I just came back from the Maastricht antiques fair ( www.tefaf.com ), and the level of dressing there, particularly on the closed preview day, was very, very impressive. I work in that business, and I think that in any job within any sort of "arts", people are much judged by appearance. Again, you don't really have to wear the most expensive stuff, but it has to be of some minimum level of quality and show some level of conscious dressing. The fashion business is the most obvious example, but also in other "visual" areas of business, your taste in and knowledge of dressing might very well influence your career, I think.

You may very well be right about this. This is not the path my career has taken, so it's not a world about which I have much knowledge. I'm an attorney, and I worked at a large firm before finding my current job. Some of the most powerful partners at our firm dressed like absolute poop (there, I said it) and didn't care. They also didn't really care how you dressed, as long as you conformed to the basic dress code. However, I can see where a job in an "arts" related field might be different (though I still think the idea of "you'll never get ahead if you keep writing with the Bic" is a pretty silly and extreme one - I've never heard of anyone being passed over for promotion because they didn't have the right pen).
post #9 of 32
It's clear that looks are huge, huge in the corporate game.

When I dressed "eh" I was passed over by lesser-qualified people (man and female) who were better looking and better dressed than I was.

Now I'm the lesser-qualified but well-dressed one, and I'm finally getting ahead.

That didn't come out right.
post #10 of 32
I agree with JBZ. It simply is not necessary to spend a great deal of money in order to look professional, or even express some style. The key, I think, is to avoid extremes of "fashion" and dress in clothing that fits properly. My professional wardrobe, collected over decades, reflects a major investment in the high quality suits, shoes, and haberdashery. But, just for fun on my lunch break, I spent thirty minutes in a Filene's Basement near my office and came up with the following outfit: a "three-season" suit of worsted wool in pinstriped charcoal, three button, side vents, double reverse pleated trousers (Emmanuel-$199.99); cordovan color calf cap toe oxfords with full leather lining and leather soles/heels (Cole-Haan-$109.90); light blue/white glen plaid cotton shirt with spread collar/barrel cuffs (Nautica-$24.99); silk tie in a plaid of burgundy/mid-gray/light gray (Perry Ellis-$16.99); and a mid-gray silk pocket square (no name-$4.99). Admittedly, I'm easy to fit (off-the-rack 42 reg; 10D; 16 1/2-34), but I tried on the outfit and would have been pleased to be seen in it in any professional setting (I'm a trial lawyer). I did not try on underwear or socks, but they were available (3 pack of cotton briefs or knit boxers-$7.99; 3 pack of cotton athletic or tee shirts-$9.99; OTC solid color cotton/nylon thin ribbed socks-$3.99/pair).

So, I could have walked out of the store, well dressed from the skin out, for less than $400. Moreover, the same suit was also available in a navy pinstripe, solid navy, and solid charcoal. The shoes were available in black as well as a chestnut or black split toe blucher. And there were a myriad of decent cotton dress shirts in solids, stripes, and plaids priced around $25, silk ties under $20, and silk or cotton pocket squares at under $5 or less. There was also a choice of navy wool blazers at $150 and gray or tan wool trousers under $50. A young man just starting out could, therefore, acquire a more than acceptable professional wardrobe of four suits, a blazer and two pairs of dress pants, four pairs of shoes, and two weeks worth of shirts, ties, socks and underwear for about $2,000. That's in the neighborhood of what many of us view as reasonable for one suit at full price. Yes, the suits are fused, the shoes are corrected grain, the shirts may have combination sleeve lengths, and everything is entirely machine made in Latin American/third world factories. But the materials are real and don't feel bad at all and the styling is relatively timeless, unless the time for truly professional attire has already passed.
post #11 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by JBZ
You may very well be right about this. This is not the path my career has taken, so it's not a world about which I have much knowledge. I'm an attorney, and I worked at a large firm before finding my current job. Some of the most powerful partners at our firm dressed like absolute poop (there, I said it) and didn't care. They also didn't really care how you dressed, as long as you conformed to the basic dress code. However, I can see where a job in an "arts" related field might be different (though I still think the idea of "you'll never get ahead if you keep writing with the Bic" is a pretty silly and extreme one - I've never heard of anyone being passed over for promotion because they didn't have the right pen).

We quite agree, I think. The "writing with the Bic" thing is pretty silly and extreme, I agree, but I also think that someone posing as an expert on the quality (style, materials, workmanship, age, etc.) of different objects would lose credibility with a client if they showed complete ignorance of the quality of their own dress. This might, as I said, be peculiar to the "visual" fields, most typically the clothing industry, but I think showing good judgment in clothes couldn't hurt in any field.

Much of my own wardrobe comes from thrift shops, - I suppose if you like old stuff, it spreads to other areas of life. Particularly when I was a student, I had the time to look properly through everything in the shops. It's not necessarily about price, it's about knowledge and judgment of quality.

On the other hand, I think this is specific to these types of jobs. A lawyer could be almost completely oblivious as to dress, but still be brilliant. One of the best financial analysts (reputedly) around my parts habitually wears black jeans, a chambray shirt and a Donald Duck tie. At work. In a high-flying international brokerage firm. A former flatmate of mine works as a currencies broker, and frequently wears his "England" soccer jersey to work, with jeans and trainers. His colleagues mostly wear suits, or at least jackets and ties. He seems to be doing very well.
post #12 of 32
It depends very much on one's boss, company standards, profession, etc. The only things close to certainties are that wearing obviously low-quality items to an interview will lower (if not kill) chances of getting the job and dressing much worse than other employees will hurt promotion chances. People might not consciously notice that the quality is bad, but they'll have some vague negative impression of the wearer.
post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by JBZ
.... I'm an attorney, and I worked at a large firm before finding my current job. Some of the most powerful partners at our firm dressed like absolute poop (there, I said it) and didn't care. They also didn't really care how you dressed, as long as you conformed to the basic dress code.


Interesting statement, JBZ. I wonder if you could elaborate. I assume these people were powerful because they had the ear of important clients. How many of beauty contests did these powerful partners lose because the potential client said "I want someone who looks like [my preconceived idea of] a sucessful high class lawyer."

How many beauty contests did these powerful partners win because the potential client said of a competing firm, "I don't want to spend $500 per hour to put another Patek on his wrist or feed his out of control bespoke clothing habit."


Bic
post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLibourel
Agreed! My situation is becoming even more dire. The head of the company wants his men to wear clownish logo shirts instead of coat and tie at the major trade shows. (At least in my industry, most of the serious players do wear coat and tie, at the very least, at these events.) I am hoping for an exemption, but if I am forced into this nightmarish procrustes bed, I think I shall send off to Beau Ties for a couple of their largest (3 1/2-inch width, I think) polka dot bowties. If I am forced to dress like a damn clown, I might as well accessorize accordingly!
You sound like someone from Ask Andy, no offence...
post #15 of 32
I am a creative in advertising where anything goes: typically tees, trendy jeans and flip-flops. I usually get flak for dressing like an "account guy" just because I wear a blazer, collared shirt and leather shoes. (Sadly, most people don't appreciate the C&J chelseas.) While dressing outside conventions could be a disadvantage, I think career advancement really should boil down to what you bring to the table: good ideas and good work. Most people don't really care what you wear so long as you deliver these. Of course, this industry is probably totally different than finance or law.
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