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Do you care how your coworkers dress? Does the decline of formality of dress bother you?

post #1 of 130
Thread Starter 
I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about how casual America has become and the leniency towards how one dresses, especially in the workplace. The Casual nature of corporate America bothers him greatly. He claims that people work harder, feel confident, and there is some sort of referencing hard work with business formal clothing. Essentially looking professional makes one act that way and preform better. Kind of a psychology.

While, I, myself like to dress more formally than most people I couldn't care less what other people wear. Style is a hobby and interest for me, completely separate from work, however it just happens to work out in my day job. Having the guy across the desk from me wearing a suit vs. polo and chinos it doesn't affect my life at all as long as we can do business. Does a lack of formality say something about them in the workplace? Maybe. I think it depends. Perfunctory bothers me, which is how I feel most people would dress if they had to do something they didn't want to do. Also, I feel people do better work and have a better morale if they are comfortable, whether that be in a suit, or otherwise. Ultimately it is more about the image you want to project in the workplace and less about your work. Do you want to climb the ladder, or do you just want to do your job, get a paycheck and that's it? People's perception is different and it is important to be aware of that.

How about you? Do you care what people at work wear? Does it matter? Why, or why not?
post #2 of 130
Thread Starter 
Holdfast, I am expecting an essay from you, btw. wink.gif
post #3 of 130
I work in software development so the dress code here is... non-existent. Most of the guys who work here wear jeans and a button up and a large handful wear cargo shorts and band tshirts. It really doesn't bother me the way people dress here as I am usually the one to over-dress to everything. I'm used to it and it makes me stand out a bit more, even if all I do is sit at my desk and write code.

We don't have any client interaction though, so I guess it's ok for us to dress the way we do.
post #4 of 130
I don't care how my co-workers dress. Most of them look pretty disheveled and the dudes that do put up an effort just end up looking like misguided hipsters. The one thing that annoys me is that I cannot even wear a SC into the office without people asking if I'm interviewing somewhere. It's become such an annoyance that I've started wearing SCs only when clients are in the office.

I haven't bowed to the wave of "business casual" just yet. I like to think I still dress well, if not casually well. However, at least in my office, formality is more an invite for annoyance than a reflection of ambition or business prowess.
post #5 of 130
I'm not particularly bothered by business casual in my workplace and seeing a fair amount of polo shirts and chinos in the office. I too dress more formally on average than most where I work, though I do not wear a jacket or tie everyday (I probably would if I was a bit more senior and had more money to spend on suits to bolster my wardrobe, though). My general theory on dress is that outside of the SF world, most people do not prioritize clothes and thus are somewhat lazy when it comes to what they put on in the morning. I think the same laziness would probably apply if they had to wear a collared shirt in a business casual setting or a suit and tie in a business formal setting. To the extent I care, I'm much more likely to be bothered by someone wearing a suit that doesn't fit or some awful tie than by anything style attrocities with more casual clothes. My expectations for more casual attire from most people are so low that I can't be bothered to care if it fits, looks good, etc. It's almost a pleasant surprise when someone wears more casual clothing well.

I do agree that people may do better work when they feel comfortable but I also think there's a weird cultural bias here in the U.S. about dressing up. Most people consider dressing up a chore and don't want to spend money / put in effort. If you're wearing an outfit that doesn't fit or has other issues, of course you're going to be uncomfortable. Some may have bad memories of borrowing a parent's jacket and having it not fit right or feel uncomfortable and just take that with them. Who knows really. Objectively, I don't think a nice pair of medium grey flannel trousers are any more uncomfortable than chinos or jeans. I can see how someone who likes freedom of motion may not love ties, but a decent dress shirt sans tie with one button undone, come on. If anything, I'm more bothered by the ill informed attitudes people have towards nicer clothes (it's uncomfortable, etc.) than the general lack of formality in the office.
post #6 of 130

I am by far the most formal dresser at my place of employment (by formal I mean slacks, odd jacket/blazer, and tie). I'm also very towards the bottom in the org chart...but as one of two white people, I can sort of do whatever I want; we basically don't have any standards applied to us. We're a research facility with a number of PhDs (maybe 25-40%). My boss' boss, a former University of Chicago econ professor, often wears flannel shirts tucked into cotton slacks with a puffer vest. His boss (2nd highest in the institute) is one of the more formal dressers in the sense that he wears odd jackets. Nobody wears ties on days without meetings except for me. The female PhD's are generally better dressed than the male PhD's; the non-PhD researchers skew the opposite direction with the males dressing slightly better than the females (sweaters, jeans, and Uggs). I could probably wear a button down (untucked) with jeans without raising any eyebrows.


I feel comfortable overdressing because it's so obvious that I simply love clothes, that I am not trying to dress above my station (which is why I'll only wear suits on days I need to). This was not the case at a previous, more corporate, environment here. I was once mildly chastised for wearing a light blue shirt rather than a white one.

post #7 of 130
Originally Posted by archibaldleach View Post

If anything, I'm more bothered by the ill informed attitudes people have towards nicer clothes (it's uncomfortable, etc.) than the general lack of formality in the office.

One of my roommates goes home at lunch everyday to change out of his business casual rig into basketball shorts and a t-shirt for an hour or so while he eats. Says he'd go crazy if he had to stay "dressed up" (chinos, loafers, button-down and maybe a sweater) all day. I don't get it.
post #8 of 130
I work in Finance but the office is business casual. Most of the men wear chinos and ill fitting button downs. My wardrobe is nice, but far from what some have here. I wear MTM shirts, sport coats, and ties.

I had to deal with being asked if I'm going on job interviews and such for the first couple weeks I made the switch but I haven't heard anything in a long time so they must now think I'm either the world's worst job interviewer or I simply decided to dress a little nicer.

As for caring what others wear? Eh ... I'm selective with that. If there is an important meeting or a client visit I do find myself feeling a little embarrassed for them. Otherwise I'm completely indifferent day in and day out.
post #9 of 130
Business casual dress code, and most people dress very poorly, cheap OCBD's and slacks that don't fit well, and crap shoes. I like that though, because it allows me stand out in a good way without having to spend a ton of money.

BB shirts, nice slacks, AE shoes = top 5% best dressed in my office.

Of course there are a few young guys who go over the top and wear Sc's, ties, pocket squares, etc. but for me I don't need to stand out that much.

Even the partners here who do very well look like they buy their dress shirts from Macy's or worse.
post #10 of 130
I work in a business casual environment, basically polos, chinos, and the ocassional button down. Even so, plenty of tee shirts, hoodies and jeans. I do sometimes worry about the image that it conveys to clients when they visit, but ultimately, I take the OP's perspective.

It is interesting when employees complain about not being taken seriously. I guess they have not realized that your appearance affects the perspective of those around you, consciously or unconsciously confused.gif
post #11 of 130
I'm afflicted with serious second-order vanity.
I'll sit here and claim that I don't care at all what other people wear, and what matters is what's in their heart, or whether they're good at their job, and so forth.
But in reality, I care more than I'd like to admit.
In fact, this little revelation here that I've made to you is just another layer of my vanity. I want you to like me for being so candid.
post #12 of 130
Originally Posted by patrickBOOTH View Post

Holdfast, I am expecting an essay from you, btw. wink.gif


I'm tired, so you'll have to make do with the Cliff Notes instead... :)


- I like it when someone else takes care of their appearance & dresses according to an aesthetic I like. It makes my day prettier, and I like that.

- But I don't actually care when people do not. If you like, the extent I care about other people's dress goes from zero up. No negative numbers.

- I think dress can affect behaviour - for better and for worse - but it's a lot more complex to get right than simply putting everyone in a smart suit & tie. It's a dynamic process between personal & cultural expectations of your role and how individuals see themselves within those two frameworks.

- Personally I don't like looking like a slob in public situations (at home is different!), so my ability to work would be adversely impacted by dressing like a slob for it. I can actually give a concrete example of this: I once agreed to urgently attend an assessment at a moment's notice early in the morning (I can pick & choose when I work, and normally don't take those jobs) and didn't have a chance to smarten up for it. I was ratty with my colleagues and while I still did my job correctly, I felt bad enough about how I behaved that, after I went home & got ready properly, I went back bearing both apologetic words and presents.


Random but related story:


- one of the institutions I sometimes work within recently reintroduced a uniform for its nursing staff. There were seriously mixed & strong opinions from staff about it. Some liked the idea of identifying with a clear role, others worried it would create an artificial barrier. There were many other issues on both sides of the debate. On balance, I think a majority now appreciate the simplicity of the uniform and I think it makes life much easier for the clients. This is in a setting with quite confused clients, but I think would be equally valid in other settings too.

- I mention this because uniforms are a concretisation of the idea that clothes are part of creating a clear role and group identity. This harks directly back to the point I made above about what you choose to wear being a dynamic and complex process. You can read between the lines to extend the argument in both directions in fairly self-evident ways.

post #13 of 130
Thread Starter 
Just a post to somewhat guide the responses: The intent of this thread isn't what you wear to work and how it compares to everybody else. Many people have hangups about dressing better than co-workers, which is a confidence conversation in its own. However, do you think everybody should be dressed up for work? How can it help/hurt a company, or a culture to have everybody dressed as opposed leniency?
post #14 of 130
I work in energy for a very large company in a mid-sized city. My work sometimes requires meetings with other companies, government agencies, regulators and our senior executives. Given my job, I can wear anything I want. Mon-Thu it is suit and tie or jacket and tie. On Friday's I can wear a suit or jeans and a plaid shirt with cowboy boots (and have). I wore a suit and tie my first day working after university almost 30 years ago and have worn a suit and tie since. I've seen the coming of business casual and largley ignored it (except for the odd Friday). Why do I wear a suit/tie when others don't? History, stubborness, liking the tradition. I also feel more professional. To be honest, I also think pulling off a business casual look that I like is much, much harder than a suit/tie. It would also require me to increase my wardrobe dramatically (or switch over time in any event).

Most people below senior manager rank wear chinos/polos or dress pants/dress shirt (no tie) every day. Being well dressed would be a two-piece suit, dress shirt, no tie - that would be for most people working white collar jobs. Ties are only worn by lawyers, bankers and external accountants and consultants. Even our senior executives go tie-less most days (except the CEO). Shoes are unpolished Aldos/Kenneth Cole/Cole Haan.

Do I care? No. Do I feel out of place being the only in a tine for some meetings? No. Do I think less of my co-workers for not dressing more formally? No. Do I think there is a correlation between work productivity and attire? Maybe a little. There is, I think, a proven psychological relationship between what one wears and how one feels. If there is no difference in how you dress for work versus taking your kid to football practice there is no associated mental state change. Does this really affect creativity/producitvity at work? Maybe - but not enough for me to worry. The only thing that really bothers me is untucked dress shirts. I think that is a casual look that just seems sloppy.

edit: missed your request not to discuss own style of dress but think it helpful to provide context for my answer.

As to whether it affects culture - I think it does but not necessarily in a negative way. Have a more formal dress code will create a more formal culture but I don't see that it would affect a company's bottom line. Similarly, some IT firms require same collar polo/chinos as a uniform to encourage conformity and I doubt this affects productivity to any measureable extent. Creative firms allow more variation in dress to project a creative air but doubt it affects real creativity. Maybe somone can quote a study which disproves me?
post #15 of 130

I work in a capacity that requires suits in many circumstances. We represent not only our company, but also U.S. interests abroad so image is extremely important. Many of our employees have a good grounding in how to dress presentably. However there are some elements who come into this environment clueless. They look sloppy. I'm not going to say it upsets me to see that, but it does make me stop and think about how they might look to host nation residents. In that sense I suppose it's less a matter of making us feel professional as it is making everyone ELSE feel that we are professional. And of course actually being professional. So I guess it's less a matter of formality than it is simply that a specific level of formality is required and many simply don't know how to achieve it well, if at all. I can say this, however, several co workers have approached me for advice on how to dress better. Not that I am an authority on anything, but apparently I look better than most at least.

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