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Government work attire

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Bandwagonesque, Oct 26, 2006.

  1. FLMountainMan

    FLMountainMan Senior member

    Aug 18, 2006
    McAnally Flats
    Here is yet another reason why men must keep up their side of the "professional look/dignity" equation: women do. It gauls me to no end to see women busting their humps to maintain family and career, killing themselves in the process, all the while maintaining their decor and elegance, even as the men around them dress more like graduate students than the professionals who used to represent a standard for America. It was that standard that set the tone and character for what we all came to see as professional office decorum.

    It is shameful that women have become the de facto standard-bearers of that decorum, far more than men. If being around well dressed, manicured and sweet smelling women makes us happy, why would we not think they might appreciate the same, even in a professional context?

    Wow, maybe I'm alone, but that is absolutely not the case at my office, which is about 75% female and has a median age of 54. The women usually dress in a simple blouses (essentially the equivalent of polos for men) and slacks, while the men are required to wear ties (which I certainly don't mind). A lot of them are certainly not sweet-smelling either.
  2. NoVaguy

    NoVaguy Senior member

    Oct 15, 2004
    There is a difference here. The SEC is more formal in its dress (at least here in DC judging from my next-door neighbor who is an SEC lawyer). This is also true for certain segments of the DC offices of DoD or ONR, but certainly not, e.g., OPM in PA.

    I'd be leary of telling a new person to wear a suit if he is a low-teen GS-level employee at a location where even three or four levels above him it is not the practice to wear a suit.

    Probably true. I'm at the USPTO. Standard dress is jeans and a t-shirt/polo shirt. Yeah, it applies to the women as well. Depending on my mood, I'll either wear nice dark jeans and a dress shirt, or khakis/cords/wool pants and a dress shirt, and sometimes I'll break out a suit if a lawyer is coming in to discuss a case. But then, I'm well past probationary status.

    That being said, if you're just starting, and are probationary, which usually means you can be fired without cause (and that's for 2 years at the PTO), I would just go with the flow and wear what just below what the boss wears. So I would stand on my advice.
  3. summej2

    summej2 Senior member

    Apr 20, 2006
    Do you disagree? Aren't fear and apprehension (such as being leery) more the traits of the frail and weak than of the one destined to be King?
    Please look at my first post, in which I offered explicit advice. I simply suggested a more moderate version of your dress-to-the-level-you-aspire dictum; one tailored to the office environment he described. In any case, I do believe that over dressing, if perceived as haughtiness, will harm rather than help him. This is true in many other fields: e.g., public-sector law or finance. And, while I have no desire to engage in argumentum ad hominem, realize that I say this based on my own rather positive experiences following such a strategy. Clearly, the SEC is different. Advancing through the hierarchy is difficult, in comparison to a private-sector firm. And, thus, distinguishing one's self through more formal dress may be of more value. I have no doubt, for example, that my neighbor's move to Assistant Chief Litigation Counsel was more hard won than a comparable position in the private sector.
  4. tiecollector

    tiecollector Senior member

    Sep 8, 2006
    I'm young but I have worked a couple relatively high up government jobs in college. I was only an intern and wasn't in charge of anyone but the group of people I worked with had more say than most people.

    There was actually a dress code for the jobs I had with the state of California, must wear long pants and close-toed shoes. Only the bosses wore suits, often without a tie. Some of the older people wore button down collared shirts (almost always short sleeve), tie and blazer.

    If your boss or his boss wears a suit then I would go for the unobtrusive low-profile gig that someone mentioned. That's if you are determined to wear a suit. If it were me I would just wear a shirt and tie, this time of year with a sweater. Maybe collared shirts and a blazer. At jobs I had to dress for I liked the idea of dressing the nicest on Monday, and then toning it down gradually until Friday.

    If you don't wear a suit I think you have more freedom to dress yourself up more. The key though is to make it look like you aren't trying too hard because as someone said, you don't want to look like an empty suit. However, you also don't want to appear like you think (or know) you are too much better than everyone else either.
  5. rabbimark

    rabbimark Well-Known Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    I used to be a Deputy District Attorney in Southern California when I was in my early and mid 20s, and many of us Young Prosecutors were quite competitive with our clothing. Not easy to do on a government salary, let me tell you.

    But we were in court all the time and constantly in front of juries, so there was definitely an expectation that we would be absolutely professional in our attire. Many of the older career guys had given up utterly and just wore whatever old BB or Nordstrom suit they bought ten or twenty years before, but we kept up quite a high standard. The female DDAs even more so.

    Nevertheless, there was also a rule that one couldn't (and shouldn't) be too flamboyant or risk-taking in one's attire. Wearing a blue oxford cloth shirt, for example, would raise an eyebrow unless it was a Friday (non-trial day). Ties were usually Armani, shirts invariably white broadcloth, shoes black cap toes and highly polished. Suits were always conservative, but if you could swing a Hugo Boss or a Hickey Freeman, that would get an approving nod from the Boys.

    Double-cuff was my big sartorial innovation, but with very discrete cufflinks. I had to stop wearing them when a juror remarked after a trial that she liked my links. Anything that was noticeable about my clothing was, I felt, a distraction from the content of my presentation. I wanted to be thought of as professional and well-dressed, but in a way that one couldn't quite put one's finger on exactly why.

    I think the question here in this thread is "to whom are you wishing to communicate?" Because clothing is non-verbal communication, using signs and signals and associations to communicate certain ideas: I am a professional. I have a sense of humor. I can take risks. Etc.

    Are you trying to communicate with the public? With a group of visiting professionals (lawyers, bankers, whatever)? With the supervisors? Think carefully about who you want to reach and try to speak that language.

    The general rule of dressing like your boss' boss is a good one. In my case as a DDA, the boss was the elected District Attorney and his boss was the electorate. So matching their expectations of well-dressed and professional was key.
  6. whynotwearasuit?

    whynotwearasuit? Member

    Sep 23, 2006
    "to thine own self be true"....and be prepared for what follows is what I'd say. I have been with Government service for 14 years. When I started, I didn't own a suit...heck, I had to borrow a sportcoat to attend my interview. When I started, I was the GS-5 step 7 equivalent salary...not a whole lot of $$ to buy suits with, if you get my drift. Now it's 14 years later, and after several slow-in-coming but well deserved promotions, I am a GS-12, and I wear Brioni, Versace, Oxxford, Armani, and Canali; Hugo Boss on the days when I don't feel like hearing all of the comments. It is a fact that many men who live off of casual attire will be jealous, and will make ignorant comments, but I try to be flattered by their snide stares and commentary. I just always try to be prepared and calculate anything I say so I won't be perceived as the "empty suit". I have found throughout my career that some of the upper level managers would often pass by me without uttering a hello when I wore jeans, khakis, loafers, etc, but they always speak when I am attired elegantly. I have surmised that actually, they have never spoken to me...but they always talk to my suits! That said, arrive on time, be good at what you do, and wear what makes you be you!

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