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Thread: Staying Dapper(ed) When Your Office Is Not

  1. #31
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    I think a lot of this goes back to if people feel self conscious not dressing like the crowd.

    I've read some research about this topic and there is the suggestion that making friends is easier dressed down, making business contacts dressed up. People are interested in other people that sacrifice aligning with the norm and instead do something different, i.e. the "red sneakers effect." There is also the concept of "enclothed cognition" where people may be better at tasks if they believe they are wearing clothing made for those tasks, e.g. people in suits may negotiate better than people dressed casually.

    As well, humans have a strong instinct to copy each other. I've read some research where toddlers given the same task as chimpanzees would rather copy an example of doing a puzzle wrong than do it right and get the reward; chimpanzees had no such copycat drive when rewards were involved. If this is accurate across our species, I think it explains a bit about why people feel instinctually compelled to be just like each other in business even if there is an advantage in being different, from how companies offer value right down to dress norms.

    My suggestion would be do what feels like it will help you get the job done. If there is something you can do as little as putting on a jacket to differentiate yourself, do it.

    (I admittedly don't have much input on business casual office wear as I work from home and dress in a suit for presentations and conferences.)

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by facelessghost View Post
    Not a bad thing to convey effort, but if you do it this way there's a significant risk you just look out of touch.

    I've gone through this. I'm a corporate attorney working in a nominally business casual* office, and I started reading Dappered, Put This On, etc. about the time I started here back in 2013. And I went through the phase of trying to look sharp by dressing at the high end of the formality spectrum, until I realized that in my particular practice, everyone was dressing more casual than business casual. Now I hang out at the middle to bottom end of the formality spectrum and focus (with mixed results) on the details. I'm much happier with this approach, and I more aligned with the office culture.

    *Does anyone else think "business casual" is like "middle class," in thatmost people assume it applies to them, no matter what their reality?
    I think that we may be interpreting "one level" differently. I'm referring to (for example) wool slacks instead of chinos, wearing a casual sports coat over your shirt+slacks instead of a fleece, etc. I also work at a big law firm that doesn't have a particularly formal dress code - I can't imagine anyone thinking "That guy's wearing a sports coat to work? What a pretentious douche!" whereas that would be a pretty natural reaction if, say, a junior associate showed up wearing a suit and tie every day to do doc review.

    Also, it seems paradoxical that being towards the high end of your office's spectrum would make you look out of touch, since that implies a significant number of your peers are dressing similarly. Obviously it also depends on the culture of your workplace, where you fall in the pecking order, etc.

  3. #33
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    I think there are different levels of casualness at different offices, but you can still dress well within that level. If it's a business casual office and everyone is wearing chinos and polos, you can do the same and still look better than most of the office by wearing better-fitting and better-quality chinos and polos. I wouldn't say I dress more formally than anyone at my office, but I generally look better because I understand fit, pattern, and fabric better.

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