A Rare Opportunity

My previous job had a rather lax dress code. I showed up every day in jeans and a collared shirt, but I could have just as well been dressed to go to the park. I was kind of done with it towards the end, but I had already set the expectation that this was how I dressed at work. Once you’ve set that expectation, changing is near-impossible. You either very sneakily start upping your standards over the course of weeks, or you do it all at once.

Well, this new job gave me the opportunity to start fresh. Yeah, I could continue with jeans and casual shirts if I wanted to and blend right in, but this was a chance to bring an A game. Now I’m sporting suit pants and a button-down shirt every day, maybe occasionally mixed up with khakis or something similar. And I feel great.

So why do it? First off, I think it immediately sets the tone. By dressing well, I’m sending a message that I’m taking this job seriously to both co-workers and superiors. Second, it means that I’m going to feel and act more confident. This is critical since I’m learning a new product and new processes with the expectation to be ready to go quickly. Finally, it influences my behavior and makes me act the part. By dressing smartly, I feel like I’ll act much more calmly and professionally.

So what do you think? Are you dying for your inner “Sharp-Dressed Man” to pop on out? What keeps you from doing so?

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4 Responses

  1. The time cost and discomfort of dressing up keeps me from dressing up most of the time. I hate wearing synthetic materials, it makes my skin feel like it’s suffocating. If I could find dressy clothes that were all natural fiber I think I would dress up more.

  2. Joshua Hansen says:

    I remember the day our COO resigned at my current job. He was the last holdout in maintaining a real dress code (“business casual” was the rule). I had already made it a point to violate dress code on a regular basis, but as soon as he was gone… that was it. It’s been jeans and t-shirts since. I detest dressing up to work.

    Mind you, I do like dressing up for formal occasions and just got a new suit. However, to work? If I can help it, I’ll help it!

    However, how you choose to dress is an outward reflection of a lot of how you feel about yourself and what you want to present. In your situation you’re sending a statement to yourself as well as the people around you. It’s actually the same reason I prefer jeans and a t-shirt (usually something related to sports or novelty). That’s the image I want to project. As a developer I actually WANT the socially inept tag on me. It tempers expectations.

    Ultimately, as a guy who spends his day at a desk dealing with machines WAY more than people, I want to be comfortable and I don’t want to feel controlled. Office clothing has always represented “control” to me, which is probably why I hate it.

    I think it’s a good decision on your part. The anarchist in me just happens to hate collars and khakis!

  3. Jesse,

    Proud of you for going this route. It is not one I personally would have chosen. I don’t like dress codes. I never have. I feel no more confident in a suit than I do in shorts and sandals. For some, this is simply not the case. As far as I’m concerned, confidence, professionalism, and quality of work are all personal traits that have everything to do with the inner-self and little — if nothing — to do with external appearances.

    I have always found dress codes to be oppressive. To me, they are really more about people in authority flaunting their prestige or demonstrating their power over their subordinates.

    IMHO — the reason that one would feel confident dressed up as opposed to in jeans and a T-shirt is because we are conditioned by the business world to believe that we are somehow sub-par if we don’t meet this arbitrarily decided upon standard. I would reiterate. Professionalism and confidence are character traits. They have nothing to do with appearance. The quality of one’s work; their interaction with others;in short their character itself — these things above all — should be the determining factor of self-worth and confidence.

    That said… from a realistic standpoint many of us have been conditioned to believe that we are more confident are that we are able to perform better when dressed a certain way. There is a psychological impact to this. As a consequence, many people may truly perform better when well-dressed.

    Personally? I’d rather not work in an environment which imposes a standard inconsistent with my personality. If my character and professionalism won’t suffice to send the proper message; if who I am must be suppressed in order to ‘fit in’ to a corporate culture, then perhaps I’d be better suited to a job elsewhere.

    However, hats off to those that feel more comfortable in suits and ties. Just not who I am.

  4. Aunt Greta says:

    Dressing professionally DOES make you feel and look more professional. It gives you a little more self-confidence. And they do say to dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

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