I’ve been a bit of a fashion vlog binge lately. I’m mostly distracting myself from other stressors. It’s been interesting, though, to see how they talk about fashion. There’s a lot of good advice I’ve seen about clothing care and selection. But I keep seeing some concepts played out over and over and that have been bugging me. One such mantra goes something like this:
An investment in your wardrobe is an investment in your career.
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
Build your personal brand to get ahead at work. The first stop is in your appearance.
Translation: Our sponsors would really like you to spend more money on clothes.
When I first graduated college, I had no idea how to dress myself. As opposed to now, of course, when I have at least a half baked idea.
I always technically stayed in the realm of “business casual.” But, at the same time, I made some truly embarrassing clothing choices. Pants rippled atop my shoes and dragged at the heels. Cheap polyester button ups puckered at the bust and quickly discolored in the armpits since I apparently wasn’t aware of the concept of undershirts. I wore tons of unlined itchy wool, not realizing until a year later that I was incredibly allergic (“Oh, that’s why I’ve been getting all these rashes during the winter…”). There were many cheesy asymmetrical collared faux turtle neck tops. It was all kind of a mess.
Flash forward to my first review, though, and you would never have guessed I was a fashion train wreck. I ended up getting a 15% raise, was on track to get a promotion (which happened a year later), and was generally on the good side of the people I was working with. All in my only-scraping-off-at-the-toe faux-leather loafers.
Nowadays, I have things slightly little more together in the clothes department. I plan my wardrobe around simple, quality, and comfortable basics. Silk shirts and slacks are my go-to. I finally have a suit. And I make sure everything fits. On the overall clothing scale I’d rate myself a solid 7/10. Good, but nothing flashy. But between then and now, I’ve noticed no real difference in how I am perceived based on my clothes. Looking at my own style changes and those of my colleagues over the years, I don’t think what we wear has made much of a difference at all.
When I look around at my office, folks usually do the strictly business/business casual thing. Everyone is professional, but nobody stands out as a particularly sharp dresser. It’s not like when I walk downtown, seeing all the finance guys in their custom made skinny-fit grey-blue suits, carrying their empty patent leather briefcases for show. The company wunderkinds, the young directors and rocketship-type upstarts wear the same slightly-too-large trousers as everyone else. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few folks who are a bit more fashion forward, but from the new interns to the CEO, sartorially I’d say we’re probably closer to The Office than Suits.
This is slightly exacerbated by the fact our office (as opposed to the company’s other locations) works mainly in the tech space. It’s pretty common that I’ll show up to a client meeting and be better dressed than they are in their tees and jeans. Frankly, our managers are lucky that I accidentally shrunk most of my old hoodies.
And so, in my day-to-day life, above a certain level of put-togetherness I see pretty much no correlation between style success and business success. Maybe this is true in more creative fields? Or I’m just not high enough in the corporate echelon for this to be an issue? I’m curious:
Have you found that your clothes have affected your career success? What do you wear to work?