In the past, all you needed to do to find out a person’s rank in the office was to look around and see what they were wearing.
That’s no longer the case, argues menswear expert G. Bruce Boyer in “True Style: The History & Principles of Classic Menswear.”
“There was no question about Louis XIV’s status when he walked into the room,” Boyer writes. “We still want our leaders to look like leaders … Yet strangely enough, today the office help is what many professionals look like, no matter their actual position in the pecking order.”
In the last century or so, the office dress trend has moved away from the tailored and professional and towards the comfortable. This has led to an emphasis on a casual wardrobe, and the suit and tie have been nearly phased out altogether.
People of every rank are often dressed similarly casually, and rank is now nearly indistinguishable.
This poses an interesting problem for the modern-day worker, says Boyer. Without the standard formal business dress, how should office workers dress to be taken seriously in the office?
“In the corporate setting … dressing is a career tool, a critically important statement of who we are and where we want to be,” Boyer writes.
Clothes talk. Your appearance conveys what groups you belong to to those you meet, in a way similar to language. If you want to be seen as a forward-moving professional, you need to be aware of what your clothing is saying.
What your clothing is saying should be suitable for the audience (your co-workers), the occasion (work), and the purpose (getting work done), and not be confusing or contradictory in any way. To do this, ask yourself which group you wish to be seen as a member of in the office, identify what it would take to dress that way, and do so.
Basically, if you want to be taken seriously in the office, a T-shirt and jeans isn’t going to cut it. You need to dress the part, too.