December 22, 2017

Dress for Success

Dress for Success

I run into all kinds of people doing all kinds of jobs as a result of my role at Marcum and in my personal life. Commercial real estate agents, car service drivers, automobile service advisors, airline pilots, waiters, hotel concierges, doormen, and office building managers. And they all have something in common. They wear shirts and ties to work, and in many cases, suits (or uniforms). That’s if they’re men; if they’re women, they are in the equivalent female attire.

Over my years in business, trends have come and gone. The dot-com boom of the late nineties introduced casual dress to the workplace in a big way, only to have it fade away when the bubble burst and the job market softened. While we’re not in another boom of any sort (other than maybe the crypto currency bubble happening now), we are experiencing record low levels of unemployment and a tight labor market. Again, casual dress in the workplace is something everyone thinks is a good idea. It appears that, once again, the pendulum is swinging way too far, before it winds up back in the middle, as it usually does. And businesses are forced (so they think) to react.

One of the new iterations is “dress for your day.” For those of you not familiar, this basically says that if you’re going to be in the office all day, not seeing clients or customers, casual is OK. And one thing’s for certain – everyone’s idea of casual is certainly different, and not necessarily appropriate for the workplace (or anywhere else in some cases.) If you happen to know in advance you’ll be seeing clients, more formal business dress is necessary. I could go into the pros and cons of this, but the main issue I have with it is sometimes you just don’t know in advance how your day is going to go (I certainly don’t), and not being properly dressed may be an impediment to an unexpected opportunity.

I prefer to think about business dress as “dress for your career path.” What this simply means is if you’re in an industry where the person at the top dresses formally each day, and you aspire one day to have that job, well then dress that way. If you don’t aspire to climb the business ladder and you’re satisfied dressing like people in your organization who will never get to the top, dress like them and have reasonable career expectations. You really need to look the part before you get the part.

We shouldn’t have to force people who don’t want to strive for the top job to dress that way, while recognizing the effort and desires of those who want to reach the top and act accordingly, wardrobe included.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m sitting at my desk in our Melville office today (Thursday) in jeans and a sweater doing some administrative work and putting the finishing touches on this column. I’m typically in a suit, shirt and tie, and my idea of Casual Friday is dropping the tie, but since I’m here for a mere two hours today… I guess you could say I shouldn’t be throwing stones…

On another note: Christmas is Monday. To those of you celebrating, Merry Christmas! The Weiners will be heading to South Florida to celebrate Christmas as well as the New Year. From my family to yours, may the holiday season bring you all you wish for and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

This column will be dark over the holidays – look for our next post on January 5, 2018.