Dress for Failure – Did I Cross The Line?

I understand my two posts on fashion might appear to be some elitest take on what we should be doing (ie. supporting status quo, as per the comment in yesterday’s post here).  I am not writing this stuff to show I’m going along with status quo, or bitter or envious, or ignorantly American… and I certainly don’t write it to “remove all joy and personality from dressing for work.”  

The Dress for Failure posts (for men and for women) are not a list of *my* rules.  When I hire someone for JibberJobber, I won’t care if they wear flip flops or pajamas – as I’m in my PJ’s or shorts all the time.  Even after I shower, I get back into snuggly, comfy clothes (because I can).  Sometimes I dress up a little more, from jeans to suit, depending on what I’m doing (today’s a suit day, as I’m presenting to 125 advertising professionals in Salt Lake City).

The main reason I wrote the post on Monday was because I am fashion-challenged, and I’m guessing others are too.  Some people just haven’t ever heard that you should align your shirt line and pants zipper (gig line), and I’m surprised that people still wear white socks with suit pants (except for the creative types, who do it on purpose, but their outfit somehow seems to look good).

Is that lady I didn’t hire better off somewhere else, considering I judged her based on her miniskirt?  I’m sure she is – I don’t deny that.  My point in even bringing her up was this: 

People Judge Us.  All The Time.

If they judge us for who we are, and don’t want to be around us, then screw them.  Judging sucks.  Stereotyping and bigotry and all that other stuff plain sucks.

If you don’t like me because I’m Mexican-American, sorry, that ain’t changing and I’m not ashamed.  If you don’t like me because I live in Utah and you assume I’m Mormon, too bad – I’m not moving just yet.  Believe it or not, I’ve been introduced as “The Mormon” (as opposed to “Jason”)in business settings, even by people who don’t ask what my religion is, but assume everyone who gets on a plane in Utah is Mormon.  And recently I had a phone call with a Baptist who made it very clear that even though Mormons are completely wrong, even farced, we could still talk business.  Wasn’t it big of him to put aside my religious beliefs so he could pick my brain about career stuff?

Bigotry.  Stereotyping.  Judging.  

It’s all around us.

And if I dress like a dork, or completely backwards, and it affects my interview results, or my networking ability, and I’m desparately trying to figure out how to get the paycheck started again, maybe I do need someone to give me a list of 10 things that I may be doing wrong… 10 things that my friends don’t know how to tell me.

These posts weren’t about status quo, and creating a society of me-too dressers.  It was a light-hearted attempt to throw out some ideas to help people who wanted to be helped.  If it rubs you the wrong way, that’s okay.  Go out and dress the way you want… I’m not hoping to take that away at all.

But it *might* have an impact on who you work with, or how you work with them.  If you don’t get a job, or an opportunity, because of how you dress, then it probably is better for you and them.  Especially if you intentionally dressed the way you did (as opposed to me, who would have done it cluelessly).  



9 thoughts on “Dress for Failure – Did I Cross The Line?”

  1. I did not find your post offensive in any way however I am like you, I wear what I am comfortable in when I am at my home office but when I go to work at my part time job or for an interview or meeting, I can not dress comfortably I have to dress professionally.

    We were just having this conversation on a Ryze network that I am on and there was a lady who was pretty offended by what was being said about professional dress. While stereotypes, bigotry, and judging are not right, it happens. That is the type of society that we live in today and it will not change. It has been there ever since the beginning of time. People judge you on the way you talk, the way you dress, the way you run a business, everything. If you want a particular job, you have to play by their rules or you will be passed up. While people may not like it, that is a fact of life.

    Tracy Collins

  2. I remember being 23 and crying because I was utterly depressed and horrified to look at myself in the mirror, wearing boring interview clothes and sporting a boring interview haircut. I thought, “This is the rest of my life, now — all creativity killed.”

    In the course of 20 years since, I’ve discovered that (1) the look you need for an interview is not at all the same you’ll be able to use at work, (2) the only purpose of the job search rituals is to show employers that you can play the game and to land you a few good offers you can pick from, and (3) you can still show tasteful creativity and audacity — on a budget, even! — while dressing appropriately for interviews.

    Don’t lose hope, people! Take Jason’s latest posts for the helpful, humourous caution they are, play by the (admittedly sometimes stupid) job search rules, then get that great job and go do awesome work!

  3. I don’t think you cross the line. A couple of month ago I went to an interview to an IT position. My first professional job after waitressing my way trough college. Thank God I have engineering female friends! She lend me a real suit for the interview and gave me a little coaching on make up and accessories. After the interview, one on the top HR person there, compliment me on my choice of clothes. I know my skills land me the job, but maybe if I went wearing less professional clothes the story will be different. I got the job and went to work in a Business Casual dress code and the first thing I did was google it. This kind of list is useful as a guide.

  4. As the owner of my own small business, I have had to opportunity to interview many potential new employees. Although I interview everyone who has scheduled and interview, those who dress poorly or even “oddly” for interviews have much to overcome. An extremely qualified candidate who dressed “inappropriately” for the interview would seem to be moderately qualified and a moderately qualified candiadate dress appropriately would seem more competent. I think it is important to note that is is not the quality of the clothing but the style. Better to have interview attire from Kmart than non interview attire from Nordstroms.

  5. Status quo: the existing state of affairs. You may or may not like the status quo but that is what it is. You can choose to regard it or not at your peril. Every choice you make says something about you. What you wear, what you read, what TV you watch are all choices you make that show what you like and tell something about you. The manner in which you choose to dress is often the first impression you make. I’m sure you are familiar with the terms focus or focal point. If you desire for the focus to be your intelligence and job savvy then you will make the focal point to be your intelligence and not your body parts. You would not want to purchase a home that was unkempt – badly maintained so why should an employer want to hire your services if you do not present an image of hygiene, care, great attitude, and company values? Jason speaks in his blogs about branding and empowerment, as you are the CEO of YOU. The dress for success code is a part of that branding. You can add your personality through color, design, and style so there is no need to be flagrant in showing your sexuality or your summer beach attire. Most companies choose a level of dress code that is appropriate for their industry. I wouldn’t expect a construction worker in a tux/wedding dress on the job. Dress Codes are all about good manners, good taste, modesty, appropriateness and the Status Quo.

  6. I think those sort of posts are helpful, because I’m not one of those people who looks perfect all the time. My dream wardrobe would be something that is completely “idiot-proof” where I couldn’t screw up if I tried.

    It’s hard for me to believe though that some people are so out of it that they do some of the most stupid errors on those lists. But, people do a lot of things I don’t understand (like skydiving) so I’m not too surprised in the end.

    It’s tough that people judge by appearances, but it’s good that most things they judge by are things people can actually change.

  7. The standard in the office should be based upon your own corporation’s identity and lifestyle.

    If you are working in an advertising agency and do not really follow a dress code, but everyone there looks like they are in a fashion show, it means that the people care that they look good, without even following any certain agenda…clients won’t complain because they appreciate the creativity and independence.

    But on the other hand, if a client comes into a law firm and the attorneys are all wearing jeans and t-shirts that probably isn’t going to be acceptable or do too good for their business.

    There is a time and place for everything and in the business world; it depends on what type of industry you are in.

    There are some rules that are widely accepted notions, such as not wearing white socks with your suit, but many rules can be bent if you are able to pull it off, like wearing brown shoes with a black suit.

    If you are a guy grab a GQ magazine and if you are a gal grab an InStyle. They are both very good resources in choosing fashions in and out of the workplace.

  8. I agree with most of what you’re saying. I just posted
    something similar to what you’re talking about on my blog.

    Here’s part of what I said…

    Unfortunately, workplace fashion can be tricky, as different businesses have different needs. For instance, if you were to work in a clothing store, there is a good chance that you would want to dress trendy, but if you worked in a law office, professional attire may better suit you. Professional fashion consultants are those who spend hours each week reviewing the latest trends in fashion, including workplace fashions.

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