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I was having a conversation with an online Brit friend about how to dress for work. I mention the "online" part because I've never seen her workplace or how she really dresses for work, but let's just say that things are different in Portland than in the UK.
I have a pretty straight-forward, no bullshit idea about business, or as I like to say, this stuff is complicated enough, we don't have to make it any more complicated. The whole reason people dressed up for work to begin with was because the rich people owned the companies... you want to fit in with the folks in the office, you dress better than on the factory floor.
Okay, over simplification, but you get the idea. It's when I realized that the only people I saw wearing suits in downtown Portland were lawyers and suit salesmen that I knew "dressing for work" had become the equivalent of the brown polyester outfit at a fast food chain -- it's a uniform, and if you're forced to wear a tie then you're not in control of your own destiny.
So, our work culture has dressed down further and further until you get people who work for me in cargo shorts, flip flops and T-shirts with obscene messages on them (granted, I wear cargo shorts and sandals to work, but I don't think I own an obscene T-shirt anymore). You get up, get to work, sit at a desk all day, go home -- hardly a job with the kind interaction that requires the services of a dry cleaner.
Funny thing, though, I've noticed a swing towards dressing better. I don't know if this is partly because of the economy and people are dressing to say, "I'm professional, please don't fire me" or if it's just a reaction to too many T-shirts suggesting what you can do with a drunk woman at a rock concert.
What I'm realizing, despite holding onto my no-bullshit management style, is that some of the things that we perceive as bullshit (like dressing for work) sometimes swing so far in the other direction that the anti-bullshit becomes bullshit itself. Kind of like that sentence... we get so caught up fighting something that the fight becomes a muddled mess.
Kristen: Re: Dressing for Work
I actually wrote a blog akin to this last year:
Anyone following the Debrahlee Lorenzana case is tuned in to this issue. I guess it amounts to: how do you want professionals to perceive you? Remember that visual perceptions make a greater impression than ability until you are a known quantity.