if everyone dresses casually at my new job, can I still wear a suit and tie?

A reader writes:

I’ve been interviewed by a company that has a very interesting role which I think would help develop me further and also grow in my career. Assuming I get the role and I start with them, would it be an issue if I don’t align myself to their dress code right away? I noticed that most of the employees wear casual, but I’ve been wearing shirts and ties (since I work for a big bank) over the years and admittedly have not been able to update my casual wardrobe. Would that create an issue with potential coworkers or direct reports? The role I’m applying for is a senior manager anyway. What do you think?

In general, if an office has a pretty specific dress code, it’s good to fit into it. Of course, going more formal is generally better than going less formal, but it’s still not ideal.

Clothes send signals. In this case, you risk signaling “I’m not quite a part of this team,” “I’m removed from the rest of you,” or even “I’m not quite a culture fit.”

At least lose the tie.

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. EngineerGirl

    Definitely lose the jacket and tie. On Fridays wear a polo shirt. You could even roll up your sleeves (every president does it when they show up for disaster relief tours). Maybe wear a check shirt instead of a solid one. It doesn’t take much to dress down.

    1. Sascha

      Yeah, a lot of those button up shirts can be worn with khakis or jeans and look just fine in a casual environment.

      1. TotesMaGoats

        I really love a nice button-down shirt and dark wash jeans on a guy. It’s casual but so put together. My husband can wear jeans and tshirts to work. I enjoy the days when he has to “dress up” and wear a polo or button down.

  2. PEBCAK

    Yeah, I don’t think you need to be wearing the latest trends in “business casual” as shown by J. Crew and Banana Republic or whatever. Just take off your tie and jacket. Viola!

    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      +1

      Didn’t Alison once describe “business casual” as “wearing whatever you’d wear for ‘business’, minus the jacket”? This is a perfect example. FWIW, I wish more people would interpret “business casual” in this way . . . or at least not interpret it as wearing khakis (“Business!”) with flip flops (“Casual!”).

      1. Maile

        Here in Honolulu, men wear aloha shirts for business wear – NOT the crazy-colored tacky tourist kind, but usually in subtle colors in one color family or tone. It looks very professional and put together. You’d look ridiculous to wear a suit and tie :)

      2. JAL

        My employer is truly casual, even though the handbook says “business casual”. You can get away with wearing jeans every day. They care if you look polished and put together, but you would look totally wearing a suit.

      3. snuck

        And as a senior manager having a suit jacket in the office isn’t a bad idea… you never know when you’ll need to dress up a little.

        The other thought I have is that if you are senior management and it’s just a matter of not having the right clothes in your wardrobe then if you get the job offer grab your most critical eyed friend and go out and shop – even if it’s just for a couple of shirts and two pairs of chinos… because you are (I assume) earning enough (even if you haven’t got it yet) to be able to afford that – and to suggest that you can’t afford a few shirts etc is odd. Three shirts, two pairs of trousers, make them mix and match, even better if they match with a few of your existing work wardrobe items.

      4. Fact & Fiction

        At my new job, they _call_ it business casual but we can wear jeans. So I kind of think of it as business up top, party on bottom — er I mean casual on bottom. (Sorry for the very bad mullet pun.)

  3. CTO

    If you show up wildly overdressed on your first day, that will give the wrong impression. Could you go partway by wearing your current button-down shirts but with jeans or khakis (no jacket, no tie)? If cost is the issue, perhaps getting just a few casual pants and shirts that you can mix in with your current wardrobe will get you by for a while.

    If the bigger issue is not having the time to go shopping, start now! Buy a few key items and hang on to them until you know if you have the job or not. If you don’t get it, just return what you’ve bought. But that’ll save you a frenzied shopping trip the day before you start.

      1. Noah

        Trunk Club is awesome, but definitely not inexpensive. I love the things the stylists pick out and always want to keep most of the box, but my finances dictate otherwise. It is nice to actually speak with a person and then have that person help you pick out clothing though. If nothing else my stylist has pushed me into looking at things I would’ve never picked up on my own.

      2. Bea W

        Trying this. Maybe there is someone out there who can find me age-appropriate work pants that fit. If not, I am fashion impaired anyhow and just have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to anything more complicated than jeans and t-shirts.

        1. Natalie

          Getting pants that fit well is a royal pain. I have my fingers crossed that the ones I found won’t be discontinued or redesigned.

          If you’ve tried a lot of brands with no success, maybe tailoring would be an option? It can seem expensive but might be worthwhile if it fits in your budget.

      3. AmyNYC

        I tried StitchFix and was SO disappointed. I said I was looking for work clothes (business casual) and a spring/fall jacket and I liked the moto style jackets I’ve been seeing everywhere. They sent me black jeggings, a jean jacket and three polyester shirts that would look at home at a club.

    1. Another CTO

      Another CTO here. Try to blend in so the team feels at ease working with you. I work in SF and wear jeans and a shirt to work. When I go to Tokyo to meet with partners I wear a full suit. In China something in between.

  4. TotesMaGoats

    Agreed with AAM. Ditch the tie until you can buy some more casual slacks and shirts. Although any patterned button-downed shirts you may have with more casual slacks would probably fit the bill. Just pop that top button. My boss will wear a button down shirt without a tie but button that top button. It always makes me feel really uncomfortable for his sake. I can’t stand having stuff up against my throat like that. Also, more casual shoes might be a way to tone down your look without the time it takes to shop for a whole new wardrobe.

  5. Juni

    Dude, he’s not asking if he can just wear shirts and ties to work and be more formal than everyone because he’d rather, he’s asking if it’s okay to not wear casual right away because he doesn’t have the clothing yet. YES. It’s okay to do that. Ask a few friends advice for how to restyle what you have to get you through the gap before you buy some new clothes that fit the dress code better. Advice upthread is solid – ditch the tie, leave the top button of your shirt unbuttoned. Roll the sleeves a few times. Gradually work in more casual things until you’ve assimilated into the workplace culture. One of the first things men can do to dress down their business casual attire is swap out dressy shoes for nice sneakers.

    1. M-C

      But it’s not OK to do that. Showing up for a new job in a suit and tie, in an office that patently doesn’t do that, screams either snooty or clueless, or both, but nothing good. I don’t care if that’s all he wears now at the bank. Surely he has something he wears now outside of work? Wear that. Or follow everyone’s good advice and ditch the jacket and tie. And make sure to wear a non-matching jacket if it’s already jacket weather where you live.

      1. LV

        I’m actually really surprised by how strongly some of the commenters here feel about this issue. I’m in a casual office so I usually wear jeans, but nobody cares if I wear a suit or a nice dress instead. Of all the coworker behaviours that one can object to, “he wears nicer-than-average clothes!” seems like a silly choice. Unless he’s bragging about his designer wardrobe or how much his clothes cost… so what if he wears a tie?

        1. LisaLisa

          Yes, but going with the flow most days and dressing up once and a while is pretty different than starting off on a totally different dress level than the rest of the team.

          1. LBK

            Yes, agreed. Women can play a little more with the level of formality of their outfits without it looking too odd (as long as you’re not, like, wearing a prom dress to the office). A dress can be fairly casual depending on the material, the accessories, your hairstyle, your shoes, etc. It’s really hard to dress down a tie – it will always connote a certain level of formality except in very selective settings where you can get away with one of those mixed level outfits where you have a tie and jeans, and those don’t play well in many places.

            1. Katrina

              I want to go get another job now so I can show up the first day in a prom dress. I’ll wear a GoPro and link the video.

              1. LBK

                Ha, only if you also wear a tiara and sash like you won Prom Queen. Maybe deliver a tearful acceptance speech at lunch.

            2. Koko

              So true. Our office is so laidback that if I wear a blazer to work, even with JEANS, I’ve been asked, “You’re not interviewing for another job are you?” with a panic-stricken, kidding-not-kidding-seriously-tell-us-if-you’re-leaving-don’t-leave facial expression.

              But if I wear a nice dress I get either, “You look nice today!” or “Do you have special plans after work?”

          2. INTP

            Good point on gender. In turn, women are less likely to get away with shorts and sneakers even when men in the same office regularly wear these.

      2. Juni

        He isn’t in a suit and tie, he’s in a shirt and tie. BIG difference. He can lose the tie and be fine unbuttoning his top button and rolling his sleeves until he buys more clothes. No one will care! And if someone says something, it’s easy to say, “I used to wear a suit every day, give me another couple of weeks to loosen up!”

        1. JAL

          I’m failing to see how the OP doesn’t own any jeans that are in presentable condition. I thought that was pretty much a staple of the American wardrobe.

          1. Koko

            And if he doesn’t, jeans are one of the easiest things to expand a wardrobe with. Two pairs can be reworn all week long and washed at the weekend, and you can probably get them for under $20/pair in under 20 minutes if you go to a budget friendly store like Target, Marshalls, etc.

          2. LibrarianJ

            Maybe the OP is seeing different levels of presentable? I own several pairs of jeans that are presentable under most circumstances — a little worn in the thighs and a little frayed at the hems — but I’d be hesitant to wear them to work (my first (retail) boss wouldn’t allow frayed jeans at work, so I guess maybe I’m still expecting him to show up and give me a lecture!). When we had a ‘jeans’ day here I ended up having to go out and buy a brand new, unfrayed pair that I reserve only for work or when I’m traveling for conferences — it had been years since I’d worn jeans for work so I didn’t have any that were in such nice condition anymore.

          3. spinetingler

            I don’t own jeans, and haven’t for almost two decades. I simply don’t like the feel/weight. I’m much more comfortable in cotton/chinos/linen.

            I started my current job 14 years ago – it’s an environment where it’s business casual all of the time (but more business in that jeans are discouraged). I moved into this field after working for the federal gov’t – which meant that my work wardrobe consisted almost entirely of dark suits and polished shoes. It probably took me six months to develop a business casual wardrobe and ditch the suits – primarily because, despite a slightly higher salary, I was paying medical bill from the previous year’s bout with cancer and really didn’t have the spare change to go out and immediately replace a functional wardrobe.

            Now, OTOH, I almost exclusively wear the sort of shirts that Charlie Sheen wore on Two and a Half Men. Many of them I buy at Goodwill.

    2. The Other Dawn

      Totally agree Juni. I’m someone who has totally casual and totally dressy clothing. If i had to do business casual I’d be screwed. The reason is that I’m a very tall woman and was very overweight to boot. I’m sure I could find stuff that’s in between but it wasn’t easy or cheap. At all. Designers think that tall women are also thin and that overweight women are all short. Thus, nicer pants, not jeans, were always a big problem. It was just easier to buy dresses and skirts. So anyway I’d be in the same situation as OP if I suddenly had to work in a business casual office.

      1. Anx

        I’m a woman and I have a much easier time dressing for interviews in a formal environment than a more casual one and have plenty of pencil skirts but not many cardigans or blouses.

        My issue isn’t my size but not having a lot of money. I have old clothes from being a student and some dressier things from student work events (meetings with high-up uni admins and state officials), but when I worked as I was in a freshman dorm one day, an elementary school playground another, and a state house another.

        I do try to pick up a pair of slacks at consignment stores. They tend to hold up better than the casual options and it seems a lot of people purge old work clothes. Being a standard size helps for that

      2. Chinook

        “Thus, nicer pants, not jeans, were always a big problem. It was just easier to buy dresses and skirts. So anyway I’d be in the same situation as OP if I suddenly had to work in a business casual office”

        I can relate to this. I actually enjoy the summer because I can wear dresses all the time without freezing essential body parts with the draft. I have more casual ones for wearing at home, walking the dog and even cleaning house (I have even been known to play touch football in one when killing time). When someone pointed out on a casual Friday that I could wear jeans, I countered that I like wearing dresses. Since then, nobody has said anything.

      3. Tinker

        Yeah, I feel you on this.

        My current office averages around mountain west business casual, and I’ve found that I can look damn good in jeans and a collared shirt. I could get by in the sort of business casual office that just has a peculiar allergy to blue denim and doesn’t mind other pants that have a similar fit and texture. At the higher levels of business casual I’m kind of screwed, because the female mode seems to center on some sort of bizarre alchemy involving light layers that may be heavily patterned and jewelry in striking shapes (I like the look on other people, but I don’t understand it at all) and the male mode seems to center on less-textured fabric that makes me look like a haggard dyke (I like the look on other people, but I don’t care for it on me). For business formal, aside from the expense involved, in most places I suspect I could get by awesomely by fully unleashing the DAPPER CANNON that is latent within my soul, but a business casual office might not have the fortitude to gaze upon such wonder.

        Secretly, I suspect that business casual is kind of the duck-billed platypus of formality levels.

        1. madge

          “Secretly, I suspect that business casual is kind of the duck-billed platypus of formality levels.”

          This needs to be included in dress codes everywhere.

        2. cuppa

          I have a lot of issues with business casual, too. Our workplace is “business casual” meaning no jeans or athletic shirts. I’m not a big fan of khakis on myself (I’m bottom heavy and wearing light pants just does not work on me), so I end up wearing dress pants or dresses every day, which could really pass for more business attire. It doesn’t help that I’m a fan of clean lines and darker colors, so the clothes I naturally gravitate to tend to look more formal to begin with. I’ve never really felt out of place or out of touch, but now I’m second guessing myself….

          1. MommaTRex

            The prom dress with acceptance speech imagery got me started giggling, but “bizarre alchemy” had me laughing so hard, my boss came in to check on me.

      4. Bea W

        Same here, but the opposite body type – and I’m not even short – I’m average height, but nice pants are either too big around the waist or too long. I really hate wearing dresses except when the weather is too hot for pants. I really hate pencil skirts, not enough room to move without feeling constricted.

    3. Artemesia

      It is not okay – he can get by by buying a pair of decent jeans (which he probably already has) and a couple of pair of khakis and wearing his regular shirts without a tie and with sleeves rolled — or even a suitjacket and tieless shirt with jeans — with the jacket coming off when he gets to work.

      First impressions are critical — show up the first week in suit and tie and you will always be the ‘clueless guy, can you believe he wore a suit and tie’ or the ‘too good for the rest of us guy.’ Those first week impressions can be indelible. Having variety is not as important as not being wildly out of place. Two pair of pants and using the old shirts the first week but adapting can get him through until he can hit the stores and lay in a weeks worth of casual.

    4. Fabulously Anonymous

      I agree Juni. He can create casual outfits out of his existing wardrobe by removing the tie and rolling up the sleeves on the shirts. If he owns jeans and sweaters, wear those mixed with dress shirts and dress pants. IMO, it’s not necessary to go out and spend money on ten pairs of jeans and t-shirts.

    5. Maile

      He can have something delivered in 2 days via Amazon (if time is issue) or, if cost is issue, any Goodwill or Salvation Army will have a big rack of top brand-name, even designer, shirts he can buy for $5. I can’t imagin any excuse not to when it’s both cheap and simple.

      1. Anonymous1973

        Seriously? Is dressing casually really that important to some of you that you’d rather someone wear Goodwill clothing than the clothes he already owns? Wow. And you think people that wear ties are pretentious?

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          There’s nothing wrong with Good Will clothing. If the issue is budget, it’s a totally reasonable suggestion — and one that gets made a lot here when someone is starting a new job where they’re expected to wear a suit and can’t afford to buy one. Same thing here — it’s about fitting in with a workplace culture, whether it’s a suit or more casual clothes. There’s no shame in Good Will.

          1. Karyn

            God forbid my mother ever read this blog because she would never let me hear the end of saying this, BUT: I LOVE shopping at Goodwill. All the time, for all the things, workplace clothing or otherwise! When I was in, say, middle school, I would have rather DIED than be seen in second hand clothing, but now? I find it to be kind of an adventure trying to find things. Also, household goods – all my mismatched coffee mugs are from Goodwill! :)

            Other places to find relatively inexpensive workplace clothing: Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. I found this FABULOUS black and white belted dress that I wore with a suit jacket to an interview, and felt 100x more confident because I knew I looked the part – and yes, I got that job. ;)

            1. Natalie

              Goodwill in my city just opened a new concept store near our largest university – Goodwill prices (possibly a teeny bit higher) but curated and laid out like a boutique. I think it’s brilliant.

              1. cuppa

                Ooh.. I like the idea. I’m not against Goodwill and other thrift stores, but I find them to be a little too overwhelming and tend to avoid them.

        2. JAL

          I shop at the Goodwill a lot and I can afford more than that. I can find some really nice stuff there. I’ve found designer stuff with the tags before. My college used to do seminars on how to shop at the Goodwill for interviews and work. If I were the OP, I would do anything not to stand out until I can assess the culture, and that’s exactly what I’m doing with my new job.

        3. Anonymous1973

          To be clear: there is nothing wrong with Goodwill. I just believe it is unnecessary and wasteful to buy more stuff when you already own clothes. It seems to me that some people feel “uncomfortable” when others do not dress like them and to me that is not a good enough reason to purchase more stuff. He can make his formal clothes look more casual. He doesn’t need to go out and get more – from Goodwill or anyplace else.

        4. A Minion

          If it weren’t for the Good Will, I’d probably be naked right now. And unemployed. And possibly incarcerated.

    6. snuck

      I say it’s not ok either – because he’s making no effort to try to fit in to the work culture. So he doesn’t own a lot of casual clothes now (not even a pair of jeans and street sneakers?) … but he will know at least a few days (weeks? a month?) before he starts that he will be working there… So not taking the time to get the bare minimum in shouts loudly that he hasn’t made a priority of trying to be one of the crowd. Not a good start in what might be a very congenial workplace? (And I don’t buy that he doesn’t have the money for a new pair of jeans and a couple of shirts – not when I see the prices on this stuff in America! It doesn’t need to be designer, just a good style, cut and fit to his body type, that will make it more appropriate than designer.)

      If the situation was reversed – he only had casual clothes and they worse smart business the advice would be to buy what you could afford and lift your presentation. I think the same applies here – he might be entering Senior Management but that doesn’t mean he can throw the culture out the window – if anything he needs to be more aware of it and wait until he understands it fully before disregarding it.

      I say dress down, get some new threads now (or at least when you get an offer you plan to accept if you really don’t want new casual clothes for your wardrobe), and plan to dress just one step higher than your interviewers were dressed when they interviewed you on day one. Then sniff it out and work out what’s the go.

  6. Mike C.

    Where I work, there’s a more casual dress code for the hourly/salaried workers (I come to work in jeans + casual button down or polo shirt), and then there’s full on business casual for managers. There’s one guy I work with who follows the manager dress code while not actually being a manager, and he just comes off as a tool. AaM’s comment about signals is exactly right.

    You read this site, so you’re obviously not a tool. :) Ditch the tie and jacket right now and add some more casual shirts and pants as you can. If you still worry about looking professional, there are plenty of ways that guys can do this without being overly formal – I have another coworker who does this and he has the style sense of someone who works for Nordstroms. Unfortunately, I do not but it is possible!

    1. Clever Name

      “There’s one guy I work with who follows the manager dress code while not actually being a manager, and he just comes off as a tool. AaM’s comment about signals is exactly right.”

      I have to agree. One of my coworkers, who actually is a higher up, dresses so far above the rest of us, we make fun of him for it. He gets his clothes handmade in Hong Kong. At least that’s the rumor. His clothes are really beautifully-made, but he’s kind of uptight, and his wardrobe doesn’t help with that impression.

      1. Anonsie

        He gets his clothes handmade in Hong Kong.

        I didn’t know I wanted that for myself until just now, but now I really want to do that.

        1. Iain Clarke

          I’ve done this (in fact it’s about time I get some new ones), and it’s such a lovely feeling putting on clothes that FIT IN EVERY DIRECTION. Even without them being super fancy clothes.

      1. Tinker

        Possibly. Poor fool.

        There are a lot of catches with that statement, but one of them is that dressing in a way that does not fit with the job that you actually have can also cause problems, as it has here.

        Example: in my first job, I worked as a project engineer for a railroad research center, and was quite often out on site building things. I typically wore jeans, a plain T-shirt, and steel-toed boots. My boss was generally office-bound, and typically wore business casual with strikingly white dress shirts and dress shoes.

        My mother rode me extensively using the phrase you cite because she objected to my work wardrobe. Leaving aside that she also wanted me to dress like the higher-ranking women in my office, which would have been an even worse idea for a number of reasons, dressing like my boss would have been in violation of the safety standards and of common sense, and would have marked me out as being too precious clothing-wise to be effective at my actual job. That wouldn’t have gone over well at all.

        From what I’ve heard, the secret to the protective camouflage approach is to pick a standard of dress that fits in both environments — including bits that fit in for the desired job, but also not departing from the basic look of the current job. Hence how I wear, say, the combat boots that go with my desired job of “wasteland zombie hunter who leans artfully against collapsed buildings and looks cool”, but I wear them with the plaid collared shirt that doesn’t look out of place for my present job of “automation engineer”.

      2. snuck

        The problem with that is that this is supposed to be the job he wants – he’s just starting in it! If he’s already on the hunt for a new job though….

    2. Helka

      Conversely, there are a couple men in my office who dress distinctly more formally than everyone else — three-piece suits while everyone else is in polo shirts or buttoned-shirt-no-tie. They manage to carry it off as being a “dapper gentleman” look rather than “overinflated sense of importance” because they combine the look with being extremely genial with everyone they interact with.

      Clothing does communicate quite a lot, but attitude and presentation can change the message enormously.

      As far as the OP is concerned, I think there is great advice here on how to dress down without revamping the whole wardrobe, and I’d add to that — make sure you make up for the distance implied in the wardrobe with being (as far as your natural personality will allow) deliberately warm and personable with new folks, and that will go miles toward making up the difference.

      1. born in the 60s

        “Clothing does communicate quite a lot, but attitude and presentation can change the message enormously.”

        This.

      2. Agile Phalanges

        YES. This: “Clothing does communicate quite a lot, but attitude and presentation can change the message enormously.” is exactly what my post below was trying to say, but you said it much more succinctly. :-)

    3. Agile Phalanges

      Wow. Maybe your co-worker dresses WAY nicer than the rest, or comes off as a tool for other reasons as well, but I can’t imagine just dressing nicer than the norm would make one a tool. At my former job, we had a pretty casual dress code. Okay, REALLY casual for a lot of the posters here–we’re on the west coast, so it’s already casual, plus my workplace was one of the more casual ones out there. For most of the day, strappy tank tops or “shower shoes” would have been out, but jeans, shorts, sleeveless tops, sandals, etc. were all fine. Shortly before and for hours after the company-sanctioned lunchtime workouts, though? All bets were off.

      Anyway…some people (including me) took full advantage of the casual environment, wearing jeans or shorts all the time, very casual T-shirts, sandals, etc. A couple of people dressed more business casual, and one or two wore quite nice clothing. Not “bank on the east coast” or “I’m a lawyer” dressy, but definitely a couple steps above the super-casual. No one made fun of them, and it’s just part of how we knew them at work.

      I do agree that the OP should do his best to blend in ASAP, between dressing down his current wardrobe and supplementing it ASAP. But if his personality is otherwise congenial, I’d hate to think people think he’s snobby just because of his wardrobe. OP, if you have to dress nicer some of the time, maybe play it off with some casual mentions about being glad you don’t have to wear a tie now, but will have to go shopping one of these weekends for some jeans since the ones you own are strictly for yardwork, or whatever, and people will realize you’re not doing it to be snobby, but because of wardrobe limitations.

    4. LBK

      There’s one guy I work with who follows the manager dress code while not actually being a manager, and he just comes off as a tool.

      Yeah, this comes off so slimy to me. It’s very sales-y and always strikes me as one of those cheap things people do to try to get attention and get ahead instead of, y’know, being good at their job.

  7. Bend & Snap

    Good advice above re: ditching the tie and jacket. And I’d wait to get a feel for the workplace before investing in clothes, since what you have is fine dressed down. Nothing like spending a bunch of money and finding out you got it wrong (which is what I did when I started the job I have now).

  8. Jenny

    I work in a business casual office. The only people who dress up are members of the executive team. They’ll wear suits (men and women) but no one else does. Most men don’t even wear a jacket or a tie unless they have a meeting. We had a contractor come in and he always wore a suit and tie and a trench coat in colder weather. He was older so I think he was just used to that being what you wear to work. But it made him seem out-of-touch and old-fashioned – especially when he was sitting in a room with people who had hired him and they were wearing dockers and button downs or polos.

    1. Agile Phalanges

      At the above-mentioned casual office, our CPA firm would visit every year for our annual audit. The first couple years, they wore full-on suits and ties. They were assured that they could dress down, so the next year they ditched the jackets but still kept the ties. The next year, the ditched the ties, but still wore dress shirts buttoned all the way to the top. And so on. By the last few years, though, they were wearing slacks and polos, which was still a step nicer than most of the office, but at least fit in a bit more.

    2. CC

      I’ve seen this too. In the case of one young co-worker, he really *was* out of touch. Unobservant, as well.

      The office was business casual; the only suits were on the executive and finance end of the office, and the only jeans was generally IT. New guy comes in to the engineering department and wears suits the first four days of his first week, talking with and being trained by people in slacks and button shirts (for the men) and slacks and some not too fancy nice-ish shirt (for the women) – then approaches me on the Thursday and asked if there was a “casual Fridays” thing there.

      That… about summed up the quality of his work, too.

  9. Kyrielle

    I’d also be prepared to deal with comments in a way that will bring you closer to the culture rather than distance you. In our office, you’d absolutely get comments for wearing suits, and possibly for wearing them minus the tie and jacket. But something like this might go a long way to defuse any perception that you’re trying to ‘be better than’ (which seems to be how that’s sometimes taken): “I know! It’s so nice to move to a more casual atmosphere, and I’m really looking forward to updating my wardrobe to match soon.”

    1. Miriam

      This discussion has been very enlightening and brings up an interesting question, something I’ve always wondered about. Why does dressing formally sometimes create a perception of “better than”? As long as the OP is not looking down his nose at people or offering unsolicited fashion advice, I don’t understand why anyone would care about his clothes. Can anyone enlighten me as to why dress formality tends to get peoples’ dander up in most workplaces, and why a person so dressed must “compensate” in other ways to receive social approval–e.g., take pains to be approachable, be self-deprecating, be confident, be able to put others at ease, etc.?

      1. Haleyca

        I don’t think it is just about dressing nicer, I think dressing in any way that doesn’t fit in with the culture of your workplace. It would still be an issue if someone dressed more casually than the office environment, or if someone was wearing more fashion forward items and loud accessories in an industry where most people dress in a more practical manner. Each of these things sends a signal that a person doesn’t really understand what is going on around them or doesn’t care. It is a little assimilation, but the way a person dresses is a huge visual cue about how you fit in in your workplace and people often base first impressions off those things. You might be perfectly nice and friendly and normal, but if you look drastically different from everyone around you people will notice and it might not be in a good way. Norms are weird.

        As for why dressing more formally creates a perception of “better that” I would say it probably has a lot to do with hierarchy and professionalism. Typically, the higher up you go in an organization the more formal the dress code (retail workers can wear casual outfits, but the CEO of the company wears a suit). So dressing more formally than your peers can indicate that you are on a higher level than them. This is obviously changing with more casual workplaces and startups, so wearing more formal clothes in an environment where even the most senior people don’t wear suits could seem like a comment on professionalism. Like in OP’s case saying “I’m going to dress like we did at the bank because this is what REAL professionalism looks like” (obviously OP isn’t thinking that at all, but it could come across that way). Finally, I think dressing nicely has always made people seem less down-to-earth. The term “dressing up” seems to bring upper class to mind or something like that (maybe I am totally off base here…).

  10. Annon

    I actually think you can keep the tie. Ties are very modern and fashion forward in casual settings (I work in the fashion industry where everyone is dressed casual every day.) Buy a good pair of jeans, a basic but nice pair of casual shoes (boat shoes, loafers, anything that’s not shiny), keep going with the button downs you have and you can still wear the tie if you feel too informal. Agreed that rolled sleeves help out the casual look.

    1. Lauren

      I have to say, as a woman this reassures me. I thought that it was so easy for men to adjust their level of formality – that there was a near-universally-accepted order of clothing items that go on or off as you move up the formality ladder. Hearing that fashion-forward people can wear ties with jeans makes me realize that it’s not so easy as all that!

    2. Bea W

      I think this will depend on where you live and maybe your field. Wearing a tie in a casual environment in my area is not “fashion forward”. Seeing someone in a tie and jeans would just be weird and confusing. Pay attention to what other people are wearing in the office.

      1. Natalie

        Probably also depends on the tie pattern. I’m not well-versed in men’s tie fashion, but I would think a more conservative tie with jeans would just look odd.

      2. Anx

        Yep! I live in a rural city (I know it’s an oxymoron but that’s the best way I can describe it). There are no Nordstroms, Gaps, Ann Taylors, J Crews, etc. in town. I love that look, but down here it may not read as positively by the ~35+ crowd.

      3. Chinook

        “Seeing someone in a tie and jeans would just be weird and confusing”

        A visit up here to Calgary would have you lost, then. This is an acceptable business standard year round (though you should ditch the tie for Stampede), especially if you add in a pair of cowboy boots and a nice hat (Stetson, of course).

          1. Chinook

            Stampede is a 100 year old festival that centres on a rodeo and cowboy/western culture. I think it has made an international list of top 5 parties in the world. It also involves dressing casually, eating pancakes for breakfast, beef and a bun for lunch and steak for dinner. Alcohol may be involved starting at 8 am (local liquor laws usually mean no alcohol before noon) with Bailey’s in your coffee instead of milk.

            1. madge

              If one wanted to attend a Stampede, could one simply google it and show up? (Off to google “stampede etiquette”)

              1. Chinook

                Absolutely, though I recommend booking a hotel for next July. The rodeo and fair grounds require tickets but the official Calgary Stampede website does list where the free pancake breakfasts are. Be warned, though – we are politicall incorrect in that the rodeo and chuckwagons use real animals (who are treated quite well in the off season) and our “Indian Village” does include Blackfoot families who have been coming for generations (hence “Indian” and not “First Nations”)

    3. LBK

      I think this would still depend heavily on the culture and the industry – that would even more weird than just wearing a completely dressy outfit in some offices, especially those with cultures that might not appreciate “fashion forward” styles.

    4. ThursdaysGeek

      But buying a good pair of jeans and a nice pair of casual shoes will cost more and take more time than just not wearing the tie. (Providing cost or time are the reasons he is leaning towards using his current wardrobe.)

    5. JAL

      This! I just started a new job with a casual dress code, and guys wear ties every day with a pair of jeans and dress shirt. It looks polished and professional, but it doesn’t overstep the boundaries.

    6. voluptuousfire

      Agreed. I worked in a start up and a lot of the men who worked there would wear a fitted button down and slim fit jeans with a tie and rolled up sleeves. It looked both casual and professional. Or ditto the same look with a pair of dress pants.

  11. Laura

    I somewhat disagree with the advice given here – the OP wearing a suit in an otherwise casual environment, especially if he’s got a lot of style, might become his personal trademark. My father wears a suit and tie to work every day, even on Fridays, and his office is quite casual. Even though he’s in a more senior position, he’s just known as the guy with the tie. I, myself, walk around my office looking like a woman in a timewarp from 1954; most people think I’m very dressed up, and compared to many of my colleagues, I am. I’m still just another member of the team, though – my “dressiness” is my signature style.

    The OP might become the token snappy dresser of the office if he wears his suits!

    1. AdAgencyChick

      I would agree with this. I had a client once who worked for one of the more conservative pharmaceutical companies in terms of dress, and then she decided to move over to the agency side of things. Even though at agencies we are often in T-shirts and jeans if the clients are not around, she would come in wearing a perfectly tailored sheath with patent leather pumps you could see your reflection in, and more often than not a little tweed suit.

      I never thought of her as sending a message that she didn’t feel like part of the team — it was clear to me from the way she handled herself that she simply loved to dress this way, and that her style in no way impeded her ability to figuratively roll up her sleeves and work alongside her much more casually dressed colleagues.

      That being said, she was a naturally gregarious human being. Upthread, someone posted about a colleague who gets everything beautifully tailored and is also uptight in personality — I can see that, too. I think the OP should honestly assess his own personality to decide whether the more formal dress is likely to reinforce a perception of standoffishness or uptightness, because if that’s a possibility, yes, I would look to start dressing more casually.

    2. hildi

      I agree with both you and Clever Name above, though you both represent different sides of it. There’s a guy that’s been in some of my training classes that has a very signature look. Suits (but not like business suits like you see on models? It’s like….tweed suits?? I don’t know. I suck at clothes, but I know that it’s a slightly different look than a traditional suit & tie. Kind of retro, maybe). He has been in several classes over the years so I know this is how he is rather than a one-off time I saw him. So he has this retro kind of clothing style and wears a driving cap (?) Good god, I am pathetic). He has very meticulously groomed facial hair and he speaks in such a formal way it cracks me up. And he’s not pretending – this dude is just this way. I kind of love him for it because it’s so unique and I love unique….but at the same time I can’t help but think about how incredibly pretentious it comes off as. Like he is so formal and dapper he can’t deign to come down to us mere mortal slobs and mingle. I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he doesn’t actively think that about other people….but regardless it comes across to me that way. I know I can’t be the only one.

      So I guess, OP, it depends on what outcome you’re willing to live with. If you don’t want to run the risk people will think you’re stuffy, pretentious, nose in the air, overly formal, etc. then I echo all the suggestions thus far. But if you could give a crap about what people think of you, then I say you keep going with your bad self on those debonair suits and go for it.

      1. Laura

        “But if you could[n’t] give a crap about what people think of you, then I say you keep going with your bad self on those debonair suits and go for it.”

        I think that’s the key :) (Plus a friendly and approachable demeanour, of course!)

        1. hildi

          oh, and ouch. Major grammar faux pas on my part I see. I now remember that being a topic of conversation before. Apologies.

            1. Laura

              I’ll preface this with, I didn’t mean any harm or snootiness :) And without wanting to begin a lengthy side discussion, I believe my usage is correct: If you COULD give a crap, that means you have the capacity, and therefore do, care. If you COULDN’T, that means you can’t be bothered at all.

              1. LBK

                Even though logically that makes sense, I believe “could care less” is colloquially accepted as correct. Despite how much it grates on my ears.

              2. Haleyca

                Could you also say that COULD means that you have the capacity but choose not to because you don’t care?

          1. hildi

            Laura – none taken! And I remember those really passionate grammar derailments this past summer. I know you didn’t mean it that way. I just noticed it and thought oops! And since my eyes glaze over once grammar gets discussed, I will exit now. :) But thanks for the clarification.

            1. MommaTRex

              But now I have Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” song stuck in my head . . .
              “I hate these word crimes
              Like I could care less
              That means you do care
              At least a little.”

              Must. Destroy. Earworm.

      2. Stephanie

        That was my former landlord (who was close to my age, so late 20s) in DC. He had this incredibly dapper style–pocket squares, immaculately groomed facial hair, tweed jackets, etc and spoke in an incredibly formal style. My initial impression as well as “Ugh, is he going to be one of those pretentious DC d-bags who is going to consider debate about the finer points about Pakistani-American relations appropriate small talk?” Luckily, he was really friendly and gracious, so the pocket squares and loafers were just an interesting quirk. (Apparently his coworkers did think he was at least 10-15 years older than he actually was because of his dress.)

        If you’re going to keep the suits, just be sure to compensate by being really approachable and easy-to-work with. In a casual environment, more formal attire can come across as wanting to seem superior.

        1. hildi

          I actually really admire people like that because I don’t have a clue about clothes and wish I did have fun dressing myself up like they so obviously do.

      3. Anonsie

        Suits (but not like business suits like you see on models? It’s like….tweed suits?? I don’t know. I suck at clothes, but I know that it’s a slightly different look than a traditional suit & tie. Kind of retro, maybe).

        I almost brought this up upthread with the three piece suit guys example, but couldn’t think of a good example. I think you can get away with wearing more formal outfits if they’re more old-timey formal than sharp East Coast businessman formal. I couldn’t give you a sound logical explanation as to why, but they give off a very different impression, as you say. The former feels more like a stylistic choice while the latter indicates more formality.

        1. Stephanie

          Speaking of East Coast businessman: http://theoatmeal.com/pl/minor_differences5/suit

          I think the difference is that tweed jacket/pocket square/dapper gentleman/Boardwalk Empire extra is a personal stylistic choice, while sharp East Coast Businessman is a look most people this side of Patrick Bateman would only wear to convey formality. The former is also less common and looks like more of a intentional style choice versus the latter that is commonly associated with formal scenarios (formal workplaces, interviews, funerals, weddings, etc).

      4. Kali

        I think I might do this when I’m in new situations. I’m incredibly introverted. Combine that with my bookishness, that I was brought up to be very proper all the time, and that I like to wear nice clothes because it gives me more confidence in social situations and you have a recipe for what many have told me comes across as aloofness. In reality, I’m just super shy and nervous! So yes, please give him the benefit of the doubt.

    3. Stephanie

      Yeah, I’m the same way–I like skirts and dresses so being dressier kind of became my style (when I try, that is).

      I think it depends on how much emphasis the office places on its culture. Everywhere I’ve worked, there was a very casual dress codes, but the dress codes weren’t ingrained into the company ethos. If you kept wearing business casual, people just shrugged it off like “I guess he likes wearing slacks.” I could see it being problematic if OP were at a Google or some tech startup that prided itself on not being like an IBM (or other established blue chip company) and took regularly wearing a suit and tie as an indication as being “too corporate.”

      1. Anx

        Stephanie, I know you have a STEM background… do you have wet lab experience? Did you wear tights?

        In the winter sometimes I like to wear dresses and tights (mostly cotton, not hose) and I’m trying to gauge how well that is accepted in various wet lab environments (I would probably stick to more body conforming styles and nothing that flairs much and keep closed toe shoes)

        1. Stephanie

          Long time ago from a summer job in college. My PI was pretty chill, so he didn’t care what I wore as long as I wore closed-toed shoes, didn’t have too much exposed (this was summer in Texas after all), and didn’t wear anything that was too loose/flowy/whatnot that could get caught in a machine or some chemicals. I dealt with chemicals that could stain (a lot of iron compounds), so I also intentionally wore rattier clothing.

          My friend’s worked in various wet lab environments. I think she varied it depending on messy her work was. She would wear dresses and tights for her less messy jobs.

          1. Anx

            Thanks for the feedback.

            Incidentally, despite wearing my lab coat and being pretty careful, it seems I’ve gotten some trypan blue on my clothes. Rattier clothes for now it is!

            1. monologue

              Check your institution’s dress code. Most labs should be fine with it as long as you have something on your legs and closed toed shoes.

              If it was a chem lab I would say pants only and no heels just because the hazards are greater there, but if you’re using Trypan Blue that’s likely not where you’re working.

      2. JAL

        I started work this week at a casual dress company, but apparently I didn’t get the memo. Though anyone didn’t say anything, I looked ridiculous wearing a business-y looking skirt and a blazer. I think I’ll stick with my maxi skirts from now on. Culture definitely plays a HUGE roll.

        1. plain jane

          I am in a casual dress company, and we will often joke with new hires about their clothing, as they shift from button downs and trousers to button downs and jeans, to jeans + tshirt + jacket (which is where most of the guys end up after about 6 months).

          Navigating the female clothing thing has been exceptionally difficult to figure out, I’m not sure if it’s because it actually is more complex, or because I don’t have enough outside perspective.

          1. JAL

            It IS ridiculously complex and this is coming from someone who is pretty well-versed in the fashion world. When I started looking for my job after I graduated in May, I was slightly anxious having to learn women’s business fashions, and what looked professional yet young enough for a woman in her early-20s :P

    4. LBK

      Even though he’s in a more senior position, he’s just known as the guy with the tie.

      Wouldn’t this be worrisome, though? I’m always wary of being known as “The _____ Guy” unless that blank is filled in with “awesome” or “wonderful”.

      1. Laura

        Not for him – that’s just as far as his style of dress goes. He’s rather a go-to guy for his team and highly respected for his knowledge, so people are very accepting of his sartorial uniqueness.

        I think the more talented and professional people think you are, the more accepting they become of your quirks.

  12. Stephanie

    Do you have some decent-looking jeans or khakis? You could pair those with the button ups (and roll up the sleeves) to look a bit more casual while you get a feel for the office attire. There are definitely different types of office casual, so you don’t want to go buy a bunch of designer jeans only to find out that people wear hoodies and cargo shorts to work. I’ve seen some casual offices where the expectation is that employees look like they came out a J. Crew catalog and some casual offices (like OldJob) where there were no expectations and employees could wear head-to-toe sweats.

  13. Puddin

    At Old Company we could always tell the newbs because they were overdressed. No one thought twice about it though. There was some good natured ribbing, “Hey who’s the guy/gal in the suit har har?” and after 1-2 weeks most folks conformed to the new way.

    If can’t apply to the dress code just yet because of clothing budget constraints, look at thrift stores for biz casual pieces that can dress down your existing wardrobe without breaking the bank.

  14. born in the 60s

    Several things. First, is there a dress code or a dress culture? The former must be followed. The latter less so.

    Second, do people dress more formally sometimes, such as for client meetings? If so, even if you don’t have those specific responsibilities, it means the culture can probably accept that sort of dress from sometimes, though not every day.

    Third – there is a fair amount of confusion about terms and levels of formality in this discussion already. A shirt and tie is not the same as a suit and tie.

    A suit and tie is the most formal level of dress for men in most professional environments (a few go above that, such as into black tie).

    A sports jacket or blazer, with a tie and dress shirt plus dressy but not matching pants is a level down. A suit without a tie might be similar in level.

    A sport jacket or blazer as above, but no tie, is a level down. That’s what in places such as a bank would be called “business casual.” The jacket can be hung up in the office. The less formal the pants, the less formal the look. I think the OP can easily do this level and from time to time add a tie. Or from time to time, wear an actual suit, probably with no tie.

    I’ll add that I typically dress more formally that other people at my organization, though when they “dress up for client meetings’ they match or exceed me in formality. Perhaps I am viewed as a tool, but I’m not aware of it and have gotten consistent promotions over the years. Dressing a little better than average is not a bad thing in my opinion, if you do it comfortably and don’t go around dissing other people’s clothing. Oh, and for sure some comments you might get (from men) reflect on their own insecurity. It’s common in my experience for women to remark on guys wearing nicer clothes by saying “Oh, you look nice” whereas with guys there is a bit more “What are you dressed up for?”

    I’ll add that a shirt and tie but no jacket is strange and can make men look like a low-level employee. Not a good look except for some young or very hip people who know what they are doing.

  15. Jen RO

    In my office, showing up in a suit on day 1 would make people go ‘aw, he thought we are business casual and today he’ll look out of place, that’s too bad for him’. On days 2 and further, you would either be the weird guy in a suit, or the guy who thinks he’s above us all.

    Dressing down might work, but the guy on my team who wears khakis and shirts is still noticeable and it makes him look naive, as though he thinks the way he dresses will make us respect him more than his actions.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      In my office, being kind of overdressed for about a couple weeks to a month is typical of new people. We always just think that that they’re dressed in interview-style clothes to make a good impression during that period and that they’ll succumb more to comfort eventually.

      Most of them do, but there are some who just dress better than everyone else. Of those, some are perceived as a little brittle and stuffy, and some of them aren’t, and it’s mostly based on their personalities, not their clothes. Or, I should say, not solely on their clothes. For the ones who are perceived as stuffy, the clothing is perceived as part of it; for the ones who aren’t, their clothes aren’t given much thought.

  16. Lily in NYC

    Honestly, I wouldn’t really notice unless the office is very, very casual – like ratty t-shirts and flip flops. However, it isn’t really that difficult to take 3 hours on a weekend and just buy a couple of pairs of casual pants and shirts. It doesn’t have to be an entire wardrobe – just a few things to tide you over as you transition.

  17. born in the 60s

    A gender survey here would be interesting: what portion of women here think a guy or anyone being more dressed up than average is OK, versus what percentage of the men feel it’s a bad sign.

    I’d wager the women are, in aggregate, more supportive of a guy being a bit dressed up, whereas the men, in aggregate, will say it’s not a good thing.

    1. Stephanie

      Female (if it wasn’t already obvious from my name and avatar). I think it’s ok–I like that it’s becoming more mainstream that guys can play around with clothing, too, especially in a business setting. I think the key is to avoid looking like an extra in The Wolf of Wall Street.

    2. Bwmn

      Female – I think it depends on if someone sees work clothes as part of style and fashion and makes choices that embrace style vs sees work clothes and clothes in general as part of a uniform.

      When someone is “dressing up” because it’s their style, than it feels natural and like an extension of their personality. But if you just have a collection of ‘business necessary’ suit/ties and aren’t that into clothes in general – then making a few modifications to fit in are worth it.

    3. Anonsie

      I wondered about this as well, since I have noticed a trend of the men I know thinking I am too dressed-down when I am business casual while the same outfit is either ok or a little too dressyfor the women I work with. Slacks and a button-down, for example. The guys always ask why I’m not also wearing a jacket and the women ask why so fancy.

      I think if you don’t wear a certain type of clothing, it can be difficult to actually judge the clothing formality scale on the people who do.

  18. C Average

    If you’re gonna be The Guy With The Tie, OWN IT. I’ve worked with The Guy With The Tie everywhere from Starbucks to my current aggressively casual workplace. As long as The Guy With The Tie looks good (clothes fit well, have a stylish cut, and don’t appear worn) and carries himself with confidence and is willing to be charmingly self-deprecating but unapologetic (“yeah, I know I’m the only one in a tie. I like ties. [shrug] It’s a victimless crime, right?”), he can be every bit as well-liked and well-respected as his more casually dressed colleagues.

    1. LBK

      Honestly, your description of that hypothetical person gives me the willies.

      Maybe it’s because I very strongly associate the Signature Special Accessory Guy thing with guys that wear fedoras, and…yeah. Barf.

      1. Anonsie

        Peacocking!

        I see where you’re coming from, but in my experience The Guy With The Tie doesn’t have a distinct personality type that does with the style. Unlike, say, the guy with the fedora or the guy with the collection of Tapout shirts.

      2. born in the 60s

        What is the problem with that person? What is he doing that makes you uncomfortable? To me, this sort of willies at someone dressing extra nice says a lot about the person who feels it.

        1. voluptuousfire

          Fedoras, “peacocking” and any standout accessories on a guy are considered signifiers for the Mens’ Rights Activists (MRAs) and pick up artists (PUAs). It really stinks because fedoras with the right suit can look fantastic. It’s such a shame it’s got that stigma attached to it now, like how white tank top undershirts are called wifebeater undershirts.

          1. Karyn

            I have retrained my brain to associate fedoras with James Spader. See: “The Blacklist.” It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing! :)

          2. jag

            “Fedoras, “peacocking” and any standout accessories on a guy are considered signifiers for the Mens’ Rights Activists (MRAs) and pick up artists (PUAs). ”

            This may well be your belief, and so that type of dress has that effect on you, but your belief – at least on peacocking – is a gross generalization largely disconnected to reality.

            That is, your discomfort is accurate in talking about your discomfort, but inaccurate as an indication about the person dressed that way.

            1. LBK

              Huh? I don’t understand this comment at all. Those are very real things that PUAs and MRAs consistently do – obviously there are people who wear them that don’t do it because of peacocking or what have you, but there’s a very strong association between “signature accessories” and those groups when it comes to modern styles.

            2. Julie

              You may not realize it but your comment is somewhat out of touch. Post on nearly any site with user feedback about how fedoras are perceived and you’ll see a lot of jokes about “m’lady” being directed to fedora wearers. Many of these accessories have become associated with MRAs/”nice guys”/PUAs for a reason. Of course there are many men who wear them who don’t fall into that category but in my generation, there’s been a shift in response to those kinds of men and apparel choices.

              Honestly, clothing can send a message and it’s weird to not acknowledge that. I’m wondering if you failed to elaborate on some point because I’m very confused that you could be so disconnected from that message.

              1. jag

                I wrote “at least on peacocking” to leave out fedoras.

                It may be true that a lot of MRAs or PUA peacock, but that doesn’t make it true that most or even a sizable minority of people peacocking are MRAs or PUAs.

                It’s not a good conclusion to think that based on fancy or formal dress in an office someone is likely to be an MRA or PUA. It’s projecting a stereotype from something that may be true into a tiny subculture

                And while I don’t know anything about the behavior that Julie describes with “m’lady” and fedoras, the fact that speech details had to be added to the dress seems to me to demonstrate that dress alone is not a good thing to judge someone on.

                “weird to not acknowledge that.” I acknowledge the perception, but the perception that formal dress in an office environment is any accurate signal of MRA or PUA is going to be wrong the vast majority of the time. It says far more about the person holding that perception than the person wearing the clothes. It may be true if some guy in a bar or social situation is doing that, but it’s a very wrong perception at work.

                I’d even dispute that it’s a common perception at work – see C Average’s comments below. What she/he says is a far more common and perhaps more accurate stereotype of guys who are dressed up at work. If any guy is interested in perceptions, that’s what they should be thinking about.

                1. jag

                  Guys undergoing chemotherapy often shave their heads.

                  Does that mean that a majority or even a sizable minority of guys who shave their heads are undergoing chemotherapy?

                  Does that mean that guys thinking of shaving their heads should be concerned about it sending a signal that they have cancer?

                  Certainly, if I had had cancer myself and had shaved my head (or someone close to me did, and they shaved their head), seeing a guy with a shaved head might make me think of my experience. So yes, the perception exists. That doesn’t make it accurate. And it’s probably not even a *common* perception insofar as we all know that the majority of guys with shaved heads don’t have cancer.

            3. C Average

              This is all really interesting to me. In my experience, sharp dressers and guys with a distinctive style have typically been gay and/or employed in a somewhat creative field, and they’ve just dressed up because they enjoyed dressing up and had an interest in fashion, not because they were trying to score. They’ve typically been in a committed relationship, and definitely NOT MRA or PUA types. I trust my impressions on this, having known these guys as colleagues for a long enough stretch of time to get a true sense of what they’re like.

              I have heard/read about PUAs, but to the best of my knowledge I’ve never met any. Where do PUAs even hang out? They get a decent amount of press, but I’ve never encountered one in the wild and confess I have some doubts about their existence. It just seems like such a contrived way to relate to people, and it’s hard to tell what the point even is!

            4. Anonsie

              Those things are actively promoted by PUAs, though. It’s not like a bunch of people saw PUAs wearing flashy stuff and decided accessories = gross, it’s because a bunch of them actually wrote guides explaining how to use standout accessories as part of a large and senselessly elaborate master plan to pick up chicks.

              1. jag

                That doesn’t matter. The number of PUAs is so small/rare that what they wear is not the point.

                It’s like “Oh, Amish men have beards so a guy in California with a beard is probably Amish.”

                No, lot’s of men wear beards. Maybe in rural Pennsylvania it’s a sign of being Amish, but in most contexts it’s not.

                At a bar, maybe someone dressed in formal office wear is a PUA. At an office, they’re just some guy dressed more formally than the other guys.

        2. Tinker

          You’re missing a piece. The implication here is that dressing in a certain sort of flashy style (wearing a tie or a fedora is not the same as looking extra nice, btw) has acquired the connotation that the wearer is a pick-up artist because that sort of thing is a part of some of their systems.

          Since some of these systems include obnoxious behavior, and a few of them advocate forcing oneself on women in certain circumstances, the connotation (if acquired) is often not a positive one.

        3. LBK

          It depends entirely on what you mean by The Guy With The Tie. If what you really mean is he would wear a dressier outfit with an Oxford, nice pants and dress shoes, that’s not just wearing a tie. When you say TGWTT I envision one of those people that wears jeans and a t-shirt with a T randomly thrown on, which is not a good impression. Just putting on a tie isn’t “dressing extra nice”.

    2. hayling

      I have a coworker who is “guy with a tie” but they’re generally kinda goofy ties. He’s a goofy guy so it fits his personality.

  19. My two cents...

    even paring jeans and not-shiny/more-casual dress shoes with a suit coat will bring the overall formal-ness down a couple of notches. unless you’re stacking everything together at the same time, you should be able to ditch/swap 1-2 items from your normal outfit picks and be absolutely a-ok.

    like, if you want to wear your suit coat, tone it down by wearing jeans. if you’re wearing the suit slacks, then tone down the shoes and skip the coat. but, wearing jeans may enable you to wear the shiny shoes AND a suit coat, if you’re willing to skip the tie.

    1. Noah

      This describes my office perfectly. I really don’t know what to call it because it is not the typical business casual khakis and a button down. Jeans are ok, but only if they are the right jeans. Shiny shoes are cool, but only if you’ve balanced them out with something less formal. It is weird, but you get the hang of it eventually. It really reminds me of what I would normally wear on a casual, dinner and a movie, type of date. It is more hip than traditional business casual.

  20. LizNYC

    I’d like to add: if you’re consciously dressing down, remember the shoes! Trying to be casual to reflect the team, but then having super shiny/polished/”banker”-type shoes isn’t going to help. (Not trying to shame anyone! I just work in an office where one day, it’s OK to wear (as I am) purple jeans and a t-shirt and the next, need to wear a suit because a client is coming in.) A loafer, slipon, or dressy leather sneaker might be appropriate.

  21. Mallory

    As the only female in the construction company I work for(not for the faint-hearted) if you aren’t wearing jeans, you’re dressed up. I wear a dress and I immediately get, “Gosh, awfully dressed up today! What’s the occasion?”
    I’ve tried explaining that a cotton blend sleeveless summer dress isn’t “dressed up” but they don’t listen. Ladies, let that be a lesson! Wear a dress! It impresses men so much!
    Heels? Forget it. I stopped wearing them a year ago.
    I do try to stick to a nice blouse, jeans and ballet type flats, which I switch to shorts in the summer.
    Most of the guys working here wear jeans and polos, the president of the company wears khakis and golf polos in the summer, khakis and button down shirts in the winter.
    My husband works for a small software company and wears golf polos and jeans every day. He could wear t-shirts or polos and nice shorts, but he says since everyone else in his office wears pants, he tries to blend in with them.

    1. Rhubarbgirl

      The dress thing is funny. I’ve gotten that kind of reaction from both men and women when I wear some of my knit summer dresses, which as far as effort and comfort are basically at the same level as nightgowns. But because they’re dresses, everyone’s brain goes to ‘ooh, fancy.’

  22. Career Counselorette

    When I read this, I think of a former coworker of mine, who wore a full suit and tie to our office every day (as per dress code), but then started a job in what he didn’t realize was a much more casual atmosphere. He told us at a happy hour that he showed up on his first day of the new job wearing a suit and tie, and as more people filed in he realized that maybe he was a little overdressed, and finally the person who had interviewed him came in and said, “What the f*** are you wearing?” (Obviously their office had a much more liberal profanity policy too.)

  23. Mena

    Some offices have defined dress codes and some offices just a dress ‘culture.’ You really don’t want to be the odd-ball here, especially when you’re new to the company. It isn’t a ‘signature’ to be out-of-place.
    My office is very casual; I choose to not wear flip flops or shorts and I choose to be a bit more formal …. but just a BIT. I model myself after the CEO, which I’ve found to be a good target.

  24. IndieGir

    I’m just shocked at how many commenters feel that someone who dresses more formally than everyone else thinks she’s better than everyone else. I shouldn’t be surprised, though — I moved to a new school in 8th grade and never really fit in there either. I found out later that because I wore skirts without checking to see if anyone else was wearing a skirt, I was “stuck up” and “thinks she’s better than we are.” I wasn’t and didn’t — I just liked wearing skirts. Still do.

    It’s such an ugly way of thinking that I would have hoped that most people would have left it behind in 8th grade. But, from a practical perspective, you may wish to conform and dress down as much as your wardrobe allows if people seem to be taking offense. I never did in school, but then, I wasn’t getting paid to be there. When paid, I can motivate myself to outwardly conform to people with petty minds and small hearts.

    1. IndieGir

      Slight correction: I meant how many commenters are in offices where people feel someone who dresses more formally is stuck up, not that I thought the commenters here felt that way. The commenters here are generally very nice folks!

      Sorry to self reply but wanted to clarify that!

        1. IndieGir

          Well, I was kind of rude too with the petty minds and small hearts bit. By the time I got to the end of the comment, it had come back to me a little bit too much. . . know anyplace I can leave my baggage? :-)

    2. My two cents...

      a skirt/dress for a woman is very different than a man wearing a full suit to work every day. women have the blessing/curse of having SUCH a wide range of ‘casual’ dress. the previous comments up the thread aren’t about how some kids teased you for wearing a skirt when you were 13. this is a grown man trying to make sure he comes off as approachable and inline with the rest of the company culture that he wants to be a part of.

      for men, it’s MUCH more cut and dry. you’ll look completely unaware if you show up all suited up in a sea of denim and dockers. and for men especially, it does carry a sense of arrogance when someone sticks out like a shiny-shoe-d sore thumb.

      1. IndieGir

        But it’s the same attitude. The OP is willing to change — he’s just asking if he can do it over time to spare himself the costs. Many of the comments up thread are saying that if he wore his dressier duds for more than a day or two, he’s branded himself as a d-canoe. I just can’t get my head around that kind of mentality.

    3. Tinker

      I think part of the problem here is that people who dress more formally have a tendency to think that dressing more formally is intrinsically superior, and hence have difficulty understanding that they can thereby fail to meet the standard of an office that operates according to a lower formality level. Plus which, it has a way of coming out in statements that gig the folks who dress differently — things like “Well, I don’t dress like I mow the lawn (implicit: like you)”, or “I like to look neat and not sloppy (implicit: like you)”. It doesn’t appear to be intentional, most times, but it adds to the tension in these discussions.

      If one reverses the question — say, I took a job at an oil company and asked if it would be okay for me to wear my “Fix Shit Up” T-shirt and artfully worn jeans for awhile because I didn’t care to deal with the expense of buying a suit-centric wardrobe, I dare say I’d hear much worse than “you might seem stuck-up” from some of the folks who would be taken aback at hearing that their suit wouldn’t go at my office.

      1. born in the 60s

        ““I like to look neat and not sloppy (implicit: like you)”.”

        Actually I think a lot of the people who dress casually are the ones who are doing the thinking about what other people are wearing, and they’re projecting a belief that people who dress more formally are looking down on them. THAT is the problem I see. Not “that people who dress more formally have a tendency to think that dressing more formally is intrinsically superior.”

        That said, there is a range of formality that is appropriate for any situation. And if mistake are made, it’s better to err on being too formal rather than too casual. THat is to say, when in doubt about how formal to be a business meeting or event or situation and you don’t have perfect information or a specific reason to “dress down”, err towards formal. To that extent, perhaps formal is slightly superior. But that doesn’t apply to one’s own place of work, where we know what everyone is wearing.

        1. Tinker

          I probably should have clarified that the impression I get is from statements people make from discussing their clothes, rather than from the actual clothes themselves. I don’t necessarily assume all that much from seeing a person wearing a suit, but when I see statements like the example you quoted which casts lower-formality modes as “sloppy” or that use “more formal” and “better” in a structure that presumes they are one and the same, that I notice.

          Granted that I can’t look into a person’s soul, but sometimes their words point toward a point of view that may be standing in their way.

          1. Not So NewReader

            A theory I have is that we telegraph much more about ourselves than we ever realize.
            And it’s not just in what we think of to say, sometimes it’s in what we don’t say.

            1. Fabulously Anonymous

              I agree. I honestly don’t give a hoot what other people wear. I’m having a hard time with some of the comments on this thread.

          2. jag

            Do the dressed up people you see bring up the subject of their clothes? Or do they just end up talking about it in response to other people commenting on them?

            That is, are they being implicitly asked to justify the way they dress?

          3. IndieGir

            Tinker, I’m confused — I thought you the first one who used the term sloppy? In any event, while I might find it odd to hear someone say it, I don’t see that “I like to look neat and not sloppy” = “implicit: like you”. For example, I’m a neat freak. My own house is pin neat, and I like to keep it that way, b/c it drive me insane when my stuff is disorganize or cluttered. But when I’m at other people’s houses, the clutter level doesn’t bother me, b/c it’s not my stuff. I have no judgement on other people’s level of neatness, and don’t really care unless they say “Gah! I hate this mess!” in which case I’ll happily help them organize it . . .

          1. jag/born in the 60s

            “more casual folks are projecting.”

            I think so too. Surely there are some dressed up people who are obnoxious about it, but I really think a lot of the casual reaction is projection.

      2. born in the 60s

        One other thing.

        There is casual: properly fitting clothes, like nice dark jeans and a well-fitted polo. And there is sloppy. Too many people who dress casually also dress sloppy: not caring about fit, not caring about condition of clothes, etc. That’s really bad in many (though not all) professional environments. Yes, I look down on that.

        There is little value to projecting “sloppy” for most people at work. I’ll add that it’s possible to be sloppy in a suit and tie if they don’t fit or are in bad shape.

  25. Ani

    Eh, I’m going to say it might well be perfectly fine, depending in part on where the OP is located and the field. It certainly is acceptable where I work in Washington D.C. — and we have an extremely casual dress code (and in fact mention it as a plus when we post job announcements). But we have many people on staff who wear ties every day, or business suits, working right alongside people in jeans or shorts — we sometimes have top people in untucked shirts managing the people in ties. It’s whatever the person is comfortable with; we come from a variety of backgrounds (including working on White House staff, for example). OP will get a feel real fast for what will fly.

  26. AnonyMouse

    Personally, I don’t really care what other people wear to work as long as it’s not inappropriate, distracting, or against the dress code, but because so many people do (just see the comments here) it’s probably best to try to go along with the culture in the office. It would be easy enough for you to keep your shirts and trousers but ditch the tie, and this should be casual enough for most office settings, especially if it’s just until you can update your wardrobe.

    I also think people may cut you a bit more slack as you’re new, depending on organisational culture. Obviously you don’t want to come in to work at a casual place in a super formal outfit that suggests you’re out of touch with the vibe of the office, but if you’re uncertain about dress policy at a new job, it’s natural to err on the side of formal until you’ve clarified a bit. At my current and previous jobs, for instance, jeans are okay with a nice shirt – but I didn’t wear jeans at all during my first month or so, because it was mostly long-time employees I saw wearing them, and I was afraid it would come across differently on a new person. I went slightly more formal than average for the first couple weeks, and no one seemed to notice or care.

  27. EA

    The OP did mention that the role is a Senior Manager-level position. That does mean that dressing up a little more than everyone else is not necessarily a bad thing. And you can always get away with a shirt/tie the first day, and lose the tie later.

    1. Nicky

      Some nice styles there, but what is it with formal shoes/trousers and no socks?! I know this is a hideous double standard as I (and many other women) wear ballet flats and no socks with nice trousers all the time, but unless it’s beachwear, a guy with no socks on just looks like a hobo from the knees down. Bleuch.

  28. Milos

    While the good old saying by Oscar Wilde that “You can never be overdressed or over educated” has value in this instance I agree with the general sentiment of these lovely people leaving comments and sharing their opinions.

    How you dress is also part of the culture of the firm and as such you definitely want to be a part of the culture, not someone who will be looked at perhaps as an individual who believes that they are better than their colleagues.

    Keep looking good, but ditch the tie at least.

  29. QK

    A good way to incorporate your corporate wear into a more casual setting is to do a jacket + jeans combo. I work in software, which is notoriously casual (jeans + t-shirt you got for free at a conference are the norm), but I kinda like dressing up a bit. I find that dark jeans + button-down shirt and blazer strikes the right balance between “pleasantly stylish” and “out of place”. I think you could even include a tie if you wanted–so long as the fabrics/patterns leaned more towards the hipster than the corporate.

  30. Cassie

    A button-down shirt with khakis is fine (maybe lose the tie). Most of our graduate students wear casual clothes (graphic tees, jeans, shorts, etc). I noticed that one guy wears button-down shirts with jeans. I thought maybe he was a postdoc/researcher or maybe he had an important meeting that day, but that’s just how he dresses every day. Nobody really cares (and maybe nobody else notices). As long as our students are wearing clean clothes that cover up the parts they’re supposed to cover up, we’re good!

  31. Just tea for me, thanks

    I have had somewhat the same problem. I worked in a very informal office and like to wear a jacket (I also wear them on my days off). I wore it with jeans, a white t-shirt and flats. Personally, I don’t think my outfit was overly formal (rolled up sleeves), but obviously not everybody there agreed on that. Long story short: the company was a bad fit for me (and not just with regard to the clothing, but that’s a whole other story). I am a big advocate of wearing what makes you feel comfortable and I tried to adjust to the mentallity of dress-down-friday-everyday, but it just wasn’t for me (I felt judged by my collegues even if I wore “informal attire” – I just didn’t fit in). It really depends on the culture: I have worked for many companies wearing a jacket when others didn’t and it wasn’t a problem.

  32. CoffeLover

    This happened to me. I had been working in hotel administration for 15 years and had a closet full of suits and heels. I moved to the public sector in the transportation field and had a purchase work boots for field visits!
    I remember wearing dress pants and a suit jacket for my first day but gradually starting loosening up. It felt very strange at first and I felt underdressed for about two months but as I sit here typing in my dark wash jeans and sweater I can say it’s great!
    Plus now I only have to buy one wardrobe, I still wear suit jackets but with jeans and boots and tend to dress up more in the summer with dresses but it was an easy transition overall and I fit in with the office and employee culture.

  33. Anne

    What does the rest of Senior Management wear? My office is officially business casual, but the vast majority of even low-level male managers wear suit pants, a button-down, and a tie. Getting into director, VP and EVP levels, they all either wear a full suit and tie all day, or they wear the full suit into and out of work and leave the suit jacket off most of the day.

  34. Sebastian

    This happened to me once and I sympathise with anyone in this situation. I actually both prefer and like to wear a shirt and tie to work. It keeps your home clothes for home (and you need less of those) and then you have some nice smart clothes for work. It is a good seperation. I definetly feel more focused and professional and ready for work while more productive if wearing a shirt and tie than I would wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

    It is clear the modern culture has changed, which is fine. Tie-rack used to be everywhere and is gone, casual dress codes are the norm now, and those choosing to wear a shirt and tie are looked at as a bit odd. Why? I had a recent job where everyone wore casual clothing or a few something inbetween business and casual. I was the only one that wore a shirt and tie and stood out like a sore thumb. I actually found it slightly uncomfortable and did feel that seem people perceived my choice of clothing to be a bit odd, and perhaps see me as a bit odd. I just find it rather bizarre that people who wear professional business dress to the office or call centre now a days get judged to be ‘up themselves’, ‘snobby’, ‘weird’, ‘a bit oddball’, when really all they are doing is dressing smartly for their job as thats what they are comfortable with.

  35. Vicki

    My first job was with a BioTech in the San Francisco area. Casual. We hired a contractor who had been working in a Finance company in Chicago. He was supposed to be with us for 6 months. I think he managed three.

    He not only couldn’t lose the pinstriped 3-piece suit, he apparently couldn’t handle being around _us_. And our chief biostatistician wore a sports jacket and tie.

    But, when the contractor left, he said we were just too laid back and casual for him.

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