ask the readers: is my husband’s look hindering his career?

It’s another ask-the-readers questions. A reader writes:

My husband has 2 degrees and is 61. He has never advanced in the business world, and I suspect it’s the sideburns, the same hairstyle and glasses from the 70s, the suits that are mid-ankle, the suspenders, and the long sleeve shirts he cuts to be short sleeves and sews back up!

Help! How can I make him see that his look (such as it is) is hindering his career? He thinks he looks like a “matinee idol”!

What do you say?

{ 112 comments… read them below }

  1. Jennifer*

    Looks, and clothes, shouldn’t matter in hiring (or in most things in life), but sadly they do. I worry that potential employers might see the lack of updating his look as an indication that he hasn’t kept up with the times in other ways, particularly when it comes to technology. Hopefully by pointing out to him that making sure to give off an air of keeping current is really important in this market.

    1. Jennifer*

      Nothing like ending a sentence mid-thought. That should read “…in this market, he might be able to see the light”

  2. Tiff*

    Replace his clothes with something more modern. Get it as close to his style as you can and phase it in. Can you let the hem out on his pants or are they capri length? In any case, solid color slacks that are the appropriate length, then some jackets. Suspenders and homemade short sleeves aren’t too bad. Neither are the sideburns and glasses.

    Truly though, a 61 year old man with 2 degrees should be able to dress however he pleases.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        Letting the hem down isn’t a big sewing project. A tailor or seamstress could do it quickly and inexpensively.

        1. Jamie*

          Sewing is one of those gifts that just leaves me in awe. I tried to learn once and it was possibly the hardest thing I ever tried to do – epic fail.

          My mom and sister made it look so easy.

          I have been known to staple a fallen hem back into place, but that’s as close as I get to sewing.

          1. A Bug!*

            I used to staple hems, too, but then someone noticed and I felt self-conscious about it, so I went to the sewing store and they suggested “Stitch Witchery.” It’s basically like a tape-sized roll of plastic webbing that you place between the layers of fabric you’re “hemming,” and then you iron it. The plastic melts just far enough into the fabric face to hold them together without melting through to the visible side. It’s semi-permanent and if done properly can last quite a few washes before it needs to be re-done!

            Of course, I’d only do this on the sort of cheap clothes that I buy. If I spent more money on my wardrobe I’d probably actually pay a tailor.

            1. KT*

              Stich Witchery is amazing! I also would only use it for cheaper clothes, but if you need to hem something in a pinch it’s fantastic.

        2. Long Time Admin*

          Sorry, I just saw the part about cutting the sleeves off his shirts. My mother used to do that when we were children, but she was great at sewing and everything she did looked professional.

          Actually, I think it’s too late to be worrying about his appearance. He’s getting close to retirement age, and that’s what’s going to sink his boat.

    1. Anon*

      It may not be that his style is out of fashion as much as it is that being 61 is out of fashion. We outgrow “potential” at 40 these days.

  3. Jamie*

    Not to advance the stereotype, but if you’re in some branches of IT and absolutely brilliant this look will be described as quirky and not hurt you too much.

    But if his reputation isn’t such that it proceeds him – then yes, I’d suggest a trip to the barber and then to the mall.

    Out of curiosity – what type of 70’s hairstyle? Are we talking Mike Brady latter seasons with the perm? Brian Keith from early 70s with the mismatched toupee? The Tanner Boyle bowl cut from the Bad News Bears? It helps to paint a picture :).

    1. Anony Mouse*

      This is what I was going to say. It is SO dependent on the field that it is difficult to give advice without knowing that. Heck, even within IT, someone like a DBA gets away with much weirder choices than someone in desktop support.

      1. Catherine*

        Isn’t that the truth…I picked up a new computer from our IT dept yesterday and one of the network guys was wearing what I’m pretty sure was pajama pants.

        1. Jamie*

          If it was last Saturday and you worked at my place, yes they were pajama pants – although I am clearly a woman so you might be talking about another IT.

          It really is funny how much more latitude we get over every other department. I’m pretty sure I could show up in a nightgown and sleep bonnet (think LHOP) or surf shorts and a parka and no one would say anything to me.

          1. Catherine*

            The joys of IT. I’ve been called in to work a Saturday or two (student support) and I have work full sweats. No shame.

    2. Anonymous*

      Yup. I used to work at IBM. Let me tell you, when it comes to software engineering & IT, fashion, looks, etc. doesn’t matter at all. Neither does your personality. There were plenty of odd-looking kooks there, but they pulled results. So, I think that’s what mattered.

  4. Tina*

    His style rut may be indicative that he is not quite as socially aware as might help to advance him in business. After all, if he can’t think outside himself to see how others would see him, then can he do so in matters of business? I am just wondering if it is more than a matter of sartorial bad taste.

    1. Steve*

      My thought too. It is not so much the style as it is the lack of awareness and appreciation for societal norms demonstrating a possible broader inability to connect in the workplace. Changing clothes by itself will not address this.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      This. The style is simply a symptom of other issues. Lack of awareness, social, etc. It’s not as much of an issue in tech, but in business it is a killer.

      1. Liz*

        I agree. I also wonder who writes to an advice column for someone else? I know marriage is hard, but if she said what she thinks and he thinks something different, it seems unfair to then try for a tie breaker from an Internet columnist.

  5. AnotherAlison*

    Honestly, I’d think at 61, it’s the past 40 years in which he’s never advanced in business holding him back, not his clothes.

    (Is this a real question or a hoax? I really didn’t think even polyester could last 35 years. His wife should have arranged a laundry accident 25 years ago.)

    1. Andrea*

      I agree. At this age, it may be too late to suddenly start worrying that his outdated look is making others think that he won’t adapt. I’m not sure that his appearance matters that much anyway; depends on what he does and where he works.

  6. Hannah*

    The OP told us all about his appearance but nothing about his career, qualifications or skills. We also don’t know what the office environment is. The only possible answer to this question is that it could be his look, or a million other things.

  7. Colette*

    Does her husband want to advance in the business world? Maybe he doesn’t see these things as a problem because he’s happy where he is.

    1. Anonymous*

      I agree. Not everyone wants to claw their way to the top of the corporate hill. To some people a job is just a way to make money. Some people just want to have a life.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree with this. Maybe he just isn’t as ambitious as the next person. If he’s stuck in the 70s, then it’s likely he just doesn’t like change and is happy with the status quo.

  8. fposte*

    It could be true, but you haven’t stated why you think that it’s his look, not something else, that’s holding him back. I’m wondering if this is a look you just wish he’d give up, period, which might color your views, and which is quite likely what your husband will think if you raise the question.

    If he’s struggling in getting ahead, it’d be reasonable for him to go to a decent career coach or get some feedback on his trajectory from a friend or colleague in the industry. Maybe you can help by making the suggestion, or finding somebody who has good credentials.

    Of course, it’s also dependent on the notion that your husband agrees that he’s being held back in the first place–sometimes spouses have different ideas on something like this :-).

  9. Anonymous*

    Your husband is not very smart, in a social sense. His inability to follow social norms is what’s holding him back at his job and what’s driving his odd clothing choices. The clothing and the job problems are both symptoms of something else. The clothes are not the cause of the job problems.

    When someone is very good at all aspects of their job, people will tolerate very bizarre clothing choices.

    If you want your husband to dress normally and advance in his job, you’ll have to get him to some sort of counseling to identify his issue and help work through a solution. This will only work, however, if your husband actually wants to change. It doesn’t sound like that’s the case if he’s been doing this for decades.

    So, then the issue becomes, can you accept your husband for who and what he is? He’s certainly not the first man to have odd clothing choices and little career success. You’ve accepted it for however many years that you’ve been married. Can you continue to accept it?

    Can you identify why this is suddenly bothering you and look for a different solution? Since you mention he is 61, I suspect you bring this up because you’re afraid you won’t be able to live on your retirement savings. Maybe you should worry about your own career advancement if the household needs more money badly. Or maybe you should strike out on your own now, if you don’t think you can make this work with your husband.

      1. Anonymous*

        It sounds like he has little common sense, which doesn’t mean he has a mental issue. It just means he’s slower to pick up on social cues and might not always know the correct way to handle certain things. That or he’s just stubborn.

        OP, can you ask him why he feels the need to wear those kinds of things to work? Is he having a mid-life crisis and he feels the need to go back to a time where he was feeling his best?

      2. Anonymous*

        I didn’t say he was crazy. I said he wasn’t socially smart. Huge difference.

        Just because someone’s recommended counseling doesn’t mean the diagnosis is “crazy.” Do you even know what counselors do? At the very least, a couples counselor might be able to convince this OP that she can’t change her husband’s clothes choices this late in the game if he doesn’t care. A career counselor might be able to pinpoint why the guy isn’t getting ahead at work (better than his wife, certainly!). Personally, I’d put this blog and Alison’s work in that category – she’s a management consultant in the sense of being a career counselor for managers.

        Get out of your 1970s stereotypes that counseling is only for nutcases, and only consists of discussing your Freudian mother issues with some old dude while laying on a couch. Get with the times, and start using experts to identify your weak spots and fix them up. Or, lose out to the competition who does.

        1. EM*

          This. I’ve been in counseling twice over the past 15 years, and both times it really was to get an impartial source of advice for some personal issues I was facing (one was the crushing sadness I was feeling when I was living several states away from my then boyfriend now husband of 12 years, and the other was to help me get a handle on my bad temper). Both times it was like talking with a coach. They gave me tools to work through how I was feeling.

          Seriously, what does “crazy” even mean? We now know that most mental health issues really are biological (neurotransmitters) in nature, so I think “crazy” is even more dated than the 1970s. More like the Victorian era.

    1. nyxalinth*

      Wow, then given I’ve violated many social norms just by being me, I’m a real nutcase, then. /s

    2. umm...*

      – noting your husbands look is 30+ years old and wondering if it is holding him back is tantamount to hating him and wanting to move on and suggesting a divorce?

      What colour is the sky in your world?

    3. Liz T*

      To me it’s not that he doesn’t FOLLOW social norms, it’s that he doesn’t RECOGNIZE social norms–this is not necessarily a “mental issue” in the psychopathological sense, but may indicate (as others have suggested) a larger personality issue.

      Or, yknow, not.

      1. Jamie*

        We don’t know one thing about this man’s motivation for anything.

        It’s human nature to try to fill in the blanks when we don’t have all the data, I’ve done it myself, but it can really lead one down the rabbit hole.

        And even alluding to personality issues with no information whatsoever makes no sense to me. Sure – he could not recognize social norms. Or he could recognize him and not care. Or find those clothes really comfy, or be a huge Match Game 76 fan and this is his daily tribute to Charles Nelson Reilly.

  10. Jamie*

    There are a few things which come into play:

    1. What does he do? This will hurt him far more in some positions than others.

    2. How long has he been at his job? If he’s been there for decades, is a new pair of pants now really going to change the way he’s perceived? People tend to have fixed perceptions.

    3. Is there an upcoming event which would spur his career at this point – possibility of promotion, etc. Because if he’s been in the same field and at the same place for a while the career trajectory does tend to plateau. For everyone.

    Fwiw – I don’t think every quirk we have has a psychological back story. When left to his own devices my husband has been known to wear slippers to run to the grocery store. Hard bottomed slippers, but still…I wasn’t even with him and I was embarrassed. No dark underpinnings of his psyche – he knows what social convention is but sometimes he prefers comfortable and lazy over civilized.

    1. Catherine*

      “…but sometimes he prefers comfortable and lazy over civilized.”

      I can attest to that, more often than not I have been mistaken for a high schooler or a college freshman (I’m 28) because of my refusal to wear make-up to work.

  11. Anonymous*

    Why is the OP waiting until now to ask for help? What happened to the decades between the 1970s and 2012? I don’t mean to come across as rude, but I can’t help to think that his chances have come and gone for promotions. And like what someone else wrote above, maybe he didn’t want to move forward and was comfortable where he was. The OP writes about his hindrance from her perspective and says nothing about his attitude over than the “matinee idol” comment.

    1. Andrea*

      Did I miss the part where the OP said they’ve been married for decades? Maybe so, but some of the commenters are making a lot of assumptions.

      1. Anonymous*

        Talk about assuming. I actually never once said they had been married for decades in those words. You just implied it.

        Either way, the main point of my question is that, even at the age of 61, why does this woman think she can change him now and he would get further in his career? In reality, it probably wouldn’t happen because many people stereotype older people like that.

  12. Joey*

    Ideally looks shouldn’t decide whether or not he advances professionally, but that’s not reality. Most of the time looks don’t play a significant role in the hiring process, but when you dress extreme (and in most professions I would categorize this as extreme) it becomes hard to overlook. The goal here is to stay away from extreme. Whether that’s suits, jeans and a polo, or shorts and a tee take some notes from his colleagues and follow their lead. Now don’t expect career advancement with a wardrobe change. All it’s going to do is remove one obstacle.

  13. Anonymous*

    Unfortunately, looks DO matter in the job search, especially during the interview process. His resume might be able to get him into the lobby, but his wardrobe would send him packing. I know too many friends of mine that went to interviews dressed like they dressed in the dark. Needless to say, they didn’t get job offers.

    I think a blunt approach may work here, as you are his wife. Tell him that although you appreciate his style and his autonomy, a little wardrobe and hair updating might be in order. But he should have some say in those decisions.

    1. ooloncoluphid*

      I, for one, would not want to work somewhere that was impressed with my resume, but dismissed me because of my appearance. Why would anyone want to work for someone so shallow?

      1. fposte*

        Because they’ll be more profitable than a workplace that allows people to serve clients while in wifebeaters and y-fronts.

      2. Anonymous*

        I wouldn’t want to, either, but in this economy, employers can be as picky as they want. And when you’re someone who really needs a job and has bills to pay, appearance can really make the difference. It’s the first thing someone notices about you when they first see you.

        It sounds like OPs husband has a steady job, but there could be more factors to it than what he wears. But that’s not to say that wardrobe and how you present yourself doesn’t matter. It certainly does.

        I was always told to “dress for the job you want.” And if you’re dressing like you’re in the 70s or wearing a business suit in a casual work environment, people will question whether or not you have a sense of reality or if you can follow general office norms and culture. That could signal a red flag.

    2. fposte*

      Just to be clear, it wasn’t stated that he’s job-hunting, just that this may have impeded his career. I was thinking lack of promotion, lack of big clients, etc.

      1. Anonymous*

        Yeah, I forgot about that part. Stupid rainy Friday mornings mess with my brain and reading comprehension skills. >.<

  14. An Engineer's Kid*

    My own father’s complete lack of fashion sense never seemed to hurt him, but he was an engineer for his company. However, in my dad’s case, his bad fashion wasn’t so, ummm, outlandish, as what you describe. He just wore black/brown pants, short-sleeve shirt (that was original made as a short sleeve shirt) and steel-toed shoes (whether needed or not). He often looked frumpy, and by the end of the day there was usually a stain on his shirt. If necessary, he wore a men’s warehouse suit.

    The moral of the story is that you don’t necessarily need to look great and be completely up-to-date to succeed. I’m sure none of the other engineers noticed my dad’s clothes at all; they were just so blaaaah. The problem is when the bad clothes really stand out and make a statement. It might help to get him to tone down his look considerably, but I don’t think it’s necessary to turn him into a fashionista.

    1. Jamie*

      Right. And when people talk about looks it’s important to remember that you don’t need to good looks to get a job – just be presentable.

      If you notice there are all kinds of people who are employed and very few supermodels.

      What you want to avoid is “OMG – did you SEE him/her! Yikes!”

      People should just strive to avoid the yikes.

  15. some1*

    I agree with a lot of the responses, and I have worked with plenty of people who had laughably outdated clothes. At my last job there was a woman who wore early 90’s business-clothes (when every other non-manager wore jeans & t-shirts). The reaction was not so much that she didn’t understand societal norms, but her work wardrobe made her look like she couldn’t afford to buy clothes for 20 years.

    1. Jamie*

      I’m picturing her coming to work looking like Suzanne Sugarbaker (or any of the other Designing Women with big hair, shoulder pads, and a lot of silk cinched with wide faux alligator belts.)

      I think that would jazz up the office…compared to how sedate everything is today.

      I miss big hair – can that just come back already?

      1. some1*

        No, it was more of an Ellen Degeneres or Blossom look: linen MC Hammer-style pants with pleats and huge cuffs, paired with either leather suspenders or an over-sized Laura Ashley floral-type or denim vest, over over-sized paisley blouses (or really bright solid) with shoulder pads. She was about 5’4 and had a very thin frame, so while I believe she actually *thought* she looked professional, the fact that her clothes were all so big on her made her look like a little girl dressing up in her mom’s clothes.

      2. Andrea*

        God, me, too. Bug hair is the best. I have lots of very thick hair and am just waiting for big hair to be back.

        1. Laura L*

          Same. Although I missed the big hair era because I was too young for it to matter. When I was in middle/high school, long, straight hair was in. At least, where I lived.

          Luckily, natural hair in general is pretty in right now, so it works out.

      3. Job Seeker*

        Jamie, I loved that show Designing Women and their fashions. I lived in Georgia when my children were little and remember dressing like that. I can not imagine why the OP would not have bought new clothes for her husband before now. My husband and I are both middle-age and have been married 30 years and I would never let him stay stuck in the 70’s. I think she is probably believing he is looking very unprofessional by not keeping up with the times. I do believe that appearance can make you seem older and not willing to be flexible. Change is a part of life, you have to adapt and not get stuck in time. He has a lot to offer with his experience and degrees, but looking like Father Time isn’t in his favor.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I really think that cheapness is what most of us think when someone is dressed like the OP’s husband. (I’m in engineering, so I know a few of them.) The one in mind right now isn’t THAT bad, but he wears his 80s Levis 501s (trust me, you just know they’re not new-meant-to-look-old) and drives an early 90s Ford Taurus. I’ve never thought he was crazy or flaunting convention, just cheap.

      And props to Jamie for the Designing Women reference. I loved that show.

      1. Anonymous*

        There gets to be a crossover point for when being “cheap” starts to get too expensive. It sounds to me like this guy has gone over that line.

        I know that guys who prefer cheap shirts can get them in the ~$6 dollar range in whatever size and style they want. Cutting up and sewing a long-sleeve shirt into a short-sleeve shirt is going to cross over that $6 threshold mighty fast for anyone who isn’t very good at sewing – especially if a bad sewing job results in faster deterioration of the shirt. For someone making ~$50k in a year, he’d need to sew those sleeves in 15 minutes and it would need to not shorten the life of the shirt at all for it to be cheaper than buying the correct shirt to start with.

        Obviously, people who enjoy sewing as a hobby aren’t doing it for financial considerations. But people doing it to be cheap have to be making a pretty low salary or be very handy at it for the cost-benefit to actually work out. Kind of like those people who drive several miles looking for the lowest gas price, who use up the price difference in extra gas just by driving around. Or people who spend hours couponing instead of working.

  16. Rob*

    Without having any additional information (industry, does he work in a room without client/customer interaction or is he working with the public) it is really impossible to say if it is hindering his career.

    However, I can say that it is not helping him in any way. I’m no fashion expert by any means, but at least try to stay within the last decade or so.

    In addition, have others said anything to him? I’m presuming you have been married to him for a significant amount of time (kudos on that!). He may take your comments as nagging and it may be making him dig in his heels even more…

  17. Anonymous*

    By the way, at 61, no one cares how many degrees he has. I have 3, I’m 27, and even I don’t expect anyone to care how many I have.

    At my age, people might care whether or not I have a degree relevant to whatever job that I’m applying to. At his age, no one is even going to look unless they’re nuts, or unless he got the degree within the last ~5 years.

  18. Candice*

    If he wants to advance in the business world and has expressed this, maybe you could suggest he go to some career counseling and advice centers and let THEM tell him the same thing. If it’s coming from someone else maybe he won’t think of it as you being critical and it’ll “take.”

  19. umm...*

    Aside from what I said to the Anon above… its possibly part of the issue but not all of it.

    Have you actually asked him if he wants to advance? It could be he reached his natural plateau and is quite happy at the level he is.

    Has he actually been passed over for promotion and wondered why?

    How do his co-workers dress (If you’ve met them). In our office as long as it wasn’t rude or offensive (or a safety issue) almost anything would go but then its a laid back industry and company. Other places were far more stringent and wearing the wrong colour trousers (eg. not dark colours or grey) would get you in trouble.

    1. Vanessa*

      It was my favorite part! I pictured him staring into the mirror saying, “Who’s that sexy dreamboat? I AM!”

    2. Elizabeth West*

      LOL it made me think of that Planter’s commercial, where the ugly girl is confidently striding down the street and all the men are falling all over her, and at the end you find out she rubbed a cashew on herself in lieu of perfume. :)

  20. Anonymous*

    At 61 the man is probably nearing retirement age, so I’d say any issues with his incapacity to advance in the business world might be due to something other than his fashion sense. Also, two degrees at that age does not strike me as wow-worthy.

    1. Rana*

      Agreed. I know a lot of people half his age with 3, and most of them manage to dress professionally. (I mean, heck, most of my colleagues are freelancers and academics, neither known for their cutting edge style, and even they would find this guy’s outfits… eccentric.)

      But I agree with the other commenters that we don’t have enough information here; eccentric geniuses can get away with a lot more than low-skill dudes with poor fashion sense, and of course field and context matter a lot too.

  21. Anonymous*

    Yes his look is probably hindering him. As is living in the past and being averse to change. Is he likely to be able to change and compete now though, at the age of 61?

  22. Kerry*

    See, I think this guy is awesome. He knows what he likes and he doesn’t give a crap who else likes it. The older I get, the more I aspire to have the same attitude.

    At 61, his career is what it is. He’s old enough now to rock whatever look he wants. In fact, in my experience, you can get away with way more eccentricity as you get older. Lots of people actually like individualistic types.

    There are the kind of people you read about after they die, who made $45Ka year and managed to save $2 million to leave for scholarships for poor kids or whatever. He’s not out spending time and money in a futile attempt to impress others. YAY for that.

    I bet this guy is fun to be with and non-judgmental. The world needs more of those.

    1. Anonymous*

      As you get older, yes, I think you decide that you don’t care what people think. Seniority provides the perk of being yourself more often. I know someone who, when she turned 56, for the first time dyed her hair. Pink. She has kept it in several shades of pink since then and loves it. But she’s at the point in her career where she is the boss.

      A director of the organization where I worked wore jogging attire on Fridays. He was a fitness enthusiast, and though M-Th he wore a suit with a tie, on Fridays he paraded around the office in very casual clothes.

      My grandfather wore hats long after they had gone out of fashion. He loved them and saw no need to get rid of them. Today he would chuckle and say Justin Timberlake copied him!

    2. AnonAnonymous*

      “There are the kind of people you read about after they die, who made $45Ka year and managed to save $2 million to leave for scholarships for poor kids or whatever. He’s not out spending time and money in a futile attempt to impress others.”

      For some people, this is still a way of impressing others. Instead of impressing people with outward appearances, they are trying to impress with frugality or philanthropy. IMO, those are all the same.

      1. Anonymous*

        Frankly, I don’t care if it’s only for their ego, the beneficiaries still benefit. Money is money.

      2. EngineerGirl*

        You’re kidding, right? If he were trying to impress, he would be doing it publicly. He’s not going to care about people’s opinions after he is dead.

        Some people give away money because they believe it is the right thing to do. They see money as a tool to benefit others. These are the people that drive 12 year old vehicles while donating $10,000 a year to a school in Africa.

        1. Anonymous*

          I guess you’ve never dealt with a contentious will. People certainly do use money after their death to try to impress or manipulate people.

  23. KT*

    This might make me sound like some sort of corporate robot, but if I saw someone dressed liked that it would make me wonder about their attitude. He sounds very ‘damn the man.’

    1. Deedee*

      Oh WOW! That is hilariously bad. And it comes in short sleeves already so he wouldn’t have to do any sewing.

  24. Elizabeth*

    I am the author of this question and the answers have been very enlightening! To answer some questions: I am 45 and we have been married only a year or so. I now see my husband may have deeper issues than just his clothing and hair choices. Like not ever having sex in his entire life. Even with me, but that’s a Dear Abby question. As far as his career – it’s in the financial sector. He blames his lack of advancement on the fact he’s a white male. And yes he is a big fan of polyester!! His hair- picture Englebert Humperdinck (sp??) in the sixties maybe? Parted on the side, combed over. Yes, he is cheap too.I am never allowed to buy anything without a coupon even though I make good money myself. Looking forward to more comments!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Okay, you’ve got bigger problems than his clothes going on. If he blames his lack of advancement on being a white male (when white males still have significant advantages over everyone else, especially in the financial sector), I suspect there’s a problem with his attitude that could go showing too — bitterness, for instance, or just … well, backward thinking.

      I think you’ve got to be realistic about who you married. You can’t really change people — you’ve got to decide if you’re happy with them as is.

    2. Andrea*

      I’m a little concerned about you and your relationship, based on this little snippet, but of course I don’t know the whole story. But I definitely think that his personal style is not your biggest problem. His theory about why he hasn’t gotten ahead would be laughable if it wasn’t so offensive. Maybe counseling would help, if you can get him to go.

    3. Sonata*

      Elizabeth, I’m sad for how frustrating these discoveries must be for you. I completely agree with AAM’s reply. It sounds like his problems are much more deeply rooted than his outdated appearance. You probably can’t change him, especially not at this stage of his life, and most people (especially males) end up resenting those who try to force changes on them. Even if you can get a man to grudgingly go along with your wishes, he’ll usually harbor resentment and make you pay sooner or later.

      I’m guessing that the only way you MIGHT be able to get him to rethink his wardrobe is if you switch tactics by overlooking his appearance for awhile and begin admiring his other qualities – even if you have to dig! Some men will respond more favorably to caring suggestions (not nagging!) if they feel secure in their partner’s respect and love. When you sense that harmony has been restored, you might casually comment during a man’s clothing commercial, “Oh, honey, you’d look extra handsome in that suit.” Then drop it for awhile and wait for another opportunity. Down the road, if you gave him a gift card to a men’s store, do you think he’d at least try on a suit? Maybe if he could see for himself in the mirror how it would enhance his appearance, his male ego would kick in, and he’d agree to get the suit – especially if you’re there to admire his new look!

    4. Laura L*

      I agree with everyone else. It’s probably much more his attitude than his look that’s holding him back. Especially in the financial sector. That sector is still mostly run by white men around your husband’s age (give or take 10 or so years).

      I second AAM’s advice too. You can’t change him. Given everything you described above, are you okay staying in the relationship? To me, he sounds very frustrating to live with, but I don’t know your circumstances or relationship, so I can’t make that judgment call.

  25. Chris M.*

    “Without having any additional information (industry, does he work in a room without client/customer interaction or is he working with the public) it is really impossible to say if it is hindering his career.”

    I disagree with this comment and similar ones. Presentation doesn’t matter only when you are dealing with customers.

    The OP just explained that he is in the financial sector, but even if he was in IT (my own field), I can assure you: career advancement comes with a price, and the price includes looking the part. IT Directors and managers in my company (and the many Fortune 100 companies I consulted for) do not dress weirdly.

    Sure, you see a lot of database admins, system architects and developers walking around in flip flops and and pijama bottoms, but find one — ONE that was promoted to a managerial position (or even a more senior technical position, when the job requires interacting a lot with executives in the company). Doesn’t happen. In the financial industry, even worse — I’ve worked for banks and financial institutions and the dress code was always much more formal. Even if the dress code is not very formal at his particular company, mid-ankle suits with suspenders and short sleeves will hardly make him a candidate for career advancement, which seems to be the goal here.

  26. Sonata*

    Clothes matter! When my former boyfriend wore a suit to report for jury duty, his fellow jurors assumed he was a highly educated business professional, and they enthusiastically elected him to be their foreman. They were surprised to learn that he was a mechanic who normally wore safety boots and a rugged company uniform – and that he’d dropped out of high school!

    Fortunately, he had so much common sense and tact in dealing with people that he made a great foreman! By the way, my best bosses possessed those same qualities – not the bosses who had the most impressive resumes.

  27. Jill of All Trades*

    I was going to say that this man is the reason why “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” should still be on the air, but seeing the additional information from the OP – oh Honey, there are so many issues going on here. Please consider getting yourself some counseling. This doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship, and you can’t make him change, but seeing a counselor may help you.

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