Dress For The Job You Want, Not The Job You Have...

Dress For The Job You Want, Not The Job You Have...

Arghh this old thing. The idea that if you look the part, people will assume you are the part and that will then improve your chances, in whatever it is you have going on. I was recently given this as a piece of advice in work from my ‘superior’. Although initially insulted (it came from a good place) now I’m just amazed that people still actually think in this way. I let it be known that I had seen my arse over this comment, to the next in command and leader of the workforce boss man, and was more amazed to find, that this was his process too. He even told me that he’s told at least one high ranking shop prin (and a personal fave), that she should wear heals when his boss pays a visit. Is he fucking joking? He defended this (after seeing the disgust on my face) by saying “it creates an impact”. His defiance to stay true to his opinion might have been admirable, if wasn’t an oppinion that is 1) utterly ridiculous 2) almost medieval or 3) rude.

It turns out that this statements origin can apparently be found in a film from 1997 (Picture perfect), making the statement 20 years old. Thats only three years younger than me. But what leaves me in complete confusion is what the fuck this meens, both emotional and practically. What are the right clothes? What do those clothes convey? Does it actually work? Is it something we grow up thinking anyway?

It’s an earlier morning than I expected and I find myself searching for anything on the TV to hold my attention. I fall on a kids station (I am always interested to see what kids watch now). This particular show is on Milkshake (ages 3+) and is called Ben and Holly. The entire premise of this episode is that if you look the part, people will like you more. What a lovely message to feed to a child. I can hardly believe my luck (for the writing of this particular piece) when I hear ‘I think the way one dresses is very important’. So in answer to my own question. Yes this is an idea we are fed at a young age, which then like a sponge, only absorbs more over time and becomes who we believe we are. I took some comfort in the fact that the characters clothes were all wonderful colours and that the dad basically didn’t own pants. What an…individual!

So what are the right clothes? If you have a uniform then I’m sorry but you’re stuck there. But what about strict guide lines, so for me this would be “BLACK”. But even these strictest guide lines can be played with slightly. In many ways it’s the easiest way to wear something new and different every shift because as long as it’s black, you can wear it for work. T-shirt, jumper, dress and jeans. Boots, flats, heals, trainers. Its also nice to have a specific structure and creative routine that comes with wearing only one colour. But it does make my bosses comments more difficult to digest, I wear my blacks, what else am I meant to wear. It’s a no win. 

My least favourite is “professional dress” talk about throw practicality out of the window. So professional dress:
Office: The office for me is probably the easiest place to experiment wih dress code regardless of gender. Yes there are rules to professional dress, but I do think that very smart casual, is actually the case in most offices. The vast majority of office workers sit at desks allowing for gorgeous heals. Men can cast aside their ties for a more relaxed style. Modesty can also me played with a little more too, clothes can be shorter and lower cut (don’t play silly buggers though), because you don’t have to lean all over people or run around or do things that consist of giving people an eye full. Having said all this, this is probably one of the most bizarre places to doll up for. To spend almost an hour or more to get ready, choose the perfect items to pair, with polished hair and the “right” level of makeup to sit in a cubicle, with the people you see every single day, with little to no physical contact with the wider world. Nobody see’s you but your colleges, yet you are expected to dress like you have just walked out of a store front window. This seems madness to me.

Dr’s: This is my favourite. Dr’s and consultant’s, who spend all day making life and death decisions, who are people from the day we are born, are thought to trust and respect and who are people who we expect to be see as highly paid, middle class, posh people with a dress code that frankly, just makes complete sense. Tie’s hang and the last thing a patient needs is a tie hanging in their open wound and then dripping in their tea. Ties in the bin! Shirts are a must but sleeve are up like a Friday finish in a city bar, because sick people are gross and can ooze gross things and that’s easier to wash off skin, than it is to have you shirt washed half way through the day because you have puss on your cuff. Sleeves up! Formal shoes…what are they? Running shoes, trainers, comfortable foot wear is key because they walk for miles and for hours on long shifts in big hospitals and because, standing over an operation table, mean’s that your feet need undeniable support. Comfort is key! Why is this my favourite? It’s my favourite because it is practical for the job. It makes sense for the day to day tasks and it proves that how you are dressed, makes no difference what so ever. Are you really going to tell the Dr with trainers on they cant save your leg because they don’t look the part? No. Because that’s just ridiculous.

Teachers: As a prospective teacher and with a husband who is already teaching (and smashing it too) we have very different ideas of how teachers should be dressed. I know that in many ways people must think, hes doing it and smashing it so his word wins, but as much as I completely understand his view, I don’t agree with it and we constantly walk though shops shacking our heads at each other, about what is or isn’t appropriate. He who we’ll call L (because I’m sick of typing he) thinks I’m verging on delusional in fact. So what should be worn? L feels that men should be seen wearing shirts, ties, trousers, suits and formal shoes. For women his initial choices are trousers, formal shoes and a blouse/top, but he does expand on that with “women have loads of other options like skirts or dresses”. Then there’s me. For men we basically agree, shirt’s, ties, trousers, suits, smart but comfortable shoes, jumpers and bow ties. For the Ladies, shirts, ties, trousers, smart but comfortable shoes, dresses, skirts, jumpers, tops, jackets and jumpsuits. Something we do both agree on, is that modesty is key for both men and women. It really gets tense when we get into the nitty gritty details. Although I have all of the beliefs I’m currently raving about, it is worth saying that I still dress in an acceptable manner within schools, I follow the rules, because I understand that I cant have everything my own way. L believes that staff should always wear formal shoes, something I couldn’t disagree with more. I don’t think any small adult feels affected by what shoes their teacher has on their feet. For L it’s all about enforcement and not looking like a hypocrite, and of course he’s right that you can’t, with conviction, tell students to look a certain way if your not doing it yourself. Personally I think if I’m going to stand of my feet for six hours, I want to do it in practical shoes and if that is a smart trainer then so be it! As I said we DO NOT agree.  Are you better at your job in your finery? L would argue yes, that he feels and has seen people take him more seriously when he wears his suit jacket, rather than just his normal shirt. He also makes a great point that if he waltzed into work in jeans and a t-shirt, he’d feel too relaxed and not take it so seriously. L teaches Maths and I’m going to be training in Art and Design, so for me, the thought of looking all polished in new expensive clothes is a nightmare a “take that paint away from me!” Situation. L also thinks that continuity across the school is key, so regardless of your subject, you should dress to the same standards as everyone else. Again, I do not agree. Each subject has it’s own differences. I don’t want to get paint or other materials on nice clothes and PE teachers don’t want to be restricted in suits. (L’s picks below, my picks above minus the trainers). 

So does it actually work? Dressing for the job you want is considered as more that just wearing the right clothes at the right time. It’s about thinking differently. Carrying yourself with confidence and being who you need to be. It’s about finding your dream and enveloping yourself in it everyday, therefore knowing exactly what that looks like. It’s unquestionable that inviting positive energy and holding your confidence on your face is a great skill, that also tends to get you to where you need to be. good thoughts=good things (official maths and science that). In 2016 GQ published a small article into this very idea and from their article quoting studies by Yale and Wall Street, the basic answer is yes. Yes it does matter if you look sharp in work. The Yale study found that ‘men who wear suits are better at negotiating than those wearing street clothes or sweats […] and the more casually dressed participants backed down more quickly and weren’t taken as seriously…’.  So from the male perspective of GQ and Yale it matters very much whether your suited or slacking. In a letter to Forbes in 2016 Melissa (a big deal business women #gogirl) wrote to ask for a “what to wear” article for interviewees. not only does she slam ‘Gen Y’ for dressing like they are ‘going to a club or to the beach’ (surely not) but she also takes her axe to female hopefuls, saying that they often dress more inappropriately than men, wearing ‘tiny short skirts and blouses that leave nothing to the imagination’ and as much as I want to condem her for this, I can’t help but wonder if said ladies, were thinking they might get a male interviewer (dont act like youve never gone along with the idea of Tits for Tips), we’ve all used our feminine charms, all be it in a watered down cycle I found myself trapped in, when I worked in hospitality. Should it matter how they look, no of course not, but as Melissa goes on to say, ‘many […] applicants dress perfectly and […] that gives them a huge advantage’. Again like above, I think that modesty is the biggest issue for many ideas of what is appropriate in the work place, but as a human you should only ever follow rules of dress you are comfrotable with. For example when I was told (by the above job) that the dress code was “smart slutty” (the actual quote from the actual GM at the time) there was no way I was playing that game. I new if I looked smart, well presented and felt good that this would be enough. I also knew that I was NOT looking slutty in any capacity, for the pleasure of anyone but myself and my husband. My banishment of this didn’t actually effect me in the job at all, not how I did it or how good I was at it, but I cant deny that there were customers who would by pass my beautiful and dollydaydream (love you girls and boys) colleagues, when they wanted something sorting out. Sweet Jesus, did I just make a point to support this medieval idea? I’m nothing if not ballenced and in the interest of being ballenced, I must admitt that from the evidence given, yes it matters how you dress for work regardless of job it seems. Does this drive me insane?…well duh.

Society tells everyone, male or female, how they should present themselves and it seems that although lines are blurring now more than ever, that the 20 year old statement unfortunately rings true to this day. From kids shows to high fyling business folk, society is agreed that in work (and maybe life) that the world is your oyster, providing your wearing the right clothes. What a sad thought


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Published by Hannah Doyle

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