Should we wear ties or flip flops? Dress pants or jeans? Do we need to hide tattoos? What should we do about piercings? Are we allowed to dye hair?
These are some real questions I’ve talked about recently. Some just for fun, others to make real decisions. As with most topics, I find there can be a large divide during the conversations, which I can understand. Whether you are in customer service, startup culture, a seasoned business, so on, these decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly. People care about this more than you’d think.
As a youngster myself, I tend to lean toward casual dress. Nice jeans, nice shirt, nice shoes. I don’t care about tattoos or hair color. With that said, I have noticed there are some consistent stigmas regarding the new wave of “casual professionals,” which often take me by surprise.
That’s what I would like to share with you today. A few thoughts on some reoccurring statements and I’d like to give them from the point of view as young professional.
“Dress for Success”
This is a phrase I have heard my whole life. So what does success dress like? Is it the 1st guy or is it the 2nd guy?
The answer: Both.
Picture one is Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. Picture two is Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. Both are considered to be part of the most successful business people in history. Yet their dress attire is entirely different.
What about this one? 1st or 2nd?
Picture one is of Warren Buffet, famous investor, and philanthropist. Picture two is of Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo. One could only hope to be as successful as these two.
The myth of a stock person being the picture of “success” is blurring a lot with this generation. Growing up in a world with such diversity, why wouldn’t we believe that success would be as diverse as the people achieving it? If you were to ask me what “dress for success” looks like, I would struggle to find an answer as that phrase doesn’t make much sense these days.
“It’s a Sign of Respect”
To which I reply “to who?” There are many cases I dress certain ways out of respect. Weddings, funerals, Bar Mitzvahs. I would certainly dress up if I were to meet the Pope or the Royal family.
With that said, in a business setting, I think this is worth thinking about. When we say dressing up is a sign of respect to leadership, is it difficult to imagine that those showing the respect may view those receiving the respect as royalty instead of leaders? Considering this is a leadership blog, I should ask the question, as a leader, do you expect for those you lead to respect you by a dressing a certain way? I predict as millennials work their way into higher positions within the company, about leaders, this sentiment will change.
“It Just Looks Professional”
It seems like this is a leftover thought from an old-fashioned way of thinking. If the view is that someone who wears jeans cannot be as professional as someone who wears a tie, I would ask how that thought is any different from a typical stereotype. The industry I work in contains a healthy mix of jobs. Many of which require different clothing standards. I can say without a doubt that professionalism can transcend “business casual”. Defining a global look for professionalism inadvertently cuts down many people in many professions.
Bottom line, dress should be a representation of a company’s culture. Sure, I promote casual attire but, that doesn’t mean it’s correct for every company. Proper attire is a topic that people do care about and will the younger crowd coming into the workforce; it might be worth having again. And whatever attire you decide just make sure it’s for the right (and modern) reasons.
I hope you enjoyed the content. I would love to hear from anyone with an opinion on the matter. Please let me know what you think in the comments below