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What Ever Happened to Proper Business Attire?

June 26, 2014

So my wife and I visited several different temp agencies in the region looking for a quick assignment in this difficult economic time that we are in. There were two temp agencies in particular that left a negative impression on us and to our puzzlement did not seem to leave the same negative impression on the recruiters. Those two temp agencies were Accustaffing and Kaye Personnel. We were astounded how the waiting room was filled with young men who apparently had no business manners. They were young men who were making light of their attire in the business arena. For quite some time my wife and I were puzzled that any company would even entertain employing someone he placed no value on their appearance in the business world. Until one day I went to an interview with a local nonprofit and I learned that once again the government was behind the matter.

I went to interview for the position of employment specialist with a local nonprofit who I later discovered in the interview process was funded by the New Jersey Parole Board. Right way I knew I was not interested in being employed in a position that is being funded by a government agency that criminalizes non-violent behavior, or rather carries out the punishment of criminalizing what products people decide to place in their own bodies.

I learned that via the NJ Parole Board, this non-profit was using these temp agencies to employ ex-convicts and of course when a government agency says you must employ someone, companies do it, regardless of whether the candidate is employable or not. In a fascist society, major corporations just want to survive and will do whatever the government asks.

My question to the board of directors of Accustaffing and Kaye Personnel is, if you would not allow someone with tattoos all over their body and torn jeans and shorts and sneakers to conduct business in your board room, while would you allow them to sit in a waiting room giving them preference for jobs over more highly qualified candidates with college degrees who are not making light of their attire while conducting business?

Here is an interesting anecdote. When I briefly interviewed with one of the recruiters, she seemed amazed that most of her candidates walk off jobs and have the nerve to return to her inquiring about another assignment. I wanted to ask her, have you seen how inappropriately dressed most of your candidates in the waiting room are?! Why does their poor work ethic surprise you?

Never make light of your attire in the business arena. You may not be a clotheshorse, or place any value on what you wear, but your clothing broadcasts plenty about you, and you can easily sabotage your chances of success by dressing carelessly. Its a given or at least in every other part of the world except for the Delaware Valley region of the United States, its a given that a professional appearance translates into professional behavior and credibility. People who work with you under the same roof, particularly your superiors, will conclude that the quality of your work matches the quality of your appearance. Especially for junior employees, dressing professionally communicates that you want to be taken seriously–so dress for the job you want.

Another anecdote I am reminded of is when a coworker at a life insurance company I was working for stated that I needed to stop coming in to work in a suit because management will take me seriously. This was a sarcastic comment that was suggesting that I was overdressing because apparently this company enjoyed recruiting “sales” agents from a section of Philadelphia that believes that if you are talking to customers on the phone you dont need to dress for success since they cannot see you.

Apparently, this life insurance company, Colonial Penn, was not concerned about how their “sales agents” dressed at work, yet management would send out emails asking them to dress professionally whenever the stockholders of CNO Financial would be dropping by for a visit. When in doubt, err on the side of conservative. Of course, the industry you’ve chosen, your job, and where you work all influence your business attire. Financiers, and those selling financial products (as I tried to explain repeatedly to Colonial Penn coworkers) are expected to dress conservatively (apparently Colonial Penn is the exception), fashion designers dress to reflect current and future trends. Colors that look fine in sunny Florida would be a misfire in Manhattan.

Both men and women should plan to dress as suitably and comfortably as possible for their jobs on any given occasion.


DO know the dress code of the company and look like you already work there. Until you’re certain of the company’s culture, stick to conservative choices.

DO be cautious and avoid extremes

DO plan your business wardrobe and its suitability for your job, regardless of your gender.

DO select business clothing that is appropriate for your profession, your geographic region, your job title, and the occasion.

DO keep jewelry to a minimum (both men and women).

DO pay attention to upkeep of shoes–leather should be clean and polished.

DON’T make light of your attire in the business arena.

DON’T sabotage your chances of success by dressing carelessly.

DON’T dress for the beach if you work in an office!

DON’T wear inappropriate skirts (such as mini or tight skirts).

DON’T dress seductively by wearing a low-cut or revealing blouse or dress.

DON’T overdo your cologne or perfume.

DON’T let “Casual Friday” overrule your conservative dress when you have a Friday appointment with a client.


I know many of you may be saying that it is not politically correct to judge a book by its cover. Let me share with you some data from psychologist Albert Mehrabian. According to Dr. Mehrabian these are the following components of a first impression:

  • Nonverbal communication (body language and appearance)–55%
  • Vocal quality–38%
  • Words–7%

Business Event Attire

An invitation to a business event will usually specify the appropriate dress for the occasion. If the invitation doesnt, or if you’re uncertain about what to wear, call the host. If the event is hosted by your company, call the Human Resources office or the person in charge of planning events.

Below is a picture of people in office attire. Enjoy!

office attire




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