Can I wear fancy clothes in a casual workplace?
Dear Someone Else’s Dad,
I work in New York for a relatively staid global financial firm where the dress code is unofficially “suits and ties when you’re seeing a client, but it’s not a bad idea to wear a suit and tie in the office anyway.” Most of the senior men wear suits, but some don’t wear ties, and others may just wear a nice sports coat with a tie.
I actually like this more formal dress code since I’m European and enjoy wearing custom-fitted suits, interesting ties, pocket squares, patterned or no socks, and great shoes. The problem is that I’ve heard that many of my US colleagues snigger a bit about my clothing choices and slicked-back hair. I imagine they think I’m trying to prove something, but I’m honestly just presenting myself the way I like to. My unidentifiable Euro accent doesn't help matters either.
So my question is: do I have to join the club and dress more off-the-rack and blow-dry my hair, or can I keep my style and be who I am?
Dandy in Question
I’m hardly a fashion maven, but I do make assumptions based on first impressions the way most people do. If I were introduced to you at a casual event and noticed that you were wearing a ten-gallon hat, a Superman cape, and ballet slippers, my synapses would be in overdrive trying to figure you out.
I never tell people to radically change their personality or style, but in your case you have to ask yourself this:
Are people are saying, “He is a great asset to the team, and by the way he has an interesting sense of style,” or, “What a prig with that slicked-back hair and no socks- I’d be wary of putting him in front of clients?”
If the answer is the latter you don't need to do a complete makeover, but you might go a bit lighter on the hair gel and invest in a few three-packs of over-the-calf socks. You can still be proud of your Eton heritage, but you don’t have to wear it on your sleeves or on any other garment.
Someone Else’s Dad