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  • Writer's picturePeter Yawitz

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?

Many thanks,

Dandy in Question

Dear Dandy,

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.

Good luck,

Someone Else’s Dad

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