Dressing above your business culture

dylan232's picture
Rank: Chimp | -1

Hi all! I just started a job as an accountant at IBM. The dress code there is stated as business casual. I had my first day today and showed up in a suit and tie. I noticed that almost nobody in the entire building wore a tie, never mind a suit. MY manager actually just wore khakis and a polo. To start off, I actually enjoy wearing a suit. I like the way the material feels and like the way I feel and look wearing it. I am just wondering if it is bad practice to dress above the business culture? Will it make me look snooty or ridiculous? Will it help me be seen as someone with ambition? Should I instead just dress as good as possible within the business casual code (for example...grey wool trousers, a nice polo and a sports jacket?). All answers appreciated!!

Comments (7)

Jan 6, 2016

Wearing a suit on the first day is always a safe bet. Now that you know what the dress code and office culture is like, it's best to follow. Dress pants and dress shirt is the way to go. I'd ditch the sport coat until you've been there a couple months.

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Jan 7, 2016


p>Wearing a suit on the first day is always a safe bet.

Yeah, safe bet to be a total office clown. What the hell are you talking about?

The kid is an accountant at IBM and KNEW the the dress code to be business casual. You've gotta be trolling with this ridiculous advice, right??

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Jan 6, 2016

You will look snooty, ridiculous and like you can't read social clues if you far overdress the office environment, no offense intended. F500's (and F-single/double digits especially, wherever big blue is today) will have a culture and don't try to change it. Some MBB consultant was paid a lot of money 15 years ago to tell them that a biz casual dress code would improve productivity (kidding consultants, kind of). If fashion is your thing then dressing well to the top office is fine, like you stated, but don't be the guy wearing a suit and tie while your manager wears a golf shirt and Dockers. Personally my feeling is that outside of tech companies where CEO's wear hoodies, you shouldn't wear a golf shirt in the office unless you're going golfing. Maybe casual Friday's in the summer

The funny thing about IBM is that they used to be the company that was well known to mandate a dark suit and tie and white shirt through the 80's. Blue shirt meant you went home.

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Best Response
Jan 7, 2016

This is a tough one. The maxim "Dress for the job you want to have, not the one you currently have" is most proudly spouted by people in Middle America who think the idea of 'dressing up' is an untailored, center-vented Jos. A. Bank pinstripe suit with black square-toe slip-ons.

My hypothesis is that the maxim applies if you're at either end of the spectrum: a family-owned business where good ol' "family values" are treasured, or an extremely white-shoe, prestigious firm where men are culturally articulate enough to know or identify bespoke clothing and quality footwear (and I'm talking Berluti or John Lobb, not Aldens) and will view your sartorial fluency as a sign of maturity, 'promotability,' and class.

If you fall in the middle (which is the vast majority of corporate jobs today), it's tough. You will look like the tryhard, the overachiever, the one who's too dumb to assess the culture and integrate. So, instead of upping the level of formality, up the level of quality.

Don't get the shapeless khakis and trousers that are the blight of American men. Get trim, tailored trousers that properly fit your seat, rise, knee, and ankle (both width and length on that last one). Don't get shapeless shirts that leave you swimming. For the same price as a Polo or Brooks Bros. button-down you can get a made-to-measure shirt from Proper Cloth or Indochino that should fit you like a dream. Don't wear shitty shoes. Pair the well-tailored pants and shirts with decent footwear. You don't have to rock Edward Green necessarily, but Allen Edmonds or Aldens will set you miles apart.

Forgo the tie, but don't pull the doofus move of wearing a point-collar shirt open at the neck without a tie. The collar will open widely and flop flat, even with collar stays. Either get a wide spread or cutaway collar (and if you're having them made to measure, make sure it's from a brand with superior construction where the collar won't wilt [and consider the hidden button-down]) or a crisp button-down.

Nix the sportcoat. Get a quality navy blazer. Have it made, preferably. Again, fit is crucial. You can wear it into the office in the morning and sling it on the back of your chair or on a hanger. You'll look presentable outside of work (on your morning and evening commute, or if you head straight to happy hour or a date after work) and it's ready to go if you have to step into a meeting during the day, but you aren't sticking out like a sore thumb wearing it the whole work day. If others are doing it, rock a nice (fitted) fleece vest during the day. Brands like Patagonia are great for this.

In short, you can stand out tremendously simply by improving fit and quality of materials without one-upping everyone on formality. This is the equivalent of what I mentioned in the scenario of the elite white-shoe firm above. Everyone's in suits; that doesn't mean you're busting out classic continental morning dress to outdo them, it means your business attire is of a better quality and fit. Stick in the same 'bracket,' as it were.

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Jan 7, 2016

True story: I met an accountant from a firm comparable to IBM at a college networking function a few years back. He was wearing a navy blazer, white shirt, pink tie and black dress pants. Clearly, this man was a clown.

I can honestly say that even if you wear a dress shirt and dress pants, some people in your department might think you are overdressed.

Jan 8, 2016

Not sure if this is a troll but please don't wear a suit.. I mean you can dress a little better than your colleagues but if your boss is wearing a khakis and you're wearing a suit that is way too much of a difference..

Jan 8, 2016
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