Now We talked about dressing elegantly, stylishly, smartly but what if you go to work for that design company where they all wear jeans and a T-shirt? In your case, you will have to wear jeans too. Just make sure your jeans are the smartest, the most stylish, the most fashionable, the most modern – no, no, you do not iron them, no creases, for God’s sake!
Watch what the others do. If at a meeting, it is jackets off and sleeves rolled up then that’s what you do. If it is very formal and jackets stay on, then yours stays on as well. I know this may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how often you look around a meeting and you can see the one person marching to a different drumbeat – and that’s the one who will be ostracized by the others.
To a greater or lesser extent, we all need to belong to the herd, to fit in, to blend in, to camouflage ourselves so we don’t draw unnecessary attention to ourselves. Obviously, if it is the boss who takes their jacket off then you too do so. Don’t become a clone though and mindlessly follow what everyone else is doing. We are talking here about dressing up or down on a general basis, not each and every minute.
I’ve always found it better to sit back for a moment or two to see what others do rather than to be the first to follow the head lemming. Stand back for a moment, it might be a cliff and not a promotion opportunity; or a springboard with no water below I’ve always found it useful to have a role model to check with to see if they would have done a certain thing, or worn a certain style of dress. For a lot of my business life, I’ve used Cary Grant. Easy then to ask, ‘Would Cary have worn this?’ If the answer is yes, then go right ahead. If the answer is no, then don’t. See how easy this is. Try Humphrey Bogart, but in Casablanca rather than the African Queen.
Even if the corporate culture is to dress casually you can still make an effort. Unfortunately, one of the things we British don’t do well is dress casual. We have never had the weather to learn it properly. We can’t do shorts or T-shirts, Hawaiian shirts or sarongs. We do, however, do smart extremely well.