‘Put on a proper suit, do up your tie’

David Cameron found himself pulled into a childish game of who had the last laugh in parliament on Wednesday while debating the reforms to the NHS. A heckle from a Labour MP prompted the PM to say

“I know what my mother would say. I think she’d look across the dispatch box and she’d say: ‘Put on a proper suit, do up your tie”

But does wearing a suit and tie make you better at your job?


If we are dressing ‘for the job you want’ Cameron would probably argue that Corbyn is

Office Dress Code

striving to be a Geography Teacher.

Joking aside, does the idea of having a strict work dress code , and only being seen as professional if you are wearing a suit still apply in 2016?

The Telegraph published an article last year entitled ‘why men who wear suites are more successful’, based on a study by the California State University, which analysed the psychological effect dressing sharply has on people.

The outcome of the study showed that those who dressed ‘formally’ to complete a set of tests were more able to see the bigger picture, rather than focusing on the smaller details, and were more able to make good financial decisions and avoid impulse purchases.

So I should be wearing a suit when I’m online shopping at 1am?!?

The idea of a suit and tie being a ‘professional uniform’ may be seen as something from the 80’s and 90’s, with movies such as Working Girl and The Secrets of My Success, emphasising the impact power dressing can have. However in 2015 we heard how Lewis Hamilton, world championship British racing driver, was turned away from the Royal Box at Wimbledon because he was not wearing a jacket and tie. Lewis chose not to accept the offer to borrow the relevant clothing, and watched the proceedings from an altogether less exclusive seat, albeit his stylish outfit remained intact.

Can the way you dress impact on other people’s perception of your success?

Office Dresscode

When the Spice Girls exploded onto the scheme Victoria Beckham regularly wore bikini tops and tiny miniskirts. Whilst she was known as the ‘posh’ one, her first step into the world of the catwalk was made bra-less, in tiny green hot pants.

Much to her disdain many in the fashion community didn’t take her seriously.


Office Dresscode

However as the years went by, with several successful fashion collections beneath her belt and a distinctly more ‘fashion’ wardrobe, VB is now seen as a high credible fashion designer and style icon.


What came first? The new style or the career success?


You wouldn’t get a job at Savile Row tailor Davies and Son if you weren’t wearing a suit and tie. Patrick Murphy, head cutter believes that without them, you can look like a scruff.

“If you ask me, anyone wearing a suit and not a tie just hasn’t finished getting dressed,”

However consider those successful in their field who have managed to get there sans neck wear:

  • Richard Branson – “I often have a pair of scissors in my top pocket to go cutting people’s ties off,” he once wrote.
  • Steve Jobs – his signature look of a black polo neck become synonymous with the multi-millionaire
  • Robert Peston – he is quoted as having said “I sort of think the notion that what makes you a serious journalist is wearing a tie is bonkers”

If you work for the NHS you are warned of the potential dangers of wearing a tie in their guidelines which state “Ties are rarely laundered but worn daily. They perform no beneficial function in patient care and have been shown to be colonised by pathogens”. When a dress code is based on safety or encouraging creativity it is easy to see the reason behind it.

In the world of small business we have to ask ourselves whether our office dress codes are relevant, encourage employees to feel empowered in their roles and are ultimately non-discriminating. It’s a difficult line to tread between allowing employees freedom to show their personalities and feel empowered in the workplace. For every employee who feels motivated to work hard because they can chose to show their personality in their work gear, there is another who prefers the ‘uniform’ approach.

Do we consider our prospective clients’ first impressions of us when we get dressed every morning?

With many small business owners working a considerable amount of time from home, does putting on a work ‘uniform’ in the morning help you to be more productive than working in your pyjamas and fluffy slippers until gone midday?

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