Dear Manager Tools community,


I have a bit of a conundrum I could use your feedback on. 


I am just started a job as an insurance sales agent in a medium sized company in the UK.


The dress code of the office is 'business casual' however, it is stressed in the contract and employee handbook, that casual dress; jeans, t-shirts, trainers etc are not acceptable. 

Most of the bottom level staff in sales and processing wear jeans, t-shirts, or at most tucked in casual shirts with no blazers/jackets or ties. 


Most of the managerial staff wear formal shirts tucked in, WITHOUT TIES, or suits, again without ties. 


I have hit the ground running and am doing well. I've been networking and building relationships with all the key people (indeed pretty much everyone) very well. 


However, it has been noticed by some and I have received comments from a few colleagues (at my level) that I dress very differently to most of them. 

I wear a suit and a tie without fail. They are not garish combinations, they are very classic, and designed to look smart, professional and business like. 


However, the managers do not wear ties, and the non-managerial staff wear clothing pretty much entirely in breach of the what the company defines as 'professional attire', I am uncertain as to whether I should dress down, or as the adage goes 'dress for success'.



The comments have been double edged; on the one hand the superficial comments have been 'yeah its good to look smart, and you do look good, well done'. But the tone of voice, the body language and what is not said; implies 'do you think you're better than us."


Now a picture does paint a thousand words, however, I have made huge efforts to approach EVERYONE and as a good salesman, and a natural people person have started building strong professional relationships with many people in the company. Whereas all the other new starters in the new intake refuse to acknowledge the existence (out of shyness) of anyone but their own group (shunning even other staff at the same level), not eating lunch with them, ignoring them in the kitchen and break out rooms, avoiding eye contact, not introducing themselves. BUT they all dress in casual attire...



So guys, thats the situation


Should I dress down to fit in? 


Should I dress for success and keep smart? 



Should keep the suit and lose the tie? (the middle way)



Appreciate any and all feedback!




MrRegistrar's picture

 I'm interested in this whole area too, but don't have an answer for you unfortunately.

I find myself in a similar situation, as I am an office professional working within the business unit of a high school.  The teaching staff here all wear very casual clothing and given the role that they fill and the sector we are in (small country high school) it suits their positions.

I work in the office and I wear formal work attire, but no jacket and I also request my small group of office staff do the same.

The Principal of the school also wears a full suit and tie to work everyday - but being a child oriented professional, he does wear a wide selection of funny ties etc - which I loathe, but I can see where he is coming from as it is not as intimidating for the kids.

I have received numerous comments from the teaching staff that I should just ditch the corporate look, but its something that was drilled into me before I work here and I am more comfortable in it.

Without hijacking the thread, and in relation to the above post, what does everyone think here?


tplummer's picture

I would say, don't dress down to the lowest common denominator. If the one/two position hire ups don't wear ties, then you shouldn't either. But don't wear jeans and sloppy casual shirts tucked in. Slacks and a dress shirt seem appropriate in this situation. Blazer when you meet clients. If you want to dress down on Friday (assuming no clients), Dockers and a sports shirt that is essentially a dress shirt (button down, pressed) seems appropriate. 

esoell's picture

My motto is dress for success.  You need to be comfortable (that contributes to confidence), but anyone who faults you for "dressing above your station" is either jealous or threatened.  Most people will see you as smart, professional and destined for success.  Not a bad reputation to have!

delete_account_per_reacher_145083_dtiller's picture
Training Badge

I am not sure why you have a problem.  You should definitely not dress down.  Dress as you feel is appropriate for your role.  In most businesses there is a wide spectrum of clothing that nobody seems to stick out, or not that anyone has reason to judge.  I previously worked in a construction based business and wore a suit (no tie, I'm female) and was generally the only one but I came from corporate and those were the clothing I had plus it appealed to me.  Some days others dressed up based on meetings so there was always a variety of looks.  Now I'm in the scrap business and so wear jeans but I don't think anyone would care if I showed up in a suit.  I've also noticed that sales people tend to dress up as they are in front of clients so want to give that professional appearance.

Best wishes.

rjman86's picture



Thank you very much for such a detailed and thoughtful suggestion. 


I shall take your advice sir! 


Tieless but suited, and smartly dressed down on fridays. 



rjman86's picture



'Dress for success' is indeed a good motto, or the similar 'dress for the job you want, rather than the one you have' also works.

I subscribe to those mottos too, however, my issue is I do not want to 'frighten the horses' so to speak, so as I ascend the ladder I don't want to make too many enemies, for something as simple and controllable as the way I dress.


I shall stick to suits and formal shirts, but maybe lose the tie and keep on in my desk in case I need to meet formally. 


Thanks for your advice its very good to know that other people to subscribe to such professional standards!



rjman86's picture



Thanks for your feedback. 


That is a very pertinent series of anecdotes. I shall not dress down much, I guess, because we are all in one office, and people tend to get threatened as you suggest very easily, its just smart office politics to look smart and professional, but not better dressed than your boss.


Thanks again




bonwelliii's picture
Licensee Badge


Great question, and I wish I had solicited feedback before learning the hard way.

Dress to fit in, and be ready to "dress up" at a moment's notice. It doen't need to be either/or - go for both/and.

At my previous firm, I used to wear suits / jackets & slacks. Always with a tie.

The new firm is very casual. Slacks and shirts (no jackets, no ties). And the first rule is "fit in" - so I always wear a jacket into the office, and the first thing I do is hang it up. Also, in my jacket pocket, there is a suitable (pun intended) tie. I "fit in" at the office, and can "dress up" in a moment, if needed.

Reading the thread your thoughtful comments appear you have reached this conclusion. I want to affirm it from experience. And best wishes at the new place! It's great you are generating such great results - please remember those internal relationships (and dressing to "fit in" is a good start).

Be well,

lisas2's picture

 When I was a consultant we were told to dress like our peer's boss on engagements. So if my peer was a DBA, I dressed like the DBA manager, not the DBA. If my peer was an IT manager, then I dressed like the director. If my peers were dressed down in jeans, I generally wore business casual. Of course, that was in a consulting role. Nowadays, I work in a varied environment and dress for the day based on things like expected meetings and what's on the calendar. 

True story. When I was at the software firm, my boss and his boss once went on a visit to a client VP. The company was considering a large consulting engagement. Apparently, in Honolulu if people come to meetings in a suit and tie, they get thrown out and told to come back when they are dressed properly. Or you did in the mid-90s. The normal business dress for all men was a Hawaiian shirt, usually tucked and sometimes untucked, with slacks (like Dockers).  These are not loud tourist shirts but they are classy shirts with small patterns.  On casual Fridays, men would wear jeans but women primarily would wear long, fitted, stylish muumuus. Very interesting corporate culture. So what's the point? Dress for the statement you want to make but within the culture.