dress for success

“I don’t care how they dress so long as they mind their fighting.” – Sir Thomas Pictondress for success code_in_Western_culture



Dressing for work.

Dress codes.

Dress for success.

All that business bullshit.

<I even wrote a while back on the wackiness that often ensues in senior meetings on dress code discussions: https://brucemctague.com/answering-dress-code-questions >



I am old guy but I don’t seem to get as hung up on how people dress for work as other old people.



I wasn’t always this way. My view on this topic has changed … pretty significantly I may add.

When I was younger I was kind of a stickler for this whole ‘dress for success’ thing. Business clothes were business clothes and casual clothes were casual clothes <and never the twain shall meet>.


Looking back that seems kind of silly.


I know. I know. Everyone says appearance matters.


The way we dress for a business meeting.

The way we talk.

Even the bling <oops … accessories> we wear can influence how other people view us <I hear shoes are really big influencers>.


We try and not make judgment on people’s appearance … but we do. And in particular … in the business world we judge all the time with the infamous ‘first impression.’ Whether we like it or not appearance seems to play a fairly significant role in the business world.

And, frankly, I think its silly. Silly because … “I don’t care how they dress so long as they mind their fighting.”



Although the clothes we wear do not necessarily define our personality it may actually reflect the organization culture. So I back off on my disdain for the dress for success thing if it denote respect for the organization culturally … which <as I tell young people> is not compromising yourself … it is a nod to the fact that the world is bigger than “i.”


That said.

I will go back to my opening quote and the guy who said it.

General Picton a general in the British army during the Napoleonic wars.

Picton was “respected for his courage and feared for his irascible temperament” and is mainly remembered for serving under the Duke of Wellington in the Iberian Peninsular War and at the Battle of Waterloo.


He may have been irascible … but I am with Sir Thomas Picton in that I don’t care how they dress so long as they mind their fighting.


I believe most people who give out all the random bits of ‘dress for success’ advice seem to ignore what a manager’s philosophy is.Dress for success twain

Because while at the beginning of my career <and managing> I worried about style <appearance crap> where I ended up was substance <fighting well>.


I wanted my groups to earn and have respect for the business and their minds.

Not how they looked.


Picton taught his men to be daring, never to pause, never to retreat. He did this so well that it is a singular fact the third division was never repulsed when they attacked. Picton called them his “brave ragged rascals” of which made up what the British army called ‘the fighting division.’


Picton himself was “a rough foul mouthed devil as ever lived” said the Duke of Wellington.



Wellington entrusted the most difficult and dangerous assignments to Picton and his division.


Success operates strongly on the minds of soldiers.


I would be quite happy managing ‘brave ragged rascals’ if they kicked ass in the business world.


Yes.dress for success rules

I know.

I have a different point of view on this than most people.


I imagine I view this differently than society & culture <but I have lines of younger people lining up to work with me>.


What do I mean? Research.


Well dressed employees taken more seriously at work: Survey

Turning out well dressed at work could automatically mean half your battle won, going by a survey which indicates that employees who dress well are taken seriously at work than those that pay scant attention to those crumpled sleeves and faded collars.

Nearly 89 per cent of respondents of a survey conducted by Team Lease, a leading staffing company, feel that style of dressing has a long-term impact on the overall image of an individual. Three fourth of the respondents felt that well dressed people are taken more seriously at work place.







Nuts to having to suck it up and accept something like this … and nuts to the norm.

Maybe it is just nuts.


Because I think it’s a little crazy when I read something like ‘jeans and tshirts are two words that shouldn’t exist in the business world’ or ‘jeans and tshirts are out of the question.’

Or I read something like … “… such casual attire must never be shown in front of your associates, employees, partners, and investors because they’re not screaming confidence or professionalism. Keep t-shirts and jeans for your time off and never wear them at the office.”


The business world is like a fierce battlefield where only the best of the best will succeed.

But if appearance is the differentiator … boy oh boy … do we have some major issues in the workplace.



I am not suggesting looking homeless … and I am willing to allow that your ‘office dress’ may not reflect your ‘real’ personality.


I do believe everyone should be treated with respect and an office dress code must be respected from head to toe.dress for success skirt length


But dressing well is all about be comfortable in our own style and wear it with ease.  Business culture <particularly in the U.S.> has grown increasingly casual over the years. Given recent studies showing that dressing well is associated with professional success the young should cultivate whatever their version of a culture of greater sophistication in office dress is.

While it is difficult to get young people to absorb this  advice I do suggest that they dial up their ‘sophistication’ a little in the work place.

I will say this though about dressing up in general.


When asked by young people … I suggest first & foremost that they learn to dress more formally or more sophisticated.

Just learn it.

Once you learn it you have choices.

And as with anything you learn for the first time … it gets easier and more comfortable with time. And you find what you like and what actually makes you look good <I do point out that everyone looks good more sophisticated & formal>.



This whole discussion about dressing for success makes my head hurt.


And because I began with a famous 18th century British general I will shift to a famous 18th century British admiral.


“Now, gentlemen, let us do something today which the world may talk of hereafter.” – Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood at Trafalgar


You know.

That is what really matters.


I am not suggesting everyone be naked in the office <yikes … very bad mental image here> … but what is measured in the end is “what you do the world talks hereafter about.’


I tell young people all the time … dress the part dress for success family guy<meet all the crazy dress code criteria> until you prove you know your shit.


Because once people want your shit … they could care less if you look like shit.


Business is like a war <whether we like to admit it or not>.

The weak business gets killed by the strong business.


I end with that thought because … in the end … I don’t care how they dress so long as they mind their fighting


That is ‘dressing for success.’

End of story.


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Written by Bruce