In-Your-Face Dressing

By Sandy Dumont

The dot-com revolution brought with it a new dress code as young millionaires with more money than style decreed suits were dead and ties were an abomination. It was the birth of “in-your-face” dressing that decreed, “I make so much money I don’t have to dress to impress anyone.” Such arrogance foretold of mass bankruptcies in later years.

Nevertheless, money talks, and the fashion victims listened and followed. Casual Friday became de rigueur, even in the most conservative establishments. Once-formal bankers, investment brokers and lawyers now loosened up on Fridays. In time, it became a bother to dress formally and “business casual” and “corporate casual” were born. This attire soon looked more like “corporate casualty,” since it could not quite be defined and was sorely abused.

The recent successor to business casual, is the “in-your-face” dressing that announces, “I’m so hip and with-it that I don’t have to wear a boring business suit or a tie.” These professionals are commonly seen in a black silk Armani T-shirt and expensive sport jacket. For women, the look consists of suggestive attire, chandelier earrings and too much makeup. There are problems other than the “in-your-face” message that this look sends.

For one thing, it easily creates the impression that you are “slick,” and maybe headed for Las Vegas instead of the boardroom. Some females have even observed that this look can sometimes give the impression of being a womanizer. In either case, credibility goes down dramatically. And if you have a slim build, something else happens. Normally when a sport jacket is worn with a shirt and a tie, these garments fill out the neck area of the jacket so that it doesn’t pull away from the shirt at the neck - a real No-No if you want to look polished and professional. However, with a thin T-shirt, very often the jacket may not fit snugly at the neck, causing the neck to look frail or weak.

Other “in-your-face” looks include inappropriate ties that suggest, “I’m so successful that I can wear Mickey Mouse or baby pink ties to the boardroom.” Or, women who refuse to wear makeup or proper business attire to the office.

Beware of this stance. Menswear designer Joseph Abboud recently booted two investment bankers out of his New York office because they were not wearing ties. Abboud said, “They blew it because they offended me by being too casual.” Ultimately, casual attire suggests a casual attitude. However, “in-your-face” attire suggests a smug attitude, which most people resent.

When a person of the stature and power of Donald Trump takes an “in-your-face” stance and wears a pink tie in New York City, it sends the false signal that such a tie must be a Power Tie. It is not; not even in Palm Beach or other cities in the Deep South, where pastel ties are popular and accepted. Pastel ties are for the country club or dining out with friends. In real “power” situations, they cause a man to look less powerful. Of course, powerful men often live by the credo, “Do as I say, not as I do.” In other words, for them, power trumps decorum. Unfortunately, “copycats” of this “in-your-face” dressing who do not live in the Deep South risk having their credibility decreased.

True professionals know instinctively that in order to be taken seriously, a serious appearance is required. They dress to impress, even though this attitude may be more subliminal than conscious. Most people make an effort when calling on an important client because they know it affects the outcome. Their attitude is positive, and their appearance should also be positive. In-your-face attire is smug or arrogant.

We had a brief foray into “madness” with the dot-com revolution, and during that time “monsters” were created in the working environment. Outraged employees protest today that they don’t want to return to formal business attire. They love corporate casual and simply do not want to be bothered with dressing up again. It is still arrogant, and in-your-face, to think that your comfort is more important than your client’s attitude toward you.

Young “GenY” female employees wonder why they are not permitted to wear their suggestive club attire to the office. Satin and lacy stretch camisoles fall into an entirely different category than in-your-face attire. Pop stars spawned this look, and what young business professionals forget is that they are not pop stars. They are business professionals who must represent their company in a business-like manner. As one male executive responded, “We don’t sell that.”

A recent university study concluded that females who wear suggestive attire to the office lose all credibility when they are in management positions. Only females in lower positions with little hope of promotion were not judged negatively in suggestive attire. In reality, if women are informed of the negativity of suggestive attire and refuse to change, it would be as in-your-face as a baby pink Mickey Mouse tie.

Read other articles and learn more about Sandy Dumont.

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