I think this is a neat topic, as I think "dressing the part" has evolved over time, and especially so over the last few years with the pandemic.
I know when I first started working in engineering, you could tell that workers with more experience typically dressed more formally, compared to newer engineers. And it made sense in a lot of ways. Because they had more experience, they typically had more responsibilities that included having meetings with clients and managers, so "dressing the part" was informally part of the job description. For newer engineers, who typically only had to interact with their direct supervisors and their fellow colleagues, "dressing the part" wasn't as critical, and the newer engineers typically dressed more casually.
Personally, I have had a lot of great supervisors and mentors over the years, and one of them told me something that still sticks with me to this day, "Don't dress for the job you have; dress for the job you WANT to have." To me, taking pride in the way you present yourself can indicate to managers that I am taking my responsibilities seriously, and am looking to progress my career. I have received many strange looks from coworkers if I am wearing a tie or dress shoes, but I wasn't wearing them for my coworkers, I was wearing them for my supervisors.
But that is just my opinion. How you dress is a way for someone to express themselves, and as we are all individuals, it makes sense that we would have individual thoughts on how to dress. To me, there is no right or wrong way.
I will say that during the pandemic, so many things with "dressing the part" has changed. I bet we all have been guilty of attending an online meeting with a nice, presentable top, while wearing sweatpants that can't be seen (hopefully). With a working from home environment, how you dress becomes less important, and what you produce, when you produced it, and how you communicate it is becoming more important, as you may not have the option of quickly and easily talking face to face with someone anymore.
I also think that a difference in attitudes toward dressing the part can be influenced by the different generations in the workforce. I feel younger generations tent to think more of "As long as I am doing good work, who cares what I dress like?" And I completely get that. I feel older generations tend to think more "I wake up a professional, I dress like a professional, I work like a professional, and I eat like a professional" (OK, that last one is a stretch, but you get my point) And I completely understand that mentality too.
Whether you dress formally, or informally (or somewhere in between), is your choice. Different situations and environments call for different techniques to succeed, including how you dress.
I will leave with a quote from Deion Sanders (former NFL and MLB player) that I love, "If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good."
Doug Cantrell P.E., M.ASCE
Sent: 04-06-2021 09:07 AM
From: Daniel Bressler
Subject: Dressing the Part
Some firms have a business-casual dress code while other firms don't have any dress code with some people showing up in tee-shirts.
I have seen a company handbook that requires the Engineers to wear ties (although none of them do).
With virtual meetings, and the summer months coming, this questions applies more than ever! What is the appropriate dress code? Is there even a dress code anymore?
Both sides, for and against 'dressing the part', are credible. Some, such as Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologists, say "Dressing casually could cause an employee to feel less focused and alert" (FORBES) while others disagree citing personal experience and several case studies such as one conducted by Stormline found that "61% of employees more productive when dress code is relaxed" (TALiNT International).
Either way, I would like to know what you think is considered "appropriate" dress code in the workplace? (I personally always wear a button down shirt, even while working from home.)
Daniel Bressler EIT, A.M.ASCE