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Suit and Tie Optional!

Updated on February 16, 2012

Clothes don't always make the man, or rabbit!

C'mon! do you really think the guy wearing the bunny suit would be more convincing if he wore a suit and tie instead?
C'mon! do you really think the guy wearing the bunny suit would be more convincing if he wore a suit and tie instead?

Is a Suit and Tie the Only Thing to Consider?

The Suit and Tie is considered to be the uniform of business and special occasions. And for some, it is almost their god. Even though things may have loosened up over the years, there are still many businesses that will not even consider you for employment if you show up with anything less than a suit and tie. And oftentimes, people will talk negatively about the person who comes to the graduation or wedding in anything less. But is the suit and tie the only thing to consider? I say, no.

While many in business no longer require a suit and tie for a prospective hire, there are many who do. Many of these business people say that just wearing the suit and tie makes a person a better worker, and that customers will appreciate it, and that the person looks more professional. But is this really true? Well, the answer can be complex. As for making one a better worker, this is true only if the person likes the job and the trappings that go with it. A football player likes wearing his team's uniform, including the helmet and shoulder pads, certainly, and it probably makes him feel more ready for the game. But I don't think an attorney made to wear the same football gear would feel more ready to go into the courtroom. Now, since attorneys usually wear the suit and tie, it probably does help them psychologically, but then, they do have an important job and most probably set out to be an attorney anyway, and when one is doing what they wanted to do, they will usually be a better worker as a result.

As for the average office worker, I don't think they would do less well if they wore casual clothing instead. I've worked in an office environment and I never been able to work harder or faster on those occasions where I had to wear a suit.

Now, a suit will make a person look more professional, but this is due to our perceptions and yes, shallowness. If a business wants to present a more professional look, they often have all of their employees wear suits and ties. And yes, some customers prefer this. But does it really help if workers who rarely or never come into contact with customers are forced to wear suits and ties? Yet, there are people who feel very strongly that people, especially in any type of business, should wear suits and ties all the time. There was a radio personality that I once heard, who feels really strongly about this.

I heard him say that he would feel contempt for a man who owned a television but not a suit and tie. He also said that, at one time, all men wore suits and ties all of the time, even when they attended a baseball game. But what really struck me was his tone and demeanor. he was very strong and almost angry as he said this, as if not wearing a suit and tie was a direct violation of divine commandment!

To this, I say that I need to know more about someone before I feel contempt for them. As for the fact that men used to wear suits and ties all the time, yes, it's largely true. But if a suit is deemed to be worn to show honor and respect for business, and special occasions, wearing a suit and tie all the time may be making it's symbolism meaningless. One's birthday is certainly special, because it is celebrated only once per year. But if it was celebrated each and every day, it, too, would lose meaning and be far less special.

And as for customers thinking that if a salesman or businessperson isn't wearing a suit and tie, then he is less worthy of their business, let me tell a story.

A couple I know needed to have their house worked on, including painting of the outside trim and porch. They contacted a company, let's call them company A, and the owner came to see the couple. The owner wore a suit and tie, and looked very well put together. He assured the couple that everything would be taken care of and guaranteed, and he also seemed to make a connection to everything that the couple said. He claimed to be the same religion as the husband, claimed to know the wife's second language and have elements of the same national heritage as she, and so on. But he did have a very professional manner and was dressed "Professionally".

Well, the job was done. Then, just days later, the paint on both the trim and porch started bubbling and peeling. And within two weeks, the porch looked worse than before, as did the trim. And the professionally dressed business owner of Company A, with his suit and tie, could not be reached!

A few years later, the couple decided to try again to fix the house and have the porch and trim painted. Of course, they knew not to go with Company A, so they found a different company, Company B. The owner came, and he was dressed differently. He wore the clothes of construction work. A flannel shirt, work pants and work shoes, with a work belt. He looked neat and clean, offered no BS, no claims to be everything that the couple was. He gave them facts and figures, explained how he would work, what he would do, as well as who his subcontractors were and what they would be doing. And when the couple said OK, everything was done according to what the owner had said, and, he was always available when the couple had a question. And the trim and porch? The paint is still good, no peeling after 15 years!

Lesson here: A suit and tie does not guartantee you won't be taken.

Now, I know some readers will think that I have no "Line", that if I were to hire someone, that they could come in with torn dirty clothes and flies buzzing about their heads. Well, that would be totally false. I would expect them to come in with clean clothes and being clean. Same goes when I am a customer. And yes, there are times when you should wear a suit and tie, such as for milestones like weddings and graduations, and when invited to such, I do wear a suit and tie if required, despite my feeling as if I have a straitjacket on.

However, having said that, If I were a student graduating, and I could choose between two dads, one who always wore a suit and tie, but who couldn't be at my graduation because of a business deal he had going, even after promising me he'd be there, and a dad who will only wear a flannel shirt and work pants or jeans but is really happy for me and would be at my graduation even if it meant getting past an army determined to stop him, I would choose the dad in the flannel shirt hands down without a second thought!

And if I were an employer and knew that this guy in the flannel shirt would be the best worker, and the most honest with me, I would hire him, too. And, I would interview such a person anyway, instead of dismissing him out of hand for not wearing a suit and tie.

So there you have it. Yes, there are times when the suit and tie should be worn, but not wearing one isn't everything.

Thanks for reading!


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