In a Recession, Dress Up To Cheer Up
At the promotional products conference in Orlando a few weeks ago, I saw a lot more salespeople in a suit and tie than one would have expected. At the same conference two years ago, they were probably all dressed casually. Salespeople are on the front line of the job market and so, if they think suits are in, they are in.
The casual look, which we used to celebrate as a sign of egalitarianism and unstuffiness, now is seen as kind of sloppy. We now see that an employee in casual clothing looks simply awful, and we also are starting to suspect that an individual who is casual with clothing may be casual with company funds.
This new smartness is born of paranoia. A male friend of mine recently purchased some Ralph Lauren dress shirts (a sale bargain) in order to send the message to his boss that he would rather not be fired. It has been a good investment: he still has a job and says the ritual of ironing these shirts reminds him that his job matters, and claims to respect it a little more.
I discovered a few years ago the truth that one feels better about one’s job when one looks smarter. Until I was about 30, I used to dress myself mainly in clothes bought from the sale or clearance racks, and slung them on carelessly. Now I wear nicer sweaters, blouses, jackets and pearl earrings. Partly, I’m trying to offset the ravages of age (don’t laugh, even though I haven’t hit 40 yet), but I’ve also noticed that, when I dress to impress, I may not succeed in impressing anyone else but I do impress myself. And that, surely, is a good start.
More than this I find that dressing up is a nice thing to do in itself. It lifts the spirits. I have a friend who has just been appointed to a senior managerial job and her first decision has been to launch High Heels Friday. Immediate feedback suggests that this is going to be popular with her female staff. When the economy is grim, we need to dress up to cheer up.