Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What are the "dress for success" rules now?

Tori Johnson, career consultant on ABC’s Good Morning America, conducted an experiment this morning with another female consultant doing a job interview with straight hair v. curly hair. The results were interesting. The report said that while women often find straight hair preferable in “finding a mate,” curly hair seems to peak more interest among employers in a team job interview, even if the employers say they felt “annoyed.” Straight hair was preferred by employers ten years ago, but not now.

Outside of the media, there is always a controversy on how much people should spend on appearance for the job. In information technology, in many cases, people (especially younger people) did well with a fun appearance, or sometimes (older people) with a plain appearance that did not appear costly. In other professions, it seems like there is a definite emphasis on impressing or manipulating the customer with sartorial tastes.

Of course, back in the 1960s and 70s there was a lot of controversy over dress even in I.T., when the field was newer. IBM and then, notoriously H. Ross Perot and EDS, created a lot of buzz with strict dress codes, that at one time even including long stockings and garters for men (with inspections. Later, the code emphasized a dark suit, and white shirt, with codes kept on at all times when around the customer. Narrow ties were conservative, but in the early 1970s wide ties came into fashion as did flares and bell bottoms, even with suits. ). I once saw one of EDS’s 1972 memos, which seem to emphasize the fact that dress was important to keep the confidence of customers who did not understand data processing. John T. Molloy wrote his “Dress for Success” books that tailored advice to regions of the country, and even suggested that young men needed to add gray to their hair to look older and more “authoritative.” The pretentiousness (and cover-up) seem offensive by modern standards.

In a tight economy, I'm not one who would like to spend money frivolously on appearance items just to pander to a employer's subconscious sense of fashion.

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