I just overheard an interesting discussion about whether someone arriving for an interview with an old leather briefcase would create a positive or negative impression on the interviewer. Of course, it depends on the industry, age and seniority level of the interviewee / interviewer and also the country, but it’s an interesting question none-the-less.

The same sartorial dilemma’s arise regarding neck-ties. For example, in the UK in the mobile telecoms industry, it seems the suit and open-neck shirt have become the norm at anything other than senior manager or board-level. In many instances even a suit is overkill – jeans, jacket and shirt are the norm.

In the workplace it’s easy to adjust to the accepted norm, but as an interviewee or supplier visiting a customer, you certainly don’t want to appear disrespectful. But neither do you want to give the impression you’re power-dressing or old-fashioned. It’s a delicate balance, and one that if you get wrong can mean you don’t get that sale, or that job. Pretty significant stakes.

Personally, I feel much smarter wearing a tie rather than an open-neck shirt, but that’s just a personal preference and I rarely if ever wear a tie for work any longer. But even 7-8 years ago a tie was the norm in telecoms – at that time I know of one mobile operator who had a ‘no knitwear’ policy at work. It will be interesting to see how business dress changes over the next few years – will the progression towards casual dress continue, or will formality return?


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