Does Dressing Up or Dressing Down for Work Make a Difference?

Sometime within the last decade, the working culture changed quite significantly. Besides witnessing a more flexible time managed culture, even the dress code started to change. Large organisations like Google, AirAsia and the like, have since adopted a culture of wearing casual or semi-casual outfits to work.

Being comfortable during long working hours could affect how productive one gets. Besides the comfort factor, it is a lot easier on the wallet too. Having work outfits that are no different from your casual outfits allow you to spend less on formal wear and helps you to embrace your individuality.

Why Do People Dress the Way They Do for Work?

Dressing and grooming a certain way creates an impression right off the bat. Ask yourself, would you stop for a security guard in casual wear working at a government agency, or would you only respond to one in a uniform? Having the right attire helps to create the right impact and impression.

In an article on, an employee working in a mobile phone kiosk decided to ditch the company’s t-shirt and put on a suit instead. He soon realised that customers automatically flocked to him, assuming he was the store manager. The outfit helped to build his credibility as a phone expert. That gave him better sales figures and customers had the trust they needed.

Which Industries Prioritise Personal Grooming?

Being able to dress the way you want, is an outright privilege and it is not something that can be adopted throughout different industries. There are several industries that require their staff to be well groomed and always in uniform. These are usually frontline staff who work in the service industry such as hotel staff, airline crew, or banking staff. This helps to create the right impression that you have the right type of people dealing with you.

If the front-line staff at a restaurant are well groomed and portrayed a proper level of manners and hygiene, the perception of the kitchen staff would probably have a similar tone. Have a frumpy looking waiter greet you at the door, and you would probably have a change of heart. That is why it is vital to hotels, restaurants, and other service-based companies to have a certain level of professional grooming sense amongst their staff.

Does Dressing Up Impact Performance?

According to a report on Forbes, there is a correlation when it comes to performance and dressing up. When you work while wearing a casual pair of jeans and t-shirt, your mind maintains a weekend mode and keeps you in a relaxed state. This could hamper peak performance. Differentiating work attire from weekend wear puts your mind in work mode when you dress up and helps your mind differentiate when it is time to wind down.

However, the research by Forbes also highlights that this is not an exact science. A lot of the factors fall on an individual’s situation and mindset. If the entire company tries to keep a very casual business attire to break down barriers, putting on a formal work attire would make one stick out like a sore thumb. This could make them feel special or out of place, depending on the individual.

What Do Thought Leaders Have To Say? 

“Everyone defines the dress code differently today, depending on age. But there are still rules and good judgment does apply. My rules are simple: Wear what’s comfortable; wear what’s age appropriate; and, wear something that won’t get you into trouble. And never underestimate the power of a blue blazer.”

Richard A. Moran, Chairman of Lookyloo, Syndicated Radio Host & Author.

“Slightly overdress for your position. Just a notch. Remember the old adage: dress for the job you want, not the job you have? It’s absolutely true because it shows you are excited and eager to be at your workplace, and that you put thought into the details, not to mention the fact that you will simply come across as more professional and competent.”

Bernard Marr, Internationally best-selling author; keynote speaker; leading business, technology and data expert


While fitting into the company’s culture is important, let’s not forget the human bias of favouring a better-looking person. A cleaner and professional look would be preferred as compared to a casual look that people could associate with putting in less effort. It would probably be much more difficult for a salesperson to convince a client to trust them when they can’t even seem to “dress right”. Depending on the type of work you set out to do, dressing up or dressing down could make a difference to your overall performance.