• Mon, Oct 1 2012

Can Men Dress “Slutty” In The Office?

The next morning I rolled into the office, took off my jacket, put on my leopard print desk-coat the way I do every morning, and told a colleague that, by God, we’d hire people who came in wearing a bikini and a gas mask if they did their job well.

My colleague stared for a second – I think there was tacit agreement in her silence – and then we discussed how we’d be inclined to see a man in an ill fitting suit not as a tramp-y idiot coasting by on his looks, but as the kind of eccentric who must be brilliant if lacking in social skills. We’d actually assume he was so smart that he didn’t care what he looked like.

But we work in… I don’t even know what people wear in our office. Once a girl came in with no pants on. And I think, pretty much to everyone’s credit, no one mentioned it until halfway through the day when the girl exclaimed, “I forgot to put pants on!” And we all nodded, because it was true.

I deduced that we didn’t really put the thought into office attire that some people do. Our work dress code seems to be “Try to remember to get dressed all the way in the morning if you can.” 

So. I called a male friend of mine who works for a hedge fund and hires, almost exclusively, people who wear pants.

“Would you hire someone wearing an ill fitting suit?” I asked.

“For what job?” he replied.

And so we discussed the exciting opportunities available to one at a hedge fund. I will not share any of them with you, because I want to have an edge on you should this blogging thing not work out. Suffice to day, there are many different jobs.

“Alright,” I said, “that was a good talk. I will rephrase: would you think that someone wearing an ill fitting suit was less intelligent than someone wearing a properly fitted one?”

“I wouldn’t think he was less intelligent,” he replied “but I would think he was – DO NOT USE MY NAME – n.o.c.d.”

“I love it when you do that trick where you open your mouth and my grandmother’s voice flies out.”

“Come on,” he said, “come on. You know these things. If you were brought up a certain way you’ve been in a blue blazer since you were four. It doesn’t make you a better person, but it makes you a person who knows how a suit fits. There’s definitely a symbolic almost coded nature to knowing things like how suits are supposed to fit, or having the sort of watch your father gave you, or knowing that you buy Nantucket Reds at Murray’s. You see someone who also knows those things and you think you are alike. And if your boss grew up in Greenwich or New Canaan or wherever, he also knows those things and he wants to hire people who are like him. You see the same thing with people in Silicon Valley where they all want to hire guys who wear hoodies, because those guys are like them.”

I pointed out that I would like to hire someone wearing a bikini and a gas mask.

“Right,” he replied, “and maybe that says that you’re a space alien.. from the future.”

I learned a lot about myself, but nothing about the sartorial items that could undermine men in the workplace that way a tank top and a miniskirt can. Though I do think it’s not a bad idea to Single White Female your boss provided you can do it subtly.

patrick bateman

We all want to fit in.

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  • Fabel

    I think a menswear version of “slutty” would just be anything too casual. Which is kind of the same for women–I mean, the problem with a tank top & miniskirt is that it’s too casual for any serious environment. So something like athletic wear or jeans might undermine the perception of a guy’s competence more than an ill-fitting/too trendy/cheap-looking suit would.

  • Beth

    I used to work at a financial company and one of the male managers dressed, I guess what we would call, slutty. On business casual Fridays he would alternate between Affliction shirts, some kind of poly-viscose baby tee that emphasized his nipples, and too-small unbuttoned polos that showed off his chest stubble. So yes, I would say he was a slutty dresser, and I did not think he was smart (to be fair, that could have been because he needed me to read his emails out loud to him, and would then dictate responses for me to type.) If I can clearly see your areolae or your shirt is unbuttoned to nipple level, I think that is overly revealing for either gender in a professional setting.

    • LCT

      This is just what I was thinking of. And I once had a coworker wear this same type of outfit all the time. It was pretty heinous.

    • Sarah

      My thoughts exactly when I read this article. I have a pretty conservative dress code & older co-workers, but on casual Fridays, the guys with tight polos or dress shirts with one too many buttons undone definitely stick out in my mind as “slutty”.

      Maybe also a narrower/skinny cut trouser (again, my office is old & WASP-y). Or jewelry other than a wedding band/wristwatch?

  • Renee

    It’s kind of sad that the answer to successful workplace wardrobe choices is ‘conform as much as you can’.

    Men look sexy as hell in suits. Pretty much any guy, in a well fitting suit, will automatically look great. Why don’t women have that?

    This is definitely an interesting aspect of the gender divide.

    • RM

      Women do have that. Pretty much any woman, in a well-fitting suit, will look great. And feel powerful.

    • Renee

      Including fat ladies, like myself? I wouldn’t even know how to go about finding a suit that would fit me.

    • alexandra

      I don’t think it’s the same, although yeah, suits feel great (though I prefer skirt suits, and acknowledge that if I were not a size 2 they would be more difficult). But what do they put women in on the cover of Glamour? Bandage dresses. What do they put men in on the cover of GQ? Suits.

  • Jess

    Man, if a dude wore a tie to work in my office everyone would assume he was either a) a lost board member or b) going to a funeral.

    I love how relaxed our dress-code is sometimes, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more shirts and blazers around. Slouchy jeans and hoodies only go so far, guys.

  • mm

    Great article! What struck me most about the last man you spoke to’s statement was the fact that “the boss” is implied to be a man, because they usually are. Maybe rather than focusing on what women wear in the workplace we should be focusing on getting more women in positions of power in business…that way other women probably wouldn’t feel so threatened by the sexy dressers. I had a female boss and rather than worrying that my 5 inch heels and feminine outfits were too sexy, I got to talk clothes with her. Whenever I had a new pair of shoes shipped to the office (my neighbors in my building had a charming habit of stealing my packages) she would come over and check them out and we’d have a nice little chat about how much we love Alice+Olivia. Also, if women were the boss more often, it wouldn’t be a discussion solely about women’s clothes. Men’s clothing choices would actually be up for debate more frequently because they’d probably try to dress in an appealing way to sex it up for their female bosses (tighter pants, maybe?) Equality in the workplace, and the elimination of sexism regarding what women wear to work, will only be a truth when there are just as many female bosses as male.

  • MR

    Now from the guy’s viewpoint. Who appreciates the woman most when she wears a miniskirt? I mean it’s really common sense when you think about it, right? The rest is up for conjecture. Men don’t dress to be sexual like women do.

  • Sam

    This is super interesting but the main thing I keep going back to is THAT GUY AT THE TOP WEARING RAINBOW CLOTH HOOFS I LOVE IT.

    • Sonsy

      That, is Roger. He’s our gay, rainbow unicorn who flies in to help us with our hangovers. No joke. I have this as my screensaver.

  • Ewa

    Men can totally wear slutty and distracting scents to the office. Think A-men or Habit Rouge.

  • Ruby

    TOO MANY BUTTONS UNDONE ON SHIRT. Can make the most professional suit look super seedy aka. “slutty”. Im fairly sure if any man rocked up to any pants-wearing office with his shirt like this http://bollywoodfoodclub.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/dharmatma-spell.jpg people would be unnerved, possibly because theyd be worried about forgetting themselves under the spell of intoxicants.

  • Joy

    Interesting article! I have one more story to add – I worked in an office with mainly male engineers. And there was one really hot summer day when one of the male managers (one of the few with a pretty decent bod, I might say!) came into work dressed in a white tshirt (think James Dean). Side note that the AC doesn’t work very well in my office. Anyhow, apparently he did get called out by the upper management about dressing inappropriately. I was surprised that there was actually a double standard in reverse since I dressed pretty casually (sandals, sleeveless tops, thin shirt dresses) to cope with the lack of AC, but I was one of the few females that worked in that office.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Teh/625619810 Christopher Teh

    I know, right! Menswear has remained locked in the hyper-prudish 1950s, and it’s so frustrating. Every time i go to a male clothing store, i feel like i’ve been transported back to the 1950s. There are no sleeveless tops, no togas, no backless tops, and pretty much no shorts that go above the knee. “Slutty” (I speak in tongue-in-cheek terms here) guys like me, who love flaunting our physical beauty and want to show abit of skin are an oppressed minority who seem to be ignored by the mens fashion world, who seems to cater only to the conservative, buttoned-up “GQ” sort (think Don Draper).
    Although we don’t have any options in the mainstream section, we can get our clothes altered and look for shorter shorts, at least when casualwear is concerned. I got a Zara knitwear top altered to create a dressy semi-formal sleeveless top. (Cost me fifty bloody bucks too!) For a woman it would be as simple as stepping into any department store, browsing thru, and finding a sleeveless top of her choice. But the men’s section doesn’t HAVE any sleeveless tops, not even in the casuals section! And women’s office skirts come in all lengths, from knee length to calf length to ankle length to “slutty” length, but men’s office trousers? Ankle ankle ankle. All ankle-length! But don’t you worry; i’m fighting to change that, and soon men will have just as much right as any woman in Western society to flaunt their beauty openly!I will have none of that Glenn O Brien Victorian prudishness; i am a YOUNG MAN,I won’t stay young forever and WILL wear provocative clothing because I WANT TO! I’m gona enjoy flaunting my body, rather than constantly keep it under layers and layers of clothing like GQ insists, and i invite other guys to do the same.
    There’s plenty of time for penguin suits, long pants and neckties in middle age! If you’re a guy and you’ve got a good body, why not show it off tastefully? Why should women get to wear strapless gowns and cocktail dresses and sleeveless blouses, etc, while men be forced by convention to keep their beauty hidden under jackets and ties? (I am strictly speaking about non-office wear; in the office i think even women should wear suits in order to keep the genders equal in a sense). I guess there’s also a lot of homophobia within the male community. Guys are all afraid of somehow “looking gay”, which is why they don’t show skin. But truly, that is SUCH a misogynistic concept to think that only gay men can enjoy the beauty of the flamboyantly displayed male form. How can anybody in their right mind think that women are less “visual” in that sense?! Oscar Wilde tried to get guys back into breeches (pants that look like half slacks/half pantyhose), but his movement didn’t succeed with most of the straight guys, not surprisingly.

    But as young men, we should be enjoying our youth just like our sisters are, rather than look just like younger versions of our grandfathers. I think we need to get past all this homophobic riffraff and start encouraging guys to show some skin. It’s kind of empowering when you’re the only guy who dares wear shorts higher than knee length,or the only guy who dares to go to a function without a tie and leave 3 buttons undone, know what i mean? People can scorn me, but at least i’m taking menswear out of the Victorian Era, something women have already done for womenswear in the 1920s. (Men being the guardians of conformity, didn’t have an equivalent “Flapper” movement)

    PS I’m wearing a titty top and white booty shorts as I type this

    Although mind you, as i’ve said; in the office, everybody should be equally conservatively dressed =) But after work, everybody should be free to wear anything they like!

  • http://www.facebook.com/radek.piskorski Radek Piskorski

    I would think that men can certainly dress sexy and slutty. A speedo for example. But of course you mean something that still counts as office attire. I would say a very slim-fit suit come come across as very sexy. If the suit reveals biceps, pecs, if the trousers hug the ass or reveal bulge, you can get very sexy. I think people would be uncomfortable around such a men while at the same time acknowledging that he is in office clothes. If you match that suit with a ripped guy with fabulous hair and perfect skin, I think he could come across as prissy or maybe a gym bunny, which might make other people think less of his intelligence.