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Colin,Can you explain why most accountants dress poorly? Also, is it inappropriate to intentionally dress better than the managers and partners? I enjoy dressing well and find it annoying when people don't dress to impress regardless of the industry.-Tom Ford
To address the first question, the drab duds of accountants can be explained thusly - most are cheap and not creative. In order to be considered fashion savvy in the corporate world, you have to be willing to spend money or know a flattering color pattern combined with a solid and sensible, yet eye-catching accessories when you see them for a bargain. Yes, I realize there are exceptions to both these rules (we can't all be beauty queens, can we?), but let's be real here, nine out of ten of the men in your office wear blue shirts every other day, and nine out of ten women in your office wear their husband's suits.
As for out-spiffying your superiors, can you imagine if the dress code had to follow the hierarchy within public accounting firms? Think about the swarm of shabby partners in the office and then consider how the senior managers would have to dress. By the time you get down to the staff, observers would start wondering how all the homeless people got past security.
Some of partners are so painfully dull and unkempt, you wonder if they have any mirrors in their home(s) or if their family just hates him/her because GOD, how did you leave the house looking like that? The gents are stuck in monochromatic land alternating between blue and white shirts and black and grey trousers. Then they'll throw khakis on in the summer with a golf polo, which is just embarrassing. And the earlier bit about "women wearing their husband's suits"? Yes, that's a joke, but it's based in reality. That was a crack made by an old colleague of mine who was referring to a high-ranking partner at KPMG in New York. This partner's style was the epitome of what you think of when you picture an accountant - same grey suit every day, some version of a button-down shirt, with stupidly sensible black shoes. Every time I saw her, I wondered if she had just come from a funeral.
So what I'm saying is, yes, you should absolutely dress better than your managers and partners because A) it's impossible not to in some cases, B) it never hurts your career to dress well, and C) Jesus, people. Have some respect for yourselves.