Dressing like your colleagues might be your best career move yet

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Photo: Getty

You may take pride in dressing like a total boss, but how about dressing like your actual boss? Though you may enjoy being the only one in the office to have broken free from the blouse-and-pants shackles, styling yourself up to be the office it-girl may not be your best career move.  

According to a new study, dressing differently to your colleagues may be holding you back from climbing up the corporate ladder.

The survey, conducted by UK department store Debenhams, linked a “cohesive sense of style” within the workplace with better teamwork, higher morale and increased levels of productivity. As psychologist Dr Karen Pine says, “A team that chooses the same style of dress for work is indicating their cohesiveness. This may reflect a wider collaborative culture within the organisation.”

And not even your boss is immune to the flattery of seeing somebody else rip off his or her style. According to the survey, 68 per cent of managers notice when their underlings dress in a similar way to them, and are more likely to give “brownie points” to workers who imitate their look.

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This doesn’t mean you should make a conscious effort to style stalk your co-workers, for often a shared dress sense happens naturally. A third of those surveyed said they accidentally dressed like their colleagues on an average of two to three days a week and, given how often we at Daily Life find ourselves simultaneously sporting stripes, this doesn’t come as any surprise to us. (After spending 40 hours a week in one another’s company, things are bound to rub off on you, right?)

At another magazine I worked at, there was a severe outbreak of Sass & Bide’s ruched ‘rat’ leggings back in ’08. And often, the entire art department would flounce around in their maxi ‘tanning’ dresses and flip-flops whenever the mobile spray-tan service took residence in the building. (Yes, perhaps my understanding of “strict professional dress” is slightly warped, having only ever worked at women’s magazines, but the fundamental principle of dressing alike still applies … )

Clothing has always been used to communicate status and is a natural way for us to relate with one other. We are naturally drawn to people who are like us, inwardly and outwardly. How many times have you felt an affinity with your desk buddy while hovering over the computer screen, giving feedback on their prospective online purchase? And how often have you stopped someone in the corridor to wax lyrical about her seriously fresh new sandals?

We don’t care about getting the side-eye from less-fashion-inclined co-workers, but we are thorough believers in dressing comfortably – within professional bounds of course. If you feel like you’re playing dress-up in a pantsuit, stick to a pair of smart and sharp printed trousers. If you’re tired of doing the pencil-skirt shuffle, why not give the peplum trend the go-around? And though it’s great to gauge what’s appropriate from your higher-uppers, that needn’t stop you from making it your own with add-ons. 

We can’t see any harm in dressing for the job you want, rather than the job you have. A word of warning, however: If you do decide to start dressing like your boss, remember not to take things too far. It might get a little bit Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female. Or worse, you may wind up in a brown leather jacket by Armani’s poorer cousin, Sergio Giorgini.