In our latest advice column for City AM, the Debrett’s Office Politics Expert advises a reader facing a wardrobe crisis.
Q: I’ve just graduated from university and I’m applying for training schemes with a few different investment banks. My only suit barely fits me and I haven’t got the cash to buy an expensive new one. Given all the recent press about “brown shoes and loud ties”, I’m afraid I’ll be called out on my outfit at interview – or worse, that I won’t get the job because of it. I’m not naïve enough to think dress doesn’t make an impression, but is there any way to get past this barrier?
It’s a sad state of affairs when a woman is sent home from work for not wearing heels, as happened to a receptionist in London in May, or when an interviewee misses out on a job for wearing brown shoes.
The recent report from the Social Mobility Commission you mention found that job applicants who wear the wrong kind of suit, shoes or tie are often judged negatively by recruiters, to the detriment of their career prospects. In particular, the report cited banking industry employers taking exception to brown shoes, ill-fitting suits, garish ties and poor haircuts. This was reflective of a wider bias against applicants from less privileged backgrounds who may be lacking the “polish” of their upper-middle class, Russell Group-educated contemporaries.