We've all heard the mantra: "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." And honestly, I think it's kind of bullshit. Allow me to explain.
First, I promise I'm not an asshole or a stranger to hard work. I've had a job since I was 15 and I've worked steadily since—as a cashier, bank teller, restaurant hostess, busboy (girl?), transcriber, and any other odd job that put some cash in my pocket and helped me pay for college. I've also held internships at websites and magazines that helped me realize my dream of becoming an editor at Marie Claire.
In the beginning, like any good intern/panicked career-seeker, I wore what I felt I needed to wear. I got the pants, I got the shirts, I kept it neutral, using accessories to "pop" the look like my beloved magazines had always advised. I invested in shoes that cost too much and bags with "structure." As Tim Gunn says, I made it work. But it wasn't truly me.
I love jeans. I love a slightly disheveled, imperfect look. I love biker boots and messy hair and vintage T-shirts. Do I think all of these things at one time are great for meetings with my boss? No. Do I think looking like a complete mess in a professional setting is okay? Not at all. But I don't think dressing like a corporate drone is ideal either.
Listen, I get it—I work at a magazine where creativity and style are encouraged, not at stuffier institution where suits are de rigueur. I do understand that some careers are more Corporate Uniform than others.
But the age-old mantra "dress for the job you want" is just that—old. How about this instead: "Dress like the best version of you. Because that's who they hired."
Lindsey Pollak, career expert and author of Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders, says that dressing up for the job is still important, but that what that means has shifted. "What is most important is learning what respected people in your industry or company wear and then interpreting that in a way that is authentic for you," she says. "Of course if you're the CEO you can dress however you want—see: Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg—but if you're rising up the ranks you do want to dress to impress."
But as the workplace changes, so does our attitude. Startup culture, work-from-home acceptance, and an emphasis on who can do the job rather than ingrained hierarchy is slowly updating our perception of how success takes shape—and what a well-respected employee, manager, or boss is "supposed" to look like.
As Millennials take charge, start companies, and become CEOs, the idea of What Bosses Wear—I think—will shift. And my jeans are ready.
Follow Marie Claire on Instagram for the latest celeb news, pretty pics, funny stuff, and an insider POV.
Stay In The Know
Marie Claire email subscribers get intel on fashion and beauty trends, hot-off-the-press celebrity news, and more. Sign up here.
Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for Latina.com, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.
Malia Obama Drops Her Famous Last Name Professionally, Opting to Go by This Moniker Instead
She clearly wants to set herself apart from her powerhouse parents as she forges a career in Hollywood.
By Rachel Burchfield
Wait, Is Taylor Swift Brunette Now?
Swifties have questions after photos of an apparent hair change surfaced.
By Sophia Vilensky
Jenna Dewan's Maternity Style Staple? A Black Lace Bra
She kept the piece consistent from look to look, showing off the bra from day to night.
By Fleurine Tideman
Peloton’s Selena Samuela on Turning Tragedy Into Strength
Before becoming a powerhouse cycling instructor, Selena Samuela was an immigrant trying to adjust to new environments and new versions of herself.
By Emily Tisch Sussman
This Mutual Fund Firm Is Helping to Create a More Sustainable Future
Amy Domini and her firm, Domini Impact Investments LLC, are inspiring a greater and greener world—one investor at a time.
Power Players Build on Success
"The New Normal" left some brands stronger than ever. We asked then what lies ahead.
By Maria Ricapito
Don't Stress! You Can Get in Good Shape Money-wise
Yes, maybe you eat paleo and have mastered crow pose, but do you practice financial wellness?
By Sallie Krawcheck
The Book Club Revolution
Lots of women are voracious readers. Other women are capitalizing on that.
By Lily Herman
The Future of Women and Work
The pandemic has completely upended how we do our jobs. This is Marie Claire's guide to navigating your career in a COVID-19 world.
By Megan DiTrolio
Black-Owned Coworking Spaces Are Providing a Safe Haven for POC
For people of color, many of whom prefer to WFH, inclusive coworking spaces don't just offer a place to work—they cultivate community.
By Megan DiTrolio
Where Did All My Work Friends Go?
The pandemic has forced our work friendships to evolve. Will they ever be the same?
By Rachel Epstein