Response to - "Is it OK to dress formally in an informal environment?"

1 - If dressy casual is the norm, is it perceived as arrogant to dress more formally?

Suggest inquiring as to the reason why dressy casual is the norm - this will be an indicator of how "deviance" (formal dress) is perceived. In my organization, USAID, it is a mark of distinction to have served for many years, beginning with the Peace Corps, and so the norm is a "world traveler" kind of look. If you dress more formally you seem like you don't understand the very specific and unique world of humanitarian assistance. So it's not arrogance that would be perceived, but perhaps lack of subject matter expertise. However, dressing formally is "forgivable" if you are not there as a subject matter expert operationally, but rather an expert of another kind (communications, lawyer, IT, etc.)

2 - Is it OK to dress better than your boss?

Yes. It shows that you are engaged in the job, that you take yourself seriously, etc.

3 - An additional comment

On a branding note, it is important to be consistent about your look and for your look to mean something. My dad has a very formal Eastern European approach to dress, and if he were to change that it would seem odd.

Bottom line - be yourself!


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, and, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.