Dressing up used to be a daily occurrence. Social status was recognized by the clothes one wore but after World War II, Americans moved to embrace a more relaxed “casual” fit. And during decades of constant social change, even the country's oldest and stuffiest establishments ended up loosening the rules on formal wear to accommodate their evolving clientèle. By 2000, formal dress – suits, cufflinks, hosiery and high heels - seemed to be relics of days gone by. Rather than being a part of daily life, formal clothes became reserved for special occasions such as weddings and funerals. Universal rules that determined the appropriate dress length and jacket type for a specific event seemed forever lost.
Older generations balked, appalled by business casual. Eighty-year-old author Tom Wolfe espoused the benefits of dressing up, telling the WSJ, "Formal dress really has social impact. You'll be treated with greater deference than the 45-year-old guy dressed like a rock drummer."
Though not an entirely new idea, professionally speaking, Wolfe is right. An impeccably dressed job candidate will almost always receive additional consideration over their under dressed counterpart. Organizations like Dress for Success operate on this principle, trying to promote economic independence by providing professional attire and interview preparation.
As of late, while competition for jobs grows more and more fierce, some members of the younger generations have heeded Wolfe's cry. Looking to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, young folks are seeking out tailored suits and polished oxfords for daily wear. Some theorize this sartorial swing comes, at least in part, from the sudden realization that there is value in looking good.
Not to mention, the value of like looking a millionaire doesn't mean having a millionaire's budget. Online shopping sites like Gilt and Ideeli have made this easier by offering markdowns on designer duds. Chain stores like Target take great lengths to recreate runway styles at economically accessible prices, while thrift and consignment shops are often chock full of big labels at little cost.
A note to job hunters: invest in yourself by going shopping. Putting extra effort into sprucing up your interview ensemble may score the job offer plus equal a few more pennies in your pocket come payday.