This post stems from the earlier post on arrogance that got lots of attention and lots of discussion. Very interesting. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the issues.
One thing lots of you commented on is the way dressing well conveys respect: whether it be for employees/employers, for clients, or for guests of honor (I'll include funerals here somewhat morbidly). I certainly agree with this. However, when I think about the future (and what I think is the somewhat near future), I see the perception of respect, as well as what type of clothing garners that respect changing. Again, I don't necessarily think this is a good or a bad thing, I just think it will happen, based on what I've seen in University.
So let's take this example: a businessman has a meeting with a client. In this time period, and for the last say 60 years, a suit or at least a coat and tie would be considered appropriate for both parties to wear, as a sign of respect to the other person. In essence, saying "I respect you, your business, and what you can do for/with me."
The same goes with similar circumstances: if the Life Archive is to be believed, college students (at least Ivy League) wore coat and tie to lectures, and professors wore the same, or even academic robes. It was a sign of respect to the professor, to the institution, to the subject being taught, and to the exorbitant sums paid for tuition.
Now, I'm no businessman, and I have no experience meeting with clients, but I have recently escaped from higher education. And I have to say, no one wears coats and ties to classes anymore. I wore coats (occasionally), and I was the only one to do that in almost every class. Usually the professors didn't even wear coats. And this brings me to my point:
If the professor (or the head/leader/person I'm supposed to show respect to) isn't wearing a coat, but jeans and (maybe) a collared shirt, is it really showing him respect if someone shows up to class in a suit? Or even a coat? I think that it actually is disrespectful, and, in a class full of people in their pajamas, takes attention away from the professor and the lecture (or discussion).
Again, I'm not skilled in the ways of business, or the client meeting, but it seems to me that if one party doesn't dress in a coat and tie, but slacks or khakis and a button down shirt, and the other party dresses up in full suit, one party is being disrespected. And it might not be which party you think. If the client does business in business casual, and the other comes in a suit, the client might feel slighted, like the business man thinks he is better (see last post). Again, I'm not personally accusing anyone of this.
So if the respect continuum shifts to where suits actually disrespect and business casual conveys respect, what happens? Will you all still wear your suits and your ties? I probably will (in the rare times I still do). But if respect is your reason for dressing this way, and the respect changes, will you change with it?
An interesting question to think about.
Let me know what you think.