City employee perceptions of the impact of dress and appearance: You are what you wear



Publication Details

Karl, K. A., Hall, L. McIntyre. & Peluchette, J. V. (2013). City employee perceptions of the impact of dress and appearance: You are what you wear. Public Personnel Management, 42 (3), 452-470.


This study focuses on city employees and their perceptions regarding the importance of dress and appearance in the public sector workplace. Using the impression management literature and self-presentation theory, we examine the impact of mode of dress worn (casual, business casual, formal business) on their self-perceptions of creativity, productivity, trustworthiness, authoritativeness, friendliness, and competence. We also examine their beliefs regarding the impact of employee appearance on customer perceptions of service quality. Our results suggest that 'you are what you wear.' Respondents felt more competent and authoritative when wearing either formal business or business casual, more trustworthy and productive when wearing business casual, and least friendly and creative when wearing formal business attire. Respondents also believed that uniforms had a positive impact on customer perceptions of overall service quality, and that tattoos, athletic wear, unconventional hairstyles or hair color, sweat pants, facial piercings, revealing clothing and clothing with tears, rips or holes had a negative impact. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

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