What is “fashion”? Why must we have “jobs”? What grows on a “shoe tree”? And why is it that the most well-dressed man in your office is named John? It’s anyone’s guess, but that’s what 2,000 recently surveyed Americans seem to think. Coming in second and third place respectively are guys named Tom and Tim. Rounding out the low end for worst dressed: Mike, Bob, Steve.
Your first question should be what constitutes “well dressed” in the survey. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you that, as it’s never stated. What we do know is that the poll was conducted by Trunk Club, a Nordstrom-owned personal shopper and stylist service that sends clothes directly to your home. In other words, we can assume that “well dressed” to the sort of people who would take a Trunk Club survey probably means, bare minimum, more traditional business casual than, say, dirtbag beach bum. At the high end, a classic office suit, perhaps.
But business casual has shifted dramatically. It used to just mean a button-down shirt, some ill-fitting, probably pleated Dockers and relatively unscuffed dress shoes. But then Silicon Valley came along and made jeans and turtlenecks iconic and hoodies acceptable. (For the record, though, Jeff Bezos is starting to be called a style icon — and it’s not for wearing hoodies.)
Add to this the general continued casualification of workplaces due to large swaths of the population working from home in joggers, and, of course, millennials — who, the survey found, were more likely to turn down a job because of a restrictive dress code — and nowadays, it’s safe to say that being well dressed is highly subjective.
Besides, if grown men are now dressing like teenage weed dealers and ska punks, it’s anyone’s guess what well dressed means at work. Welcome to the era of the casual office bastard. (The survey also found that the best fields to work in if you want to wear whatever you want are marketing, IT and manufacturing. Fields where workers feel the most judged on appearances are accounting, finance, hospitality and realty.)
But that brings us to men named John and how they might, in reality, still keep the style tight at work over the sartorial drags named Bob or Steve. Johns are a lot of things — the names of saints, the names of generic everymen, the names of top CEOs, and, it must be noted, the second-most popular given name to American men, second only to James.
But are they well dressed? John F. Kennedy was so dapper he has a Brooks Brothers suit named after him. John Wayne is the go-to iconic cowboy. John Mayer? Recently named the best-dressed rock star.
But I could only think of one office John I’ve worked with recently — former MEL staffer John McDermott — so I ask him.
“That tracks,” he says by text. “I do have a theory that having a strong, old-fashioned American name like John does come with a certain set of expectations that people feel compelled to live up to. And I think this is especially true for the name John, which is a kind of cultural shorthand for the Good Ol’ American Boy. Like Johnny Football. So I think Johns feel like they have to uphold being a John, and part of that might mean putting more thought into how they dress.”
Also, he adds, “I’m a sterling example.”
If the John, Tom and Tim of your office are not doing their part to keep the office easier on the eyes, they have some explaining to do.