Unfortunately, whether you like it or not, the way you look plays a massive role in your success in the modern workplace. Turning up to work looking like you have slept in your clothes can result in your boss thinking less of you, even if at a subconscious level.
The truth is, when you don’t fit in, you’re not as accepted and welcome. And this could, at some point hinder your chances of getting a promotion.
Here are a few tips on how to dress to impress at the office to give yourself the best possible chance for success.
1. Understand your office dress code.
Every office has its own stance on what is acceptable. Look around and get a feel as to what the general ‘theme’ is. True, you don’t necessarily want to look like everyone else, and standing out is essential in getting the recognition you deserve. But, turning up to work wearing a pair of shorts, string vest and a sombrero is probably a bit much if every other guy is in a suit. Often looking at your boss is a good place to start. What do they wear? After all, they are the people you want to impress. Use their office style as your influence, you don’t want to dress exactly like them (it may come across as creepy) but if they tend to wear a suit and tie, even on dress down Friday, so should you.
2. Make sure your clothes fit.
The fit is almost always the most important factor with whatever you wear. It may sound obvious, but many get it wrong. The fact is, if your clothes are too big or small, they are not going to look good. And the fit is even more important when talking about a suit. Trust me, it doesn’t matter if you paid £1000 for your three piece, if it isn’t fitted properly, it will look cheap. For tips on how your suit should fit, 9 steps to a suit that fits, will help.
3. Wear glasses that fit.
Now I appreciate if you are blessed with 20/20 vision, then this may not be of concern for you. But if you do wear glasses to work, the fit of your eyewear is equally as important as the clothes you wear. Make sure your glasses fit properly and aren’t sliding down your nose, it can become distracting if you are playing with them all the time.
4. Do your hair.
Never turn up to work with wet or dishevelled hair. It makes you look like you don’t have your life together, which translates to not having your career together. When you arrive, you want to give the impression that your morning has been controlled and organised. Turning up to work looking like you haven’t seen a mirror will instantly encourage negative assumptions about your life outside of the office. Get up a little earlier and give yourself more time by streamline your mornings if you can. Iron your shirt and prepare your outfit the evening before.
5. Pay attention to your bag
In today’s world, with even more things to lug around such as wallets, iPhones, iPads, umbrellas, etc – a work bag has never been more essential. However, the bag you use for work should not resemble your old school rucksack. A briefcase is the most popular of all work bags, and for a good reason, too. Its classic shape, sturdy build, and polished appearance are a sure-fire way to look the part. Just make sure to keep your bag clean on the inside, especially if it doesn’t have a zipper, which allows others to catch a glimpse inside from time to time. Remember, you want to look organised and collected and the state of your bag is a massive tell.
6. Don’t wear strong perfume or cologne
There’s no reason why you can’t wear fragrance for work – you just need to wear the right fragrance and not wear too much of it. Opt for fragrances which feature light citrus notes and ones lacking earthy, ballsy basenotes of amber or musk. If you’re not sure what will work choose subtle, fresh colognes. What they lack in staying power (they’re much weaker than eau de toilettes) they make up for in clean subtlety. You’ll need to reapply during the day, so keep a bottle in your office drawer or work bag to keep you smelling great without ever being overpowering. Just remember that less is more, your scent should only be picked up by those very close to you. If Suzy can smell you from the other side of the room, you’ve used too much.
7. Look after your shoes.
Separate from the rest of your clothing, shoes are a visual endpoint and receive a disproportional amount of attention; despite covering only 5% of your body they can make-up more than 30% of the visual judgement we make when sizing up a stranger. Indeed, one of the first things I notice about someone is the state of their shoes and you can be sure that your boss does too. One recruiter told me that the first thing he notices about a candidate is his or her shoes, so it is essential you keep your shoes polished and in good condition. It is often the details of your appearance which can be the most influential to how others see you.
8. Pay attention to your watch
Jewelry at work should be kept to a minimum. The only piece I’d recommend is a watch and indeed, it is the one accessory that your colleagues will notice more than any other. However, the perfect watch is almost unnoticeable…almost. It should be complementing enough to realize it’s there but subtle enough to not distract. If you wear a suit to the office, avoid sporty rubber straps. Keep it classic with either leather or metal. For extra cohesion within your look, match your strap to your belt and/or shoes. Or if you are wearing a metal tie bar or lapel pin, wear a watch of the same colour.