From dressing sharper than your boss in order to climb the ladder faster to avoiding casuals and greased hair, here are 10 rules to dress for work
- Don’t Play the Part
Your work wardrobe should reflect who you are, but never give away what you do. Dress smart and keep the curiosity alive. Unless of course, you wear a uniform or are a lawyer, doctor or serve in the military — where your clothes speak for themselves. If you have the freedom to wear what you can, express yourself the way you want others to perceive you. In the hierarchy, seniors are taken seriously if they dress a notch above next level. If you head a company or a team — your clothes need to reflect it too.
2. Avoid Cloning
You are what you wear. Observe the colours, styles, prints and patterns that your colleagues and juniors wear. Make a conscious effort to look and dress distinctly different from them.
Never typecast your look — if you are a man, change your tie, shirt and suit combinations as frequently as you can. Women need to do the same with their saris, jackets and blouses.
Fact: Ape the boss — he is the leader and will take well to your efforts in trying to look more like him/her.
- Never Wear Logo or Office Décor Colours
Being loyal to the company is one thing, going overboard with it, is another. Some people make the mistake of wearing colours that are a part of their companies branding. Worse still, they are those who like to match their clothes to the colours of the walls, interiors and office furniture. The message is clear: in the office, you need to dress to stand out and not blend in. Besides black and white, (a hint of) red, subtle shades of blue, brown, green or grey are acceptable corporate colours.
Fact: Strong, bright and vibrant colours make you look flamboyant and loud. Tone down your colour palette and avoid gold, silver and other metallics altogether
- Quality Over Quantity
Wear clothes that are well-made, fit right and look as good as new.
Oversized clothes will make you look and feel shabby. Clothes that are too tight can be restrictive and highlight areas they shouldn’t. These need to be altered or replaced — especially if they are shirts, jackets, trousers or skirts. Make new purchases look the way they do, even after a season of wearing them. Crease free materials or well-ironed clothes, will always send out right signals.
Fact: A good fit is one that moves with you.
- Be Patriotic, but Don’t Overdo it
While its fine to dress in traditional clothing occasionally, it can’t become your identity.
The more ‘universal you look the better. If you want to be known by your work, skills or intelligence — dress in clothes that are globally accepted as regular office or work wear. Let people judge you by work not by your religion or nationality.
Fact: Traditional clothes go down better at formal dinners, receptions and parties.
- Stick to the Uniform
If you wear a uniform — give it the respect it deserves.
Don’t make changes — even small tweaks — to your prescribed look. Always follow the regulation look for what it is. The only way to stand out in the crowd is to keep your uniform looking crisp and well maintained. Ditto for accessories, or the lack of it. This will always give you an edge over your colleagues.
Fact: When you wear a uniform, it’s not about you, but about the image of your brand, company or employers.
- No Style Statements
Work wear needs to look the way it should: smart, sharp and crisp.
Stick to conventions and avoid experimenting with new or passing trends. If you wear them at all, T-shirts (full or half sleeve) should be devoid of tongue in cheek messages.
Similarly, refrain from wearing garments with prominent branding or loud and busy prints. Subtle, simple, fuss free and monotone clothing is ideal.
Fact: Pin stripes and small checks are the only prints that you can wear to the office.
- Wearing Casuals
You need to make a strong distinction here — casual wear is and should look distinctly different from your work and formal wear.
However comfortable, home and leisurewear should never be worn to the office. The debate about wearing jeans to work, has the following conclusion: they should only be worn if you work in an environment (media, arts, advertising) where they are acceptable and that too only if they are plain (black, white or dark blue) and devoid of texture, design and other treatments (fading, ageing or bleaching). Some men wear straight fit jeans with smart casual jackets, dress shirts and snazzy ties and can carry this look off rather well. This is recommended only for travel, casual Saturdays and some dress down events.
Fact: The more casual your style, the less in authority and power you appear.
- Hair & Grooming
Never colour or streak your hair in shades of red, gold and pink. Brown and black are universally accepted. Never use oil in your hair — or at least one that is heavy, sticky or has a strong after smell.
Makeup for women should be simple and never look tarty. A good mascara, subtle eye shadow and a gentle colour for the cheeks and lips is all that you really need. Gloss and sheen will never go down well.
Groom your skin — a fresh and healthy surface is always better than one that is dull and bumpy. Remove hair from where there shouldn’t be any – especially the nostrils, cheeks and ears. Moustaches and facial hair is acceptable, provided it is neat and well maintained.
Fact: Women who use no lipstick are less convincing than those who do. Men who don’t have hair falling over the ears and on the back collar of the jacket and shirt are always trusted with ease.
- Change for Work
You must change clothes before and after.
If you gym, play golf or any other sport before you start your working day, change completely (clothes, inners, shoes and socks included) before heading out to work.
If you are going for a drink, party or social gathering immediately after work (especially with colleagues) change one strong element in your look. Men can loosen the tie, roll up the sleeves and unbutton the shirt, while women while women can add a scarf, stole or some colour, gloss and sheen to their makeup. Women, who keep their hair tied during the day, can undo it for the after hours.
Fact: Changing your look gives you an opportunity to reflect other sides of your personality.