Sartorial Tips to Get Your Career Off to a Great Start

Although hoodies and harem pants no longer raise eyebrows in some workplaces, there is a lot of confusion today over what is appropriate to wear to work. And if it is your first day on the job, showing up inappropriately dressed can really get you off to a poor start.

That’s because, rightly or wrongly, first impressions are everything.  If you don’t think this is true, notice the service you receive at the bank, jewelry store, or upscale restaurant, the next time you walk in wearing five-toed shoes and a skull t-shirt.  Or check out your co-workers’ reactions when you show up for your outdoor apparel job in designer duds and high heels!

Called the “halo effect,” people’s cognitive biases kick in the first time they meet someone.   For instance, we might think that someone who wears horn-rimmed glasses and a bow tie to work is automatically smarter than the rest of us.  Or your boss might correlate your Brooks Brothers style to executive potential. The fact is, what we wear matters.  In a May study, 80 percent of managers felt that clothing choices affected a person’s chances of being promoted.   So, avoid a major fashion fail at work and leave a lasting impression.  Our tips have you covered!

  • Spend a few moments during your interview process asking about company culture. How do people dress?  duties might require special clothing such as a suit or low heels?  Ask for a walk-through and pay attention to what managers and line level employees are wearing in different settings.
  • TGI-Casual Friday doesn’t mean Sloppy Friday! Your company policy probably defines the appropriate casual attire, but err on the side of professional.  Don’t jeopardize your career track by exposing your midriff, wearing flip-flops, holey jeans, skin-tight leggings, or sweatpants.
  • Don’t aggravate others with your work wear. Your jangly jewelry, noisy heels clacking down the hallways, and last weeks (unwashed and smelly) athletic wear are guaranteed to earn you most annoying employee-of-the-month!
  • Stay on trend, not trendy. What does this mean?  Keep up to date on new, but classic fashion trends to freshen your look, but don’t get sucked in by ads for clothing or accessories that you know won’t last. Bedazzled jackets or glitter men’s bowler shoes won’t be couture mentionable next year, except in the context of “Remember when you used to wear those…?”  [laughter].

Some additional rules of thumb to consider, particularly if you are in a more traditional corporate setting:

  • Omit nose rings and cover up visible tattoos, at least until the coast is clear (you’ve noticed everyone else has one).According to a article, The Pros and Cons of Having Tattoos, “…chances are likely that a white-collar office job will not hire someone with visible hand and face tattoos, even if the person is qualified.”
  • Sexy clubwear is never appropriate or professional in an office environment. Enough said.
  • The condition of your clothing speaks volumes about personal standards, so make sure your clothing is clean, neat, and in good condition. Faded, torn, or stained clothing should be relegated to weekend-only wear.  If money is an issue, visit one of the many boutique thrift stores or online resellers, where you can find fashion brands and even designer wear at a fraction of the cost of new.  You’ll be in good company; according to a Thredup report, 40% of 18-24-year-old’s resale shopped last year – many for environmental reasons.
  • Accessorize appropriately. Don’t forget power accessories like a luxurious leather iPad case, an awesome pair of shoes and purse, and attractive outerwear to elevate your look.
  • One way we communicate the story of who we are is through our sartorial choices. So be true to yourself and express your individuality through your clothing, but dress for success.   What you wear can make you feel more confident and inspire others.

Fortunately, most American companies have relaxed their dress codes over the years, largely thanks to the growth of Millennials entering the workforce.  But if you are still perplexed and stressed about what to wear to work, check out Stitch Fix,  Trunk Club (a Nordstrom company), and Bombfell (menswear only).  These online personal stylists will curate clothing to suit your personality and transform your look, sure to help boost your career to the next level!