Breaking the (Dress) Code: How to Look Professional at Work

Like it or not, your appearance counts—always. The way you present yourself is a reflection of who you are, what you value, and what you aspire to be. In the workplace, the image and demeanor, you convey to your employers and colleagues, plays a vital role in your career. All employers look for someone who displays professionalism, competence, and confidence. Can you honestly say that your appearance exudes these three characteristics?

Why you should always dress professionally for work

Companies require employees to wear defined items of clothing to maintain a professional image of themselves and the business. This is especially true for those who meet with clients, business partners, and prospects on a daily basis. As such, the main reason employees are required to wear business attire is so that they can present themselves—along with the company they work for—as professionals.

You represent your company when you deal with people. In that sense, how people view you is how people will see your company, and it could mean the difference between doing business and losing the opportunity altogether. It can also mean progressing in your career or not.

As casual wear becomes the norm in many workplaces, it can be tricky to break the code of professional appearance. That said, if you are looking for a way to update your look and stand out from the crowd, here are nine tips to follow.

Practice good personal hygiene

Improving your style starts way before you put on clothes—more specifically, in the bathroom. People who look unkempt and disheveled are not only seen as unhealthy but also incompetent. Committing to good hygiene and grooming helps you feel good about yourself, which not only does wonders for your physical wellbeing, but your mental health as well. Basic personal hygiene habits to follow includes bathing regularly, trimming your nails, brushing, and flossing.

Style your hair

If every day is a bad hair day for you, it gives people the impression that you don’t have your life together, which practically translates to not having your career together as well. Regardless of how you choose to style your hair, be mindful of your final look, which should be polished, tasteful, and of course, professional. Likewise, keep your eyebrows and nose hairs trimmed. For men who like having a beard or moustache, make sure to keep your facial hair neat.

Dress for your industry

Different companies have different dress codes—some prefer the formal and traditional, while others encourage employees to dress freely and casually. Nevertheless, always follow your company’s dress code, and always dress up and not down to ensure you are in the company’s good graces. Think about what counts for sensible wear at your job, and observe how upper management people dress to understand styling cues and wardrobe standards. It also helps to dress for the job you want. Want to become a manager? Then dress like the managers in your company.

Wear clothes that fit

There’s one way to make sure the clothes you buy fit you well—try them on before buying. Buying clothes online, at least those meant for work is entirely out the window. When shopping, if a piece of clothing doesn’t come in the right size, don’t settle for ‘close enough,’ or you’ll come to regret it later.

For men, this means no baggy pants and shirts, and jackets that don’t bunch at the shoulders or the sides. For women, this means comfortably fitting dresses that aren’t excessively tight.

Clothes that are bigger or smaller, even if it’s just a tad, are not going to look good on you. They could also restrict your movement and make you feel extra uncomfortable. Make sure that everything you wear is a proper fit: from your ties to eyewear, and down to your shoes.

Choose quality over quantity

Even if you have a tight budget, it’s still wiser to invest in a few quality clothing items than multiple cheaper ones. Costlier clothes generally have better materials and construction, so not only will they look better, they’ll last longer as well. Although your bosses and colleagues won’t necessarily be fashion experts, you can bet that they can recognize the difference between quality and cheap clothing when they see it.

Be picky about the workmanship and the quality of the fabric in the clothing items that you buy, and stick to the recommended care instructions to make sure they last.

Stick to the classics

Choose understated color palettes—think black, white, navy, grey, maroon, and dark greens. You can use bright colored accessories as an accent, but make sure they’re not too overpowering. If you must wear prints, avoid patterns that clash. As a rule of thumb, a patterned piece should be paired with a plain one for a refined look. Women should avoid wearing clothes that are too revealing, such as see-through or low-cut blouses.

Keep accessories minimal

Accessories are meant to complement your outfit, not draw attention to themselves. For women, forgo the statement necklace, bracelets and earrings and stick to something simple. Avoid wearing jewelry that makes noises when you move. For men, other than a wedding ring, a classic watch should be the only accessory you wear. Consider a small and simple design, and avoid the digital varieties that make you come off as a Steve Jobs wannabe.

Polish your shoes

If your shoes look good, you look good. So if they aren’t clean and polished, people will notice their slipshod state. Keep your shoes are polished and in good condition. Take them to a shoemaker for repairs if necessary. For women, avoid wearing shoes with excessively high heels that make it difficult for you to get around.

Act professionally

Appropriate business attire should be combined with basic professional etiquette. You can’t look polished and act like a brute or slob. Remember: looking professional also includes how you carry yourself. Appearance and etiquette are intertwined when presenting a professional impression of yourself and your company.

Final word

If you want to be successful, then you have to look the part. Hence the phrase, ‘dress for success.’ Need a resume that reflects your professionalism? Our expert and experienced writers here at Resumeble can work with you and help you craft a winning resume and give it the added layer of competence it deserves. Get i touch with us today.

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