Whether you work in a cubicle full time or only report to the office for meetings, what you choose to wear sends a message about who you are. Do you want superiors and colleagues to view you as professional and put together, or sloppy and childish?
Unless you must wear a uniform, you can still let your personality shine in your wardrobe choices. As long as you avoid the following faux pas, you’ll pull off your signature look in the workplace. Here’s what you need to know, whether your organization is uber-conservative or young and hip.
1. Hobbling Yourself
Can you walk comfortably in the shoes you’ve chosen? This tip is primarily for ladies who prefer tall stilettos. But it applies to men as well. Overly restrictive shoes can leave you struggling to walk by day’s end.
Your work shoes should provide minimal traction over slick floors, so opt for a pair with soft soles when possible. Even after eight hours of wearing them, your toes should remain blister-free.
2. Going Overboard With Accessories
Unless you’re trying to summon your inner Penelope Garcia of TV’s “Criminal Minds,” tone it down a notch with your accessories. Men, this means that a flashy fake Rolex belongs in the pub or on date night, not necessarily the office. Those in the know can easily spot imitations, and those who can’t get the impression you’re showing off.
Ladies, this means swiping left on earrings that dangle to your shoulders. Unless you’re auditioning to become the newest member of an up-and-coming hip-hop group, forget layering necklace after necklace. A simple pendant and pair of stud earrings complete your look without overwhelming the eyes.
3. A Tie With No Jacket
If you’re male, you look more polished wearing a jacket with no tie versus the other way around. Wearing a tie without a jacket makes you look like a schoolchild dressed up for picture day.
A nice blazer paired with a neatly ironed pair of jeans and a button-down shirt creates a more favorable and powerful impression than an inexpensive tie with a dress shirt.
4. Bringing the Gym to the Office
Yes, those leggings look adorable and may even contain pockets — but that doesn’t make them pants.
To polish your look, keep your gym clothes separate from your office attire. This cuts across gender lines. Slouchy sweats look unkempt even if you live in them during the days you telecommute.
5. Rocking T-Shirt Slogans
Maybe you argue passionately that the U.S. needs to adopt a single-payer health care system. Check your off-hours activism at the door by passing on wearing T-shirts with slogans at work, even on casual Friday. While a small protest can feel good, you likely don’t know the political persuasion of your higher-ups. They might establish an unconscious bias against you if you rock that look and they disagree.
Pass on shirts with seemingly innocuous slogans like band names. You never know if someone’s religious faith leads them to find certain genres of music objectionable. A neat, plain T-shirt paired with ironed jeans and flats looks great on both males and females when casual Friday rolls around.
6. Holey Moly!
Even if you work in a casual IT or artistic environment, leave your favorite holey shorts in your dresser when you report to the office. Clothing items with holes scream, “I couldn’t bother to try this morning.”
Make sure all office attire is clean and pressed if necessary. Pass on worn items that look like you picked them up at a thrift shop on your commute.
7. Low-Cut or Too-Small Anything
Wearing a skirt you need to yank on each time you bend over or sporting spaghetti straps to the office rank as major faux pas. This advice doesn’t only apply to ladies. Gentlemen, if your pants have grown a bit too tight or loose around the waist to the point you resemble a plumber when you sit down, it’s time to update your wardrobe.
If any clothing item gives you a moment’s pause for modesty’s sake, keep it at home. Maybe you’re a runner, and perhaps you do have the best legs this side of the Mississippi. You still want your colleagues to respect you for your mind and talent, not your athletic prowess or shapely calves.
Avoiding Fashion Faux Pas at Work
All you need to do to avoid fashion faux pas at work is to reflect each morning on what message your wardrobe choices send. If they say anything other than “I am a consummate professional,” go back to your closet and select more appropriate attire.
Dylan Bartlett is a lifestyle blogger from Philadelphia. He writes about topics related to fashion and personal development on his site, Just a Regular Guide. Follow his Twitter @a_regular_guide for frequent updates on his work.