4 Ways to Dress for Success in an Increasingly Casual Workplace : Under30CEO 4 Ways to Dress for Success in an Increasingly Casual Workplace : Under30CEO
arrow
Join the Under30CEO Community We deliver tips, tools and inspiration for your business. Daily to your inbox.

4 Ways to Dress for Success in an Increasingly Casual Workplace

| August 7, 2012 | 22 Comments

Working in an office that doesn’t have a dress code is a lot like taking the training wheels off of your bike. Your new responsibility means the stakes are even higher. Will you make all the right moves, sailing past your peers and earning the respect of everyone around you? Or will you crash in such an embarrassingly public way that it’ll take years of counseling to undo the trauma? It’s a stressful scenario, and the choices you make could have a big impact on your success in the workplace. So before you play fast and loose with your office attire, follow these 4 rules to make sure you come across as a professional, even when you’re dressing casual.

1. Dress like your superiors, not your peers. Even if your company doesn’t have a list of rules dictating how you should dress, there are other ways to gauge what’s acceptable. One of the best ways is to take note of what your coworkers are wearing. For example, even if there are no rules banning Crocs, if you haven’t seen a single pair in the office, they’re definitely off-limits.

To really make a positive impression, model your workplace wardrobe after your higher-ups instead of your peers. It might mean wearing khakis when your whole team  is working in jeans, but it’ll also mean showing your superiors that you take your work seriously and that your professional attitude would make you a good candidate for promotion.

2. Stay clean and crisp, even when casual. Remember that casual and sloppy are not the same thing. You should take the same care with your appearance as you would if you were following a strict dress code. That means your clothes should always be clean and in good condition. Your hair should be cut and styled, your nails should be trimmed and neat and yes, you should iron your clothes every day. Ironing a pair of jeans might seem like somewhat of a foreign concept, but it’s far better than meeting with your boss while looking like you just rolled out of bed. If your peers aren’t taking some of these steps themselves, all the better. You’ll set yourself apart from the crowd.

3. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Do you hope to advance in your company? Think about the specific promotion you want and then ask yourself which qualities a person would need to succeed in that position. Write down at least three of the traits that come to mind. Then place your list on your mirror at home. Before you leave the house in the morning, check your outfit and ask yourself if what you’re wearing helps you project those qualities – or if you’re shooting yourself in your flip-flops. That tie-dyed t-shirt might not get you thrown out of the office, but it won’t help you come across as “innovative” either.

4. Wear something that will get people talking. If you buy the same bland department store clothes as everyone else in the office, don’t expect to get noticed. To separate yourself from the crowd, choose unique pieces that are eye-catching without being inappropriate. Accessories are a great way to do this. For example, women can bring originality to an outfit with the help of a statement necklace, while men can don a unique watch.

When a meeting with investors calls for more formal attire, don’t leave your individuality at the door. Work with online tailors like Trio Tailoring to build your own suit. Whatever you wear, make it your own. Unique items can serve as great icebreakers, and they’ll make you memorable for all the right reasons.

Choosing the right wardrobe for work in the absence of a dress code might seem tricky, but sometimes the things which cause us the most stress lead to the best opportunities. A casual office gives you the chance to sculpt your own image and to promote yourself in a fun and creative way. Let your co-workers do the slacking. As for you, future leader, take this opportunity to shine. It’s a chance to make an impression that could change your career. Make the most of it.

Alayna Frankenberry is a freelance writer who works from home, which means she gets to violate half of these rules without anyone being the wiser.

Opt In Image
Awesome People + Awesome Places
Travel around the world while making new friends

Under30Experiences curates awesome experiences around the world for young travelers.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Personal Branding, Startup Advice

  • http://carefulcents.com/ Carrie Smith

    I’m on the hunt to update my professional wardrobe and I especially like the advice about dressing like your superiors and not your peers. And to go along with looking crisp and clean, I’d add the idea to drop off your work clothes at the dry cleaners. For a busy professional like myself, I don’t always have the time to iron my clothes, but paying someone to do it can really help make a great first impression.

  • http://carefulcents.com/ Carrie Smith

    I’m on the hunt to update my professional wardrobe and I especially like the advice about dressing like your superiors and not your peers. And to go along with looking crisp and clean, I’d add the idea to drop off your work clothes at the dry cleaners. For a busy professional like myself, I don’t always have the time to iron my clothes, but paying someone to do it can really help make a great first impression.

  • http://carefulcents.com/ Carrie Smith

    I’m on the hunt to update my professional wardrobe and I especially like the advice about dressing like your superiors and not your peers. And to go along with looking crisp and clean, I’d add the idea to drop off your work clothes at the dry cleaners. For a busy professional like myself, I don’t always have the time to iron my clothes, but paying someone to do it can really help make a great first impression.

  • Ben

    But don’t dry clean too often, or your suits and shirts will wear too quickly. I advise either getting a garment steamer, which is easier and quicker than ironing, or asking for just a steam press at the dry cleaner. It’s better to dry clean once per season.

  • http://revplace.com/ RevPlace

    Great list of tips here. I have never exactly been a fashion guru, so putting it bluntly is helpful. I especially like the idea of dressing like your managers. Sometimes your wardrobe is all it takes to show them that you are serious about your job.

  • http://revplace.com/ RevPlace

    Great list of tips here. I have never exactly been a fashion guru, so putting it bluntly is helpful. I especially like the idea of dressing like your managers. Sometimes your wardrobe is all it takes to show them that you are serious about your job.

  • http://www.calvertolli.com/ Jay

    A wise businessman with a whole pile of money I know wears jeans and sweaters every day. He tells me he doesn’t need to dress up to pretend to be successful.  Suits are for when someone else is the boss.

  • http://www.calvertolli.com/ Jay

    A wise businessman with a whole pile of money I know wears jeans and sweaters every day. He tells me he doesn’t need to dress up to pretend to be successful.  Suits are for when someone else is the boss.

  • http://www.thinkentrepreneurship.com/ Pete Sveen

    Good tips Alayna. We don’t technically have a dress code, but the crew typically wears khakis and a polo. Personally, I enjoy dressing up and feel more professional and business like when I do. I think good hygiene is a must and that clothes should be ironed or dry cleaned. Your reminder about not taking advantage of a casual dress code is a good one.

  • http://twitter.com/gibsondm Alexandra Gibson

    How you dress seems like a respect issue. It’s respectful to people around you and to yourself to dress appropriately. I’ve seen “kids” in offices wearing gym shorts. To me (and I’m not very old), that seems like they don’t really care that much about themselves or the people around them.

  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    There is very fine line between well dressed and over dressed. I personally think appearance does add a lot of goodwill. I disagree with the first point. We should have our personal sense of dressing. Points #2 and #4 completely agree with them.

  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    There is very fine line between well dressed and over dressed. I personally think appearance does add a lot of goodwill. I disagree with the first point. We should have our personal sense of dressing. Points #2 and #4 completely agree with them.

  • Alayna

    I agree with Ben — You can also find a lot of irons with steamer settings that work pretty well on most fabrics.

  • Alayna

    I agree with you that everyone should have their own sense of style. What I meant with point #1 was that dressing “like” your superiors can be an easy way to ensure you’re wearing acceptable attire.

  • Alayna

    I also enjoy getting dressed up, even when there isn’t a dress code. The way I see it, I have lots of opportunities to wear casual clothes at home, to the gym, to the park — why not take the opportunity to dress a bit nicer at work?

  • Alayna

    I completely agree. Taking time on your appearance shows those around you that their opinion of you matters to you.

  • Alayna

    I see what he means, but there’s a difference between dressing professionally and putting on airs. It’s a fine line, definitely.

  • Alayna

    I agree — like it or not, many people will make snap judgements based on what you wear. So even if you’re meeting quotas and doing great, if you look like a slob, your superiors’ opinion of your potential might not be a positive one.

  • Pingback: 10 Most Popular Under30CEO Articles From August | KYEAN.org

  • http://www.facebook.com/flasholiver Danii Oliver

    Dress like your superiors, not your peers. Important for getting ahead, don’t talk about it be about!

  • http://www.facebook.com/flasholiver Danii Oliver

    I seen young ladies (interns) wear holed (see through) shirts with nothing but a bra underneath in a top news company, there is such a thing as too casual. The work place is a promenade for professional reputation building.

  • http://twitter.com/TheJeetBanerjee Jeet Banerjee

    I think it’s great to always dress to impress. Often times, people feel scared to dress up, but I think dressing for success offers nothing but benefits.