Knowing what to wear and how to look professional in the work place can be challenging. Especially in this day and age when a lot of companies have turned everyday into casual Friday, it can seem almost impossible to know what to wear to work. This is where a few simple rules and suggestions will come in handy.
Do’s and Don’ts of Workplace Wardrobe: Guide for Guys
1. Facial Hair
Obviously, you need to know the context and environment of your particular workplace. Fortunately, times are changing and facial hair, in moderation, is becoming more acceptable in the workplace. The key to maintaining a professional image while also sporting some facial hair is to keep your borders tight. What we mean is that there should be a distinct line of where your facial hair begins and ends.
Things to Remember:
Don’t assume you can have facial hair in your workplace.
Don’t let the neck-beard get out of hand.
Don’t go in looking like a bum. If you need a few days to get the beard up and going, maybe don’t shave on a Friday and get it started growing over the weekend.
2. Tie/Shirt Combos
It is 100% acceptable and encouraged to pair a printed shirt with a printed tie. Play it safe and stay in the same color wheelhouse, or if you’re feeling adventurous, accent your shirt with a bold color tie contrast.
There are a couple simple rules to guide you as you style yourself:
Don’t pair same patterned shirt and tie. For example, if you’re wearing a plaid shirt, don’t wear a plaid tie. (Exception: you may pair a vertically striped shirt with a diagonally striped tie).
Don’t pair same sized patterns. This is “too much” and can look unprofessional and busy. For example, if you are wearing a gingham shirt, don’t pair it with a similarly sized checkered tie– too many checks!
3. Combining Black and Brown
Contrary to what you may have been taught by your big sister when you were in junior high, you can mix black and brown and still look fashionable. You need to know which browns are mixable though. Tan, Camel, Cognac, Cherrywood, Tawny, and Beige are all acceptable. Translation: lighter browns are acceptable.
There are only two rules to this game:
Don’t mix dark brown with black and hope that no one will notice. Someone, likely a woman, will notice and think to herself, “Bless his heart”. You’re a grown man. You don’t need your heart blessed by a stranger. Keep the browns light and match on.
Don’t mix and match a variety of browns with black at the same time. If you are going to rock brown shoes with black slacks, make sure the brown color of your belt matches the brown color of your shoes. We don’t need an ombre (google it) of brown.
4. Boots and Slacks
It can be done well and is done well regularly in Texas. The key to pulling off this look is making sure that your boots are in good shape. Don’t go into the workplace wearing scuffed up, dirty work boots or casual boots that you would wear on the weekend. Make sure your boots are polished and in good shape. This look is both sharp and southern. To keep it traditional, try sticking with a standard pointed toe boot instead of a square toed boot and keep flashy colors to a minimum.
5. Jackets Without Ties
Again, you need to know your workplace environment and what you can and cannot get away with. However, a blazer over slacks can create a very professional look that allows you to go without a tie. You can also mix and match blazers with different colored pants.
However, there is one rule for wearing a jacket without a tie:
Don’t leave too many buttons undone. Remember, just because you aren’t wearing a tie doesn’t mean you’re attending a weekend wedding. Keep all but the top button fastened to keep your look professional, not party boy.
Socks can make or break an outfit. We live in a day and age where you can buy whatever pattern, style, or color socks your heart could possibly desire.
There are a few simple rules to guide you as you rock the socks:
Don’t wear white athletic socks. Ever. If you aren’t attending a work picnic or playing on an intramural work league sports team, do not wear white athletic socks to anything work related.
Don’t get so overzealous expressing yourself via your socks that they become distracting. Keep your sock color in the same wheelhouse as the rest of your outfit and you will be fine. Patterns allow you more leeway to experiment with different colors.
If you are going with a solid color sock, you will want to draw less attention to them. Fun socks rock!
Don’t wear jeans unless you are 100% positive it is acceptable. Assuming that your selvedge denim is going to make the professional cut is a risk not worth taking. However, if it is acceptable to wear jeans in your workplace, make sure that they are good work jeans. Good work jeans are dark washed, hemmed, and they don’t have holes or faded areas. Good work jeans don’t have white stitching or rhinestoned designs on the back pockets either. When paired with a tie and blazer, good work jeans can look very professional.
Ties are a classic workplace look. A simple strip of fabric both communicates professionalism and demands respect.
There’s one important rule to follow: Don’t settle for a sloppy tie.
We don’t mean an actual tie that looks ugly (don’t even consider buying those!) we mean how you tie the actual knot. The tip of your tie should hit somewhere within the tiny box that your belt buckle makes. If after tying your tie you see that the tip is above or below your buckle, you need to retie your knot. Likewise, if your knot looks sloppy, wrinkled, or is irrevocably off-centered, just start over. Don’t go into work looking like you either threw yourself together in a rush or worse, like you don’t know how to tie a tie.
9. Slim Fit
There is no shame in wearing slim fit pants. This cut is flattering, stylish and looks good with pretty much any jacket combination. Plus, you can find slim fit slacks at your local J.Crew, Banana Republic or Gap for relatively affordable prices. As you consider whether or not to rock the slim fit, we advise that you don’t go too tight, and don’t force it. You need to know your body type. If slim fit is going to be uncomfortable for you or look like you are wearing workout gear, then we advise you to stick with a more flattering cut of pant. Likewise, don’t try to double your weekend pants as workplace appropriate.
Tip: If you’re a regular to the slim fit cut, don’t assume that what you would wear to a concert can double as work pants. Skinny fit and slim fit are not the same thing.
Accessories for guys? Yes. Accessories are basically any personal flare that you may add to your ensemble to make it you. For example: scarves, hats, coats, gloves, sunglasses, tie clips, pocket squares, ascots etc. Keep in mind that everything is okay in moderation. Don’t over-accessorize! If you are going to wear a tie clip, leave the pocket square and ascot at home. Don’t wear your winter hat into your office unless you plan to immediately take it off, and scarves in a corporate environment just aren’t acceptable. If you are an ascot kind of guy, more power to you. Pair it with your blazer-no tie combo and kill it.
Image Source: BigStock