From the Mailbag: Dressing well at work without looking stiff
My workplace has a fairly business casual policy for most employees. I just found out that I’ll be serving in an interim role that will raise my level of responsibility. As a result, I’m thinking that I may need to adjust my style which leans more on the casual side of business-casual (Dress shirts, sweaters, Timex Weekender, Dockers D1s). The higher-ups generally wear suits to work each day.
However, I don’t want to suddenly start showing up in suits that would turn the heads of those who have worked with me for years. What would be the key pieces for a “higher-level” style? I know just the dress shirt and tie look isn’t recommended, but that’s my initial thought for a middle ground.
Congrats to Luke for the promotion. Here’s to hoping the situation is ripe for that “interim” tag getting removed once he shows his superiors how valuable he is handling the new responsibilities.
Luke makes a great point. The cliche is “dress for the job you want,” but y’have situational awareness too. Ike said: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Fair or not, going from khakis & polo to three-piece power suit overnight might be off putting to those who didn’t get a promotion. Here’s a few key options for Luke when it comes to ratcheting up his office style without going crazy.
#1. Non Plain White Dress Shirts + Casual Ties and Tie bars
You can still wear a shirt & tie but look casual and streamlined. Leave the stark white dress shirts on the hangers, and stick with light blue, or better yet patterns like checks and gingham. Try solid color knit ties. Cotton or wool blend ties work too. Steer clear from super glossy looking silk ties. A tie bar keeps your tie in place and thus, your lines clean. Make sure your shirts are tailored. Roll your sleeves up the right way. And see Adam Scott’s character Ben Wyatt on NBC’s Parks & Rec for the overall look. He sticks with a lot of plaid, but it works.
#2. Cotton Blazers + tieless: B.R. Tailored Fit Cotton Blazer – $198 (but on sale a lot)
Jackets man. They do wonders. Skip anything wool and real formal, and opt instead for cleaned up cotton blazers and sportcoats. You can wear these with a simple button up shirt and chinos (or dark denim if your workplace is that informal) till the cows come home. Or Kingdom Come. Or, well hell, whenever, but you’ll look good when it happens. Why no link? They were selling these online for, if memory serves, $198, and they had just been added not too long ago. Plenty of sizes too. But they’re gone. They do seem to be carrying them in-store, so check there. Why the sudden disappearance online? Not sure. It vexes me. I’m terribly vexed.
#3. A ridiculously clean, simple watch: Bulova 96B104 – $77.95
Why wear a watch when everyone has a cell in their pocket? Because a watch says: “I have enough going on that I need to know what time it is, but I’m also not married to my phone. You can’t get a hold of me whenever you damn well please. Sometimes, people have to come find me.” Facebook and Angry Birds can wait. Smart phones are like cats. Who owns who is always in question. A watch like this, even for as cheap as it is, is all business.
#4. The non messenger work bag: Bosca Slim Brief – $196.90 ($395)
Here’s the brutal truth. Messenger bags, as convenient as they can be, often look like you’re transitioning between that Jansport you wore in middle school and an actual briefcase. You want something with handles. Not just a shoulder strap. If you bike to work, then all bets are off. Otherwise, get a briefcase. Doesn’t have to be a hard sided attache, but you want something that doesn’t make you look like you’re about to hop on a segway and deliver a sandwich to some stoner holed up in his apartment. Examples over here.
#5. A once every three weeks haircut (or about there)
Everyone’s hair grows at a different rate, but you want a haircut schedule that prevents people from saying: “You got a HAIR cut!!” once you get back to the office. A trim every three weeks should do it for most. Once a month can be pushing it for many. Keeping your hair from crawling down your neck/spilling over your ears makes a big difference.
Other suggestions for Luke? Leave them in the comments section. Barber Pole Photo Credit: Ross Griff