To get ahead in your career you have to have the skills and you have to be willing to work hard. But like it or not, you also have to look the part. After all, your workwear and how you present yourself in the office is what people see when they meet you, and even if you don’t like focusing on your looks, other people will make snap judgments. It’s the way of the world, so you have to deal with it. According to James Uleman, PhD, a psychology professor at New York University and researcher on impression management, in an article for the American Psychological Association, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression…In spite of the congeniality of many professional gatherings, judgments are being made and impressions formed all the time.” Which means what you are wearing and how you look when you get that first introduction or meeting better be spot on and professional.
Look in your closet and honestly assess what is in there. Do you have a lot of old work clothes that look beat up and battered? Does your office attire look dated? When you get dressed for work, how do you feel? If you feel sloppy and you look like you’re stuck in the 90s, then it’s time to update your office look. Here are some tips to refresh and upgrade your workwear, without even trying.
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Swap Your Shoes
Even though your shoes sometimes seem like an afterthought, and they’re the last item you throw on before you walk out the door, your footwear actually makes a big impact on your overall look. According to the Art of Manliness, “shoes are a visual endpoint and receive a disproportional amount of attention; despite covering only 5% of your body they can make-up more than 30% of the visual judgment we make when sizing up a stranger.” Swapping your old, worn-in, scuffed and scratched shoes (or maybe even your sneakers) for more tailored, clean and professional shoes will completely transform your look. And make sure you wear the right shoes for the right office culture; sometimes more casual boat shoes can work, and sometimes you need to be more formal with loafers or oxfords. Invest in good quality shoes and make sure you find footwear that is both functional and stylish.
Shave or Change Your Hairstyle
Don’t only focus on your clothes; the reality is you could wear the same old t-shirt but if you hair is nicely combed, you put a little smoothing gel or you get a fresh cut then you’ll look like a new person. And the same goes for your facial hair—an unruly beard looks sloppy and even if you are the smarted person in the room, you’ll risk looking like you don’t care or you don’t take your job seriously. Tame your beard with beard oil and make sure it looks styled and intentional, not like it’s there by default because you were lazy. And if you really want to look updated and refreshed, you can shave your facial hair for a quick and complete transformation.
Add Some Accessories
Yes, guys need accessories too. Insert eye roll here. But seriously, adding a scarf, a hat, a cool new belt, statement socks or a cool bag can instantly change your look with very little effort. Just don’t overdo it, one accessory is a good place to start until you find your own style, otherwise it will look forced and you’ll feel uncomfortable.
Go for Slim-Fitting Over Sloppy
Styles change and so does your body, so if you’re still hanging on to shirts, suits, sweaters and even pants from years ago then you’re probably not wearing the right size or style for your body type. Baggy clothes are a no-no for work. Oversized or ripped t-shirts might be OK on the weekend, but they have no place in the office, unless you’re lucky enough to work somewhere with a very casual office culture. Opt for clothes that are more slim fitting, or at the very least they should be tailored to your body. Clean lines win over bulky clothes, and even if you wear the same exact items in a size that fits you, it will totally change your look with minimal adjustments.
Sport a Well-Made Suit
Every man needs a well-made, classic suit. Even if you don’t wear it every day, you need it in your wardrobe. Between interviews, important client meetings, business dinners and even personal occasions like weddings, that suit will be a well-utilized investment. Plus, when you do whip it out, people will notice. Esquire argues “stepping into a well-cut suit is transformative. It will make you that much more stylish, it’ll help you walk taller, and if you get it right—i.e. buy your correct size and get it tailored—it will even make you feel better in your own skin.”
Swap Bland for a Bright Pop of Color
Bland can be boring; sure it’s safe and if you want to be able wear and re-wear your ties/shirts/bowties/sweaters then classic, neutral colors and fabrics are best. But just as those clothing items will often go unnoticed, so will you. Try to swap at least a few items for a brighter pop of color to add a little energy to your look.