It used to be a simpler time, when a suit and tie was the only real option available to an office worker. These days, though, a lot of workplaces have a more casual dress code, or sometimes even no particular dress code at all. So how do you know what to wear to work? Here are some general guidelines to help you make the right choices.
DO take cues from the boss. In most office situations, the person in charge is a good indicator of what people are expected to wear. If your boss is a woman, look to the highest-ranking man and use his style as a benchmark. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend as much as the higher-ups on your work wardrobe, though – just use their style to give you ideas about what would be best to wear.
DO know when not to conform. If you’re a 40-something working in an office of college students who are wearing the latest fads, you will look silly if you do the same to try to fit in. It’s a much better idea to dress in a way that feels natural (and age-appropriate) for you, while still fitting in with the overall vibe of the office.
DON’T neglect the grooming aspects of the dress code. Are the men in your office all clean-shaven? Does anyone have long hair or a beard? For some bosses, your grooming routine can be just as important as your wardrobe choices, while others may not care either way about shaving or haircuts.
DO play it safe until you know the lay of the land. You may have a bold, outgoing sense of personal style in which you like to take some risks, but when you’re the new guy at work, dial it back a bit until you have a clear understanding of what’s expected in the office. If and when you decide to start standing out a bit more, make sure to take it slowly and gauge the boss’s reaction as you go.
DON’T go in blind. If you’re starting a new job or moving to a different type of office from what you’re used to, make sure to ask ahead of time what the office culture is like. If you’re visiting an office for a job interview, pay attention to what people are wearing so that you’ll already know where to start if you do get the job.
DO remain aware. Some people just don’t know how to take a hint; don’t be that guy. If coworkers keep making comments about some aspect of your style, or the boss keeps looking you up and down and saying “interesting outfit,” take that as a cue to reassess your work wardrobe. It doesn’t mean that you have to ditch your personal style altogether – just use your skills to make appropriate choices at work, and save your bolder options for evenings and weekends. It’s all about balance!