Various studies have been done that prove if you dress smarter you perform better. But how does that fit in with the dress codes of today which are getting more and more casual? Even banking is losing it's suits and ties with JP Morgan introducing a more relaxed dress code of business casual last year.
This provides a conundrum for many of my clients who work in young creative or tech companies. They can wear whatever they like, but when promoted to a more senior role they feel the need to dress up a little more. This gives them more gravitas and gains the respect of their team as well as making them feel more authoritative.
Here are my 10 tips on how to do it without looking out of place, alienating your team or looking as if you're moonlighting at a different company:
1. Wear an unlined cotton blazer, or knitted blazer/cardigan.
Make sure it's fitted and streamlined for smartness but the softer lines will mean it's more in keeping with what others are wearing and you're not trying too hard. It will upgrade a t-shirt and jeans instantly but not look as formal as a structured blazer.
2. Swap denim jeans for 5 pocket trousers.
These still have the look of jeans with the same pocket detail but are a tiny bit more formal. They will be in a clean even wash, and often they won't have rivets at the pockets or any contrast stitching. A very slight change from regular jeans, but enough just to give a little difference. Black, navy or charcoal are good neutral colours which will go with most things.
3. Choose rubber soled or wooden heeled shoes.
Everyone else in trainers but formal shoes look too smart? Look for rubber soled shoes or ones with a wooden heel which will give them an air of informality but an upgrade from trainers. If you do go for trainers look for plain leather ones like Common Projects.
4. A fine knit jumper is more grown up than a sweatshirt.
A crew neck or v-neck will both work well or you could go for a polo style knit. You can wear with a t-shirt for more casual days or a shirt underneath for added formality. Avoid logos and opt for plain and simple. Dark colours are always more formal but a lighter grey or camel will look good too.
5. Get a chambray shirt to bridge the gap between denim and a business shirt.
A chambray shirt is super versatile. It could be worn with the 5 pocket trousers, a blazer on top or with chinos. You could even put a tie with it and use it under a suit to make it a touch more casual.
Cashmere tie - Drakes
6. Embrace wearing a tie.
There's nothing to say you can't wear a tie. Though it may feel formal you can reduce it's impact to fit in with a relaxed vibe by choosing knitted, linen or wool rather than silk. Avoid wearing a tie with jeans or 5 pocket trousers and choose chinos or textured trousers instead.
7. Upgrade your t-shirts to plain non-logo ones.
In summer, if you still want to opt for a t-shirt then upgrade them by choosing a plain one (no logo) that will hold it's shape. It may need to be in a thicker fabric to achieve this. You could also go for a polo shirt - again, preferably with a no logo or a subtle logo and in a fitted shape.
8. Invest in new accessories.
Ditch the overused backpack and invest in a stylish leather one. Bin the Bic and treat yourself to a posh pen. Sack the socks that are worn out and get some new ones with subtle patterns. And guess what....you are allowed to have more than one belt in your wardrobe. Tone your belts with your shoes and look for interested woven ones in summer particularly when you don't have many options for accessorising.
9. Give a jersey shirt a try.
I've noticed plenty of jersey shirts around - half shirt, half t-shirt. The perfect balance if you want to move on from t-shirts but still get the same relaxed feel. You could also look for soft collared stretch cotton shirts if you want to keep the comfort and up the formality another notch.
10. Try out some trousers with texture.
It could be a cotton herringbone weave or in winter a tweed or similar. It's a good alternative to chinos and gets away from the "half a suit" look that plain wool trousers can sometimes have.
If you feel like you need to upgrade your working wardrobe then contact me to arrange a personal shopping trip and I'll be happy to help.