While education and experience are significant factors in one’s career progression, appearance can have just as great of an impact on how far you excel. The way you dress speaks volumes about your confidence and professionalism. It’s unacceptable to miss out on career opportunities because of your workplace attire. As part of our BE Polished style series, we share 10 fashion faux pas that could hinder your career advancement. Whether you’re a corporate CEO or a grocery store cashier, avoid these style mistakes to achieve ultimate success. —Aisha Taylor
JEGGINGS OR LEGGINGS: The fact that “jeggings” was added to the most recent edition of the Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t make them an acceptable form of work attire. Unless you work at the gym or in some other recreational environment, it’s never okay to wear skin-tight jeans or leggings in a corporate or business setting. They are far too casual and show way more than any employer wants to see. In fact, it’s best to avoid any kind of stretchy or spandex materials that are too snug as part of your business wardrobe. Cotton, silk, wool, or polyester are among the best choices of materials for pants or skirts.
SEXUALLY SUGGESTIVE ATTIRE: As professionals, we want our skills and qualifications to get us to the top, not our physical assets. Wearing clothes that are excessively revealing, such as very short skirts and low-cut shirts are not a good way to get the attention of management. Leaving a few buttons open, showing extra skin, or accentuating our curves can give the wrong impression and may even warrant the wrong response. Always make sure that your wardrobe choices aren’t too tight or too revealing. You don’t want to be promoted because of your sex appeal. You want to advance because of your ability to do the job. Period.
OPEN TOES—FOR MEN: Since women are allowed to wear open-toe shoes in most work environments, this one is really for the brothers. Men, it is never okay to wear open-toe shoes to the workplace. A double-standard, yes! But it is what it is. A man wearing open-toe shoes, in even the most relaxed work environments, would seem odd and out-of-place. As for women, sometimes we take open-toe shoes to the extreme. No one, male or female, should ever wear flip flops or extremely casual open-toe shoes in a professional work environment. Ladies, a classic and professional sandal that doesn’t expose the entire foot is a safe bet. Put your best foot forward.—just make sure it isn’t wearing a flip flop.
UNKEMPT: Messy, dingy, or worn out attire is perhaps the most common fashion offense found in today’s workplace. Wearing clothes that are wrinkled, stained, or messy can leave employers thinking that you are careless and unorganized. Furthermore, not taking the time to neatly get dressed shows little regard or respect for the workplace. Employers can easily spot someone who just threw on anything and didn’t really care about how they looked when they came to work. Always be sure that your clothes are neatly ironed and stain free. Take the time to remove any lint, tuck in your shirt, mend hems and holes or just do away with over-worn clothes altogether.
WILD HAIR COLORS: While appearance is a form of self-expression for many, we must keep in mind that we’re constantly under a microscope in the workplace. We don’t want to do anything that will prevent us from being taken seriously. Unless you work in creative industries, such as beauty, fashion or art, very bright and unusual colors should be avoided. It’s best to stick to shades of brown, black, and blond that complement on your skin tone. Unusual hair colors are a distraction and will make it difficult for colleagues to look past the bright hue.
TATTOOS: The appropriateness of tattoos is often debated by many young professionals. It’s not the fact that you have a tattoo, but it’s the placement of that tattoo that can adversely affect your career growth. If you desire for your skills and qualifications to be viewed before your body art, avoid getting tattoos in hard-to-conceal places such as hands, neck, wrists, and face. For ladies, it’s more difficult to conceal certain body parts, especially extremities. Therefore women in particular should avoid large tattoos on the chest, and lower arms and legs. If you do have these tattoos, you might want to consider wearing clothing that covers them in the work environment or using a quality concealer or cover-up.
FACIAL PIERCINGS: Eyebrows, lips, tongue, and other facial piercings are distracting and sometimes threatening to employers. These body ornaments can cause others to judge your ability to make wise professional choicess and can be viewed as signs of immaturity and unprofessionalism for those seeking a career in any type of corporate or professional environment. If you must have them, consider taking them out when in professional environments or seeing clients. Men should exercise judgment when deciding whether or not to wear earrings in the workplace. It’s best to scope out the culture at your place of employment to determine whether or not any other men wear earrings … especially those in upper management. If no other men have pierced ears, don’t feel the need to be the trendsetter.
ILL-FITTING CLOTHES: It’s important to be aware of how your clothes fit and make adjustments accordingly. The key is to remember that when you’re uncomfortable in your clothes, it shows! If you’ve lost or gained a significant amount of weight, consider having your work clothes adjusted by a tailor. Remember, if you aren’t confident in the fit of your clothes, no one else will be confident in what you bring to the table.
MONOTONE WARDROBE: Many professionals have three basic colors in their wardrobe: black, gray, and brown. On a good day we might throw in navy for a little spontaneity. What’s important to know is that the dreary pattern of our work attire can make you feel and seem dreary as well. The colors that we wear can have a contagious impact on how gloomy or how cheerful we appear to be. Consider adding a few bright and lively accent pieces to your wardrobe, such as pink, red, and green. Men can add a little color in their tie or dress shirt. Ladies, we have a few more options in our tops or accessories. You’d be surprised at how much more vibrant you feel and how well your new energy is received, just by adding some color to your wardrobe.
SAGGING CLOTHES: The only thing worse than sagging jeans is sagging dress pants. The stereotypes associated with men who sag their pants are all negative. A professional seeking career success shouldn’t want those unfavorable labels to follow them on the job. It’s best to choose well fitting, tailored pants that aren’t too tight, too short, too long or too big and are complimented with a belt.
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