I remember the day when my colleague turned up for work in his usual get up. For a designer, most ad agencies have a T-shirt and jeans policy. On this one day, he walked to answer the door and bumped into the boss. The boss then froze, opened his eyes wide and stared at him from head to toe for a few moments. He then left without a word and with an obviously displeased smirk on his face. The bewildered colleague returned and said, “Did I do something wrong? Looks like the boss was not happy when he saw me!”
Sonia, the junior designer quipped, “Well Joe, look at your setup. You don’t look like you’re on top of your game man.” Laughter echoed throughout the room and Joe just stood there. He was wearing a T-Shirt, jeans both crumpled and not ironed. His cap was a worn out joke. The shoes were nice but dirty. He also had another shirt on but wore it like a jacket. “You look more like a brick layer at a construction site than designer Joe. I think that’s why the boss is upset.” added Sonia cheekily.
There are many like Joe, who dressed appropriately for the interviews but slacked when it came to the day to day attire at work. Here, as one of the goals of this blog is to turn you into a professional inside and out, we’d like to share our tips for dressing well for work as detailed as possible. Dressing takes work. The key is not only to create a good first impression at the interview, but a lasting impression that will help you keep your job, raise your professional profile as well as your workplace’s professional image because you are a reflection of your office.
1. Shirts, Tops and Shoes.
Shirts for men and Tops for women. Women certainly need no advice in this area as they spend hours picking and choosing the right kind of attire to complement their overall look. Although personal preference is important, it’s not so for the image you portray at the office. For example, a lady colleague once said, “I like to float in my clothes.” We didn’t know what that really meant until we took a good look at her. Her clothes were all very loose and nothing was looking fitted. Quite loose clothing is never a good idea for the workplace especially in a client servicing industry or when you’re operating machinery.
The same goes for men with very loose XXL shirts and ill fitting jeans or pants. The key words here are “Ill Fitting” which is “not fit for purpose”. It gives the wearer a slow, lazy and overly casual look.
What to do?
Invest in a set of clothes from time to time and make sure they fit you properly and well. Ensure you take care of them and iron them. Invest in a good cupboard to organise them well. Make sure you also invest in a tailored and fitted jacket both for formal and casual wear. For men wearing a pressed shirt, go for long sleeved ones. Short sleeves are more casual and not preferred overall. Also, if you perspire, a singlet worn inside will be a lifesaver as well. Perspiration will wet and stain your shirt when no singlet is present to absorb them. It also makes the shirts harder to clean as the stains set in permanently.
“A good set of shoes maketh a man and woman.” No one likes dirty scuffed shoes. Especially when it’s paired with clean clothes, it’s a mismatch and people notice these. Whether you’re a man or woman, you could be suffering from sweaty feet. If this is so, perhaps you’re wearing PVC or synthetic leather shoes. These are known to cause this condition or exacerbate them. Genuine leather shoes should be your choice. As for women, should you wear heels? It’s really not necessary. Everybody understands that that’s a personal choice. You can walk in any formal shoe that adds to your confidence.
It’s not ridiculous to include this fellow into our list. Socks are really important and are the lining for the feet. Change your socks everyday, not wear the same pair for one week!
They will last longer and your feet will love clean socks. Soiled socks will cause problems such as dermatitis and nail fungus so a daily change will prevent these.
2. Other accessories: Wristwatch, Tie, Cologne, Perfume, Anti-Perspirant Deodorant.
This may be a very personal issue, but choosing the right types of the above can really change your presence, especially in first impressions. A reasonable wristwatch is one of those investments in life that is necessary and is not the same as owning the latest phone. A tie need not be expensive. Even a “pasar malam” tie can be cheap, but look expensive. The power of the visual if you may.
We would not recommend body spray, but go for the Anti Perspirant Deodorant. This masks the perspiration odour from the under arms. Used properly, this will work wonders as there’s no point using body spray when your under arms are sending out a different smell, much like young men standing in the LRT holding the rail. At the same time, for men, get yourself something like a CK or Hugo Boss cologne for that commanding presence. Pat lightly on your wrists.
For women too, an expensive fragrance is better to create that presence. It’s up to the individual but the Chanel ones are really what we care to notice. Such an investment is perhaps very important especially for those interviews. You can switch to a less expensive one for day to day use.
3. What about facial hair for men?
Men having facial hair is a relatively new fad. There are some who don’t like this style and won’t hire those who do. Some people are quite biased about this and it doesn’t really matter. What really matters is how you communicate at the interview and what you can bring to the table in the course of your employment. There are many capable men with nicely manicured facial hair out there who are department heads and leaders in their field. Admittedly, there are people out there who find beards and moustaches as a turn off. It’s an individual preference. My personal opinion is if you want to have it, go ahead but you should not grow it too long like a Viking. Have it done by a hairdresser with sharp, edgy lines. Remember that you are the product and you are trying to sell yourself to people who could have some prejudice about this. However, it’s better to be who you are and put your confidence to the test.
4. Look at the packaging industry.
This is an unfair comparison, but sad to say, our society is chronically materialistic and we have to find our way in this world. Just look at our human habit, we are a very choosy lot. When we shop for a tin of sardines, we look for the one tin that’s perfect. We don’t like the one that’s even slightly dented. So too are the countless items we’ve returned bought via online shopping. Look at the cars we buy. We like the outside but have little idea what the inside does.
The packaging industry understands human behaviour, preferences and prejudices very well. Even baby milk is packaged well and beautifully, with gold and silver trims and the benefits highlighted prominently. The purpose, to tempt and entice the buyer in choosing that brand. Models are hired, photographed to stand alongside and endorse these as well. Even food tasting is available. Such effort is done with the visual and senses in mind. If a packaging is slightly torn, the buyer would likely toss that and take a new one.
So in conclusion for now, be the best that you can be in the physical. Look good as well as smell good. It’s not a good thing for a man to dress well but smell feminine with Rexona. Or for a woman to smell of Brut. Nope, not a good combination. Rather, go for a specific combination of clothes, appearance, fragrance and accessories that can set you apart. We don’t really discuss the above things openly but we really must if we keep seeing young men with wet underarms in the LRT filling the cabin with their fragrance.
5. The Power of the Visual
There are a good number of people who do not have the ability to visualise things, to varying degrees until they actually see and experience it themselves. A visual presence can make a strong impression on someone just like you can tell if someone is putting on a show. This visual can make either a good impression or a bad one. Then the senses of smell and sound begin opening up as communication is sent back and forth.
We should not underestimate the power that visuals, smells and sounds have had on our human society. Go ahead, find your edge and use it to your advantage.