While working in a non-traditional and modern office is refreshing, remember that your boss trusts you to make responsible fashion decisions.
As more companies try to emulate the Google-style office environment, more college graduates will find themselves working in non-traditional and casual offices — ones without a “professional” dress code. Some businesses are pioneering the modern office culture, showing that formal dress doesn’t always mean success.
Non-traditional companies might not allow you to wear jeans every day (hey, “Denim Fridays” wouldn’t be as special if they did!), but ones with slides in their lobbies, hot-tub meeting rooms, tablets instead of desktops and communal workplaces are bending the old-world view of acceptable office attire.
However, when there is a thin line between “casual” and “disheveled” and over-dressing can sometimes work against you (“look at who is trying too hard”), how do you know what is appropriate in these neo-work environments? Here’s a breakdown of how both sexes can be comfortable while still making a lasting impression in the new age of office culture.
1. Be modest.
The most important word to remember when you’re dressing for the office is modesty; yes, even in non-traditional companies.
Ladies, flashing too much leg or cleavage is a no-go in any professional situation. You want your co-workers thinking about your qualifications, not your sex appeal. Avoid tight-fitting or overly revealing outfits at all costs. Skinny jeans or leggings layered with flowing tops are perfect, and if you’re wearing a short skirt, opaque tights are a must.
Modesty is just as important for men as it is for women. Don’t even think about stepping over your office threshold with your pants sitting far below your waist. The low-key vibe is not an excuse to look sloppy or show too much skin, so leave those muscle shirts at home, boys.
2. Consider utility.
This is particularly true for the ladies — hey, we love our accessories! Your work wear needs to be appropriate for the position you hold, so if you’re moving around a lot, sky-high heels are not going to work for you. Ballet flats, low-rise wedges, boots, loafers and oxfords are all excellent options for a casual workplace. Leave your edgy fashion experiments for the weekend (they can make you stand out for all the wrong reasons), and avoid piling on jangly bracelets (they’ll just end up in a pile by your keyboard or be a noisy distraction). Try pairing one statement piece with each outfit — the right scarf or necklace can really bring your look to life.
3. Pass on well-worn clothing.
It should go without saying, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is not to notice a stain on that shirt you thought you could get one more wear out of. Working in a casual environment doesn’t mean you can turn up in crumpled or worn-out clothing. Choose your outfit the night before and hang it up ready — it’ll save you a mad rush in the morning.
4. Watch your fit.
Fashionable though they may be, be wary of pants that are too tight or revealing. The same goes for baggy pants — you don’t want to look sloppy. Sharp tailoring can go a long way for both men and women, so invest in great-fitting threads and bypass those “if I only lose/gain 10 pounds” pieces.
5. Be aware of your shoes.
Shoes are where you may find the most obvious differences in non-traditional offices. Some companies may find flip-flops completely acceptable, while others prefer dress shoes.
If you want to play it safe, the best option for footwear is a hybrid shoe — something that sits somewhere between a sports shoe and a more traditional leather dress shoe. Desert boots and boat shoes can look great with a chino, but don’t rely on one pair. Shoes need time to breathe between wears to expel excess moisture, or they end up looking battered and smelling bad.
6. Don’t be afraid of color.
In traditional workplaces, particularly in fields like finance and law, color is frowned upon and thought to be a distraction. In a casual workplace, all colors (and prints!) are fair game. Afraid of getting too wild? Here’s a guide to help you slowly and subtly implement pops of color into your wardrobe.
7. Stay well-groomed.
A couple of days’ stubble is perfectly acceptable in a modern, casual office environment; an unkempt hobo beard with bits of your breakfast still in it is not. Shower often, keep your nails short and you’re guaranteed to be a pleasure to work with. Same as the girls, dirty, wrinkled or stained clothing should never be worn to work, so check your outfit the night before to avoid last-minute clothing disasters.
While working in a non-traditional and modern office is refreshing, remember that your boss trusts you to make responsible decisions, both in your career, behavior and fashion. Plus, clothing and style are a big factor in the impression you make in the workplace. Don’t abuse the fashion freedom you have by becoming sloppy and you will be comfortably on your way to success in no time.
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