Office etiquette is different all over the world, if not in different parts of your country. However, if there’s one thing that prevails across the islands that make up Great Britain (albeit among the minority nowadays) it’s understated British elegance. And nowhere is this more apparent than on your morning commute or during your daily desk grind.
Now, dressing well won’t necessarily improve your work performance or earn you a greater salary – but it can give you an abundance of confidence. And if you can stroll into and out of your office knowing you look the part, this new-found confidence will help you to be the part.
Don’t mismatch your office attire. The holy grail of mistakes. On every commute you’ll see the dreaded grey trouser/light tan shoes combo. In the age of Pinterest and, well, a relatively good education system, there is no excuse for this office faux-pas. If in doubt just wear navy and black – or get educated and read our guide to matching suits and shoes.
Polyester is your enemy. The first thing you should ever do when a piece of clothing catches your eye is check the label for what material(s) it’s made from. If there are any man-made synthetics such as polyester and nylon on there, put it down. It’s cheap and nasty and that’s not the way to look anywhere, especially not in the workplace.
Pay attention to the office dress code. If in doubt about your office’s house style of dress, take a look around and see what others are doing. Your boss is a good barometer of this: don’t ever dress more flamboyant than he or she. If you are the boss then use this list to inform not only your style of dress, but to make an impression on your team – who, if you’re doing your job right, will follow your lead.
No backpacks. If you work in a formal office environment your documents/food/iPad should be kept either in a leather shoulder bag or a briefcase.
Your religious duty on Sundays is washing and ironing. Firstly, follow the universal law of work clothes rotation: it is acceptable to wear your work trousers two or three times a week provided they’re stainless and match effectively with corresponding shirt choices. However, wearing a shirt more than once in a week is the work of the devil. Make sure your wardrobe includes a dynamic range of at least ten shirts, and keep your options open by doing a fresh wash every Sunday. Failure to do so means that, at desperate times, you’ll be left with the cowboy-collared pulling shirt your nan got you last Christmas. And no one wants to see that. Ever.
Embrace ironing. It’s something you’ll have to get used to if you want your clean, efficient work ethic to be reflected in the way you appear. Amen.
No gimmicks. OK, we’ve all seen them. That one guy in HR who thinks it’s a great idea to dye his sideburns pink, grow a Poirot-loving mustache or – you guessed it – wear a polyester suit from H&M. You’re not at school anymore. If you want to make yourself stand out at work, work harder.
Don’t over-accessorise. The only jewellery you need own is an understated time piece. This requires a modestly-sized watch face and no diamonds whatsoever (we don’t do ‘bling bling’ in Britain). Piercings are just no. Hats and sunglasses should be relinquished before entering the building.
Rather than over-accessorising, go for attention to details: If your office is a no-tie zone aim for a smart buttoned-down collar shirt. In more casual environments opt for a buttoned-down plain, or pinpoint, Oxford. Forget about short-sleeved shirts; as far as you’re concerned they don’t exist. In summer, simply roll your sleeves up (not least to instantly reflect a hands on, hard-working attitude).
And this includes tattoos. If you have decided to get a tattoo, make sure it’s not visible by wearing a long-sleeved shirt (If it’s on your face, you’re screwed.)
Don’t stink out the office with bodyspray. One spray of a neutral deodorant in each pit is all that’s required before your trip to work. Do not spray deodorant in the office! Save it for the gents’ room. Overbearing fragrances are as off-putting as overbearing attire. If you appear like you’re ready for a night out then you’re on the wrong track and people will notice it.
Don’t try too hard! The golden rule beyond any that you should have chiseled into your mirror is thus: fashions come and go, but style is enduring. Dressing timelessly, rather than according to the latest Spice Boy trend, will mean that you avoid any imminent office fashion disasters. You’ll be noted for appearing smart and professional yet won’t look like you’re trying too hard. Exude confidence rather than arrogance or flamboyance. Stay understated.
Words by: Tom Adamski