What Is S/he Wearing?

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We’ve all seen it. Something out of place, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that makes you shake your head in confusion or something that makes you think, what the hell is he or she wearing? Don’t be the one everyone, including the boss, nods their head over. Refrain from wearing anything too (fill in the blank) at the office.


Anything too sexy – Underwear as outerwear, camisoles, visible bra straps and lingerie, fishnet stockings, short shorts, micro minis and stilettos do not, as a rule, find favor in the typical office. Shoes can be tricky. Lots of times open-toed sandals are out, so keep your little piggies covered, and the rule of thumb with stilettos is, the heels are too high they’re affecting the way you walk. Overly revealing attire can lead to problems, so breasts, back, arms and midriffs should be covered, and clothing should not be overly tight.


Anything too sporty – Everyone’s glad that you’re losing weight and taking care of yourself. You may even have inspired a few of your coworkers to exercise more often, but work out gear belongs in the gym not the office. Similarly, sweat pants and athletic apparel with numbers, team names, etc. belong on a track, at a sporting event or at home on the couch under a blanket accompanied by a beer.


Anything too casual or sloppy – If your gear is dirty, stained or rumpled you’re sending a message. A, you are a slob. B, your uncaring manner of dress infers that you won’t pay any more attention to your job than you do to your appearance. Logically, we know this is not always the case. We know that we should not judge a book by its cover, but rather by its content, or in the case of the IT pro, by his or her performance and knowledge. But neatness counts. The reality is that people form opinions about you based on the way you look, and it’s silly to let slovenly dress habits stand in the way of a much desired and readily earned promotion to management.


You don’t have to spend a lot of money on expensive clothes either. You could realistically get away with just a few outfits comprised of interchangeable mix-and-match pieces as long as they are clean, well ironed and seasonally appropriate. You don’t need a stylist either. Visit the Gap or Old Navy if you’re clueless. Their clothes are easy to assemble and not terribly expensive (especially if you don’t mind cruising sales racks). I mentioned that clothes should be clean. That goes for you too. Do not use scent for soap, and do not overdo perfume or cologne. Keep hair clean and well groomed as well, and that includes facial hair.


Anything too trendy – Low rise jeans were all the rage a few seasons ago, and they still look cute, on the right body, but they draw too much attention in many offices. No one should be privy to the crack of your anything when you bend or sit, likewise for the Sharon Stone-esque peep show. Save the belly-baring hip-huggers for the bar after work. Piercings and tattoos also have their place. But until you have sufficiently observed the culture inside your office, and seen what the majority of people wear and how they comport themselves, cover up the hearts, tattoos, names of ex-lovers and symbols. And unless you’re a database administrator at L’Oreal, nix long, fake or wild-colored nails. They should be short and neat. Avoid elaborate nail designs and outlandish colors. Same goes for extreme hair color. Natural-looking highlights are par for the course, but flamboyant purple-y reds, blue and other colors not found in nature are sadly best suited for the streets and the clubs. Don’t want to conform? Feel free to look for a position in one of those locations.


I know, I know. Looking at that list, by now you’re probably thinking it’s passé to wear anything too interesting! But that’s not true. It would just behoove you to save your more volcanic ensembles for after work. What you do wear to work depends on your industry, company, geographic location as well as the tasks you ordinarily perform during a regular work day, but there are basic standards that everyone should follow. Most companies aren’t really fascist, controlling, spirit-breakers, they just want to keep the focus where it belongs inside their walls: on work.

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