13 fashion choices that can seriously hurt your career
We all know what we should and should not wear to the job interview right? Always err on the side of formality, don’t wear shorts, and cover your cleavage.
But we also know that after you get the job, the tie goes back in the closet and the jeans come out. How much can you relax? That depends on you and where you work. Most workplaces, outside of areas like law and finance, have more relaxed dress codes these days, with jeans, sneakers being totally acceptable.
But that doesn’t mean you can just wear whatever you want, particularly if you want to keep your career on an upward trajectory.
Here are ten workplace fashion mistakes that can cost you dearly when it comes to your career.
Anything cleavage baring: Some women don’t seem to be aware that this is still taboo, even after you get the job. A friend was telling me the other day about an admin assistant showing up flaunting massive cleavage. Sure, maybe this will work if your plan is to flirt or sleep your way to the top. But for everyone else, as soon as you start showing your cleavage to your colleagues, your perceived IQ drops dramatically, and everyone takes you less seriously.
Mini skirts: Again, just think of the amount of skin showing as directly correlative to the number of perceived IQ points you lose in the eyes of your colleagues.
“I once worked with a woman who wore mini skirts and dresses that barely covered her butt, paired with stripper stilettos. She was the talk of the office but sadly, no one seemed to talk to her about it,” says a marketing manager
I feel strongly that someone should have taken her aside and talked to her rather than allow gossip to fester, but this highlights the fact that your colleagues will view you negatively if you don’t stick to the dress code, and that can undermine you in many ways.
Short shorts: See mini skirts.
Stiletto heels: Stiletto heels are at worst a bid for sexual attention and at best a mark of vanity, and, because they are uncomfortable and hard to walk in, wearing them marks you as interested in this form of attention to the point of impracticality, which doesn’t reflect well on your professionalism. I love a high heel. Just keep it to three inches or less. Obviously wearing stilettos with mini skirts and cleavage is not a good idea.
Anything too tight: Your colleagues should not be able to see every contour of your body, even if you just got in super shape and are really proud of it.
Anything see through: People do not take you seriously when they can see your underwear.
Inappropriately graphic tees: If it’s got a sexual reference or profanity on it, or it says “Boob Inspector,” keep calm and wear something else.
Crocs: I actually don’t mind Crocs but others have very strong negative feelings about them, and almost everyone seems to agree they’re too casual for the workplace. Put on some actual shoes.
Ripped anything: Even if they’re those jeans that you buy already distressed, it’s just bad form to wear ripped clothing. Also, a lot of us just hate those jeans. Wearing ripped clothing suggests you have no respect for your workplace environment. If it has a hole, mend it.
Cut offs: See ripped anything and short shorts.
Saggy pants: While the true origins of the saggy pant remain a mystery, so does the explanation behind its persistence as a fashion statement. Dudes, you look ridiculous with your butt hanging out, and you walk funny too. History has shown that no matter how many people point out how dumb it looks, you’ll do it anyway, but I can still try. Pull up your pants. Absolutely nobody will take you seriously wearing this.
Flip flops: They are too casual for many, if not most, workplaces. That being said, they’re perfectly fine in some and are only taboo if you’ve never seen flip flops there. If you are the only one wearing them, chances are you shouldn’t be wearing them. Which brings us to…
Something that directly clashes with the workplace culture: Frankly, I could make an argument for wearing whatever you want as long as it’s not inappropriately skin baring or torn, provided you do your job well. But, here’s the thing, there’s another argument to be made for fitting into the company culture if you have a goal of advancing your career. Most companies, when hiring, are looking for team members who fit in. They want their organization to function like a family. So, while it might not be technically against the rules to show up in a suit where everyone wears jeans and sneakers, or vice versa, it might also not endear your to your colleagues and superiors.
This means that all of these rules are totally invalid if you company culture supports the fashion choice in question, from flip flops, to saggy pants to mini skirts.
Many experts say to pay attention to what your superiors wear and emulate them. Another way of putting it is the old “Dress for the job you want.” This makes sense. If the company president sees you dressed in something they might wear themselves, it’s quite likely they’ll think “I like the cut of that kid’s jib. Looks like leadership material. I’ll keep that in mind,” even if they don’t quite know why they’re thinking it.
If you dress for the job you want, at best you’ll make an impression. At worst, you’ll wind up in a disciplinary hearing dressed as Batman.