What Should I Wear?: Accountant

In the first of a series of posts on clothing for different professions, today I am going to be discussing the proper clothing for an accountant.

I was going to be an accountant; not because I was particularly good at accounting, or because I enjoyed it. No, I was going to be an accountant because, in my mind, an accountant dressed a certain way, and I wanted to dress like that.  After a year at university and more than a few thousand dollars in debt, I decided that it wasn’t worth it just to wear a suit to work. But do accountants wear suits anymore?

When I was in grade 10, an accountant from a local firm came in and gave a speech on what it would be like to work for them. The picture that was painted was nothing like what I thought an accountant would be. They didn’t wear suits, they barely wore proper dress shirts. Their employee fun days involved going to the beach; nothing about them screamed ‘professional’. Because these people didn’t fit my image of what an accountant should be, I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to work for them. They made a poor first impression on me. Why would I want to work for, or hire, people who don’t even take their work seriously enough to present a professional image.

This may seem like a shallow decision, and it was; and although I know better than to make these snap decisions now, it is human nature. Accountants are supposed to be in charge of the money; why would you hire someone who doesn’t look like they take that seriously. That’s not to say that they have to wear a suit constantly (although it probably wouldn’t hurt), just that they should pay attention to what they wear, and the message they are sending.

So, what should an accountant wear?

The Big City Firm

If you work at a big city firm (especially on that is an international branch or a larger company), then there is absolutely no excuse for you to not be wearing a suit; especially if you are the sort who meets with clients. If you look like you can manage your own money well enough to dress well, then people are going to be more inclined to hire you. Your suit doesn’t actually have to be overly expensive in order to look it. A $200, well tailored suit will look better than a $2000 suit that doesn’t fit you, any day of the week. Stick with dark conservative colours for the suit (navy or charcoal), with blue or red for the tie. Stick with white or light blue dress shirts, preferably with a french cuff. A french cuff is perfectly acceptable for almost every situation that a button cuff is, but gives the perception of a higher class. Your shoes should be black oxfords.

Small Firm in the Big City

You should still be wearing a suit. You are a professional in a city, what else should you be wearing?

Firm in Smaller Town

Yeah, it’s still a suit. Preferably. Realistically, the absolute minimum here is a dress shirt and trousers (no tie without a jacket). Even better than that is a blazer and tie. Regardless of what you are wearing, sitc to conservative colours; navy and charcoal for the trousers, white or light blue for the shirts. If you are wearing an odd jacket (blazer or sportcoat), make sure that the colour is clearly different to that of your trousers. Ties can be a little more casual here, but try to stick to shades of blue or red. Save the chinos and polo shirts for weekends at the country club.

For the Women

Ladies, studies have shown that women wearing a skirt are seen as more likely to be in a higher position than those wearing trousers. A knee length skirt and a conservative blouse  are good; a jacket is even better. Remember to keep jewellery, makeup, and perfume to a minimum; and don’t treat work as a fashion show.

For Everyone

Remember to keep it professional; people expect you to be the experts, the people that we go to when we need professional help, so dress the part. Also, look at what you superiors (not your equals) are wearing, and dress like them. If no one in your office wears a suit, you probably don’t have to; dress as well as you can without looking like you are trying to your boss. If you aren’t sure how to do that, click on the Virtual Styling tab at the top of the page and send me a message; it’s only free for a limited time.

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