What Should I Wear?: The Casual Office

Some businesses have uniforms, and some strictly enforce the suit and tie dress code; other businesses are a bit more relaxed, and have what is considered a ‘Business Casual’ office. The exact definition of business casual varies for each of these companies, so it can be difficult to work out exactly what is and isn’t acceptable in the modern office. As usual, this is where I come in.

Proper Business Casual

This is my prefered form of business casual, and the most casual attire that I don while doing business. It consists of a sports jacket, a dress shirt, trousers, and a pair of slightly more casual dress shoes. No jacket is complete without a pocket square, but for a more casual appearance, don’t worry about the tie. Shoes don’t need to be overly formal, and a good pair of dress boots will suffice; even loafers will work if you are feeling particularly casual. Your shirt can have a bit of a pattern, and your jacket can be a lighter colour than it would be in a formal office.

Business Casual outfit by Men's Warehouse

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Modern Business Casual

For some reason or another, many men don’t enjoy wearing a jacket (every reason is a bad one), and so have decided to abandon them. This level of business casual is basically the same as above, except without the jacket. Adding a sweater will slightly increase the formality, especially if you are wearing a tie.

Casual Business Casual

More casual than the look above, this level will have you swapping out your dress trousers for chinos or dark jeans, and your dress shirts for more casual shirts and polos.

Casual Outfits

Things not to wear to work

  • A T-Shirt
  • Baseball Cap
  • Faded/distressed jeans
  • Sneakers
  • A Hoodie
  • Shorts
  • A Singlet
  • Sandals
  • Excessive Jewellery
  • Anything that makes you look like a tool

The only people who can get away with wearing these things are the people who own the company, and even then it still looks pretty ridiculous (I’m looking at you, Mark Zuckerberg). Remember, casual doesn’t mean sloppy or unprofessional, it just means casual; you should still look like a professional, responsible member of society, just more relaxed.

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What Should I Wear?: Job Interview

Congratulations! Your months of hard work have paid off, and you finally have a job interview. What’s that? You don’t know what to wear? Well, I think I can help with that. Job interviews are tough, and you want to put your best foot forward; remember, first impressions are formed within seconds, and this is your chance to really impress the interviewer, even before you introduce yourself. There are a few things that you need to consider, but if you follow this guide and still don’t get the job, it probably won’t be because of your appearance.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

But first, just how much does your attire affect your chances? 

The appropriate attire for every white collar job is a suit. If you show up to the interview in anything less than a suit, then the person interviewing you is going to think any of the following: that you have no idea what is appropriate attire; that you are not serious about the process; that you are not professional; and, at the extreme, that you are being disrespectful. That’s not to say that they aren’t going to hire you, just that your interview skills will have to be pretty good to fight past a negative first impression.

On the other hand, opinions are divided on what is the appropriate attire for a blue collar job interview. Some, like myself, argue that the best attire is still a suit; but others feel that wearing a suit to a blue collar job interview is overly formal, or, at worst, pretentious. The same applies to those professionals who try to emulate the ‘business casual’ workplace attire of those like Mark Zuckerberg. Although the former may have some legitimate reasoning, the latter have no sense of appropriate business attire. In either case, it is best to do some research on the company to determine what they would deem the appropriate attire.

The Hair

A week before your interview, get a haircut. This will give the appearance of being well groomed, and allow the haircut to settle in (although, you should be getting a haircut often enough that no one notices the difference). Facial hair should be kept to an absolute minimum, so make sure to shave the morning of the interview (avoiding razor burn and cuts). If you insist on keeping a beard, make sure that it is neat and trimmed. If you use some sort of hair product, make sure not to overdo it. Most people have the tendency to apply more product than they need when they are nervous and trying to make their hair perfect; this will just overwork your hair, and then it will look terrible. Remember, you can always add more; taking it away will likely require another shower.

The Accessories

Keep your jewellery to a minimum; a simple watch, cuff links, and a tie clip are all you really need, and the last two are optional. If you have visible piercings, remove them. Make sure you watch is something simple; a black leather (to match your shoes) or metal band, with a understated face; no flashy jewels embedded in the watch. You should be carrying two pens; one in your jacket pocket, and a backup in your briefcase. Also in your briefcase should be a notepad, business cards, and your mobile phone. Storing your mobile in your briefcase will free your pockets of clutter, and ensures that you aren’t tempted to start texting during the interview (you’d be surprised how often that happens). If you have one, a tablet pc of some kind is also an option.

The Shoes

Stick with plain black, highly shined Oxfords when you are wearing a suit. If you are feeling daring, a pair of quarter-brogues will also work. No slip-ons of any sort, and avoid brown; slip-ons are fine for business casual, and brown should be fine when you have the job, but neither are ideal for a job interview. If you need instructions on how to shine your shoes, I have an article for that here.

The Suit

The best options for an interview suit are Charcoal Grey, or Navy Blue, with two buttons, and notch lapels. Charcoal is a darker and more serious colour, while the colour blue represents knowledge, and can make a man look younger.

As a general guide, your suit should have the following characteristics:

  • Charcoal, Grey, or Navy
  • Solid worsted wool fabric (no pinstripes or checks)
  • Double vent
  • Two buttons
  • Flap pockets
  • Peak Lapel
  • Medium break in the trousers
  • Pleats if necessary
  • No cuffs on the trousers

Below are some examples of suits that are perfect for interviews:

Suit by Indochino

Suit by Indochino

Suit by Indochino

Suit by Indochino

Suit by Black Lapel

Suit by Black Lapel

If you are looking for a more in-depth guide, check out my article on buying your first suit.

The Casual Interview

Slightly More Casual Than a Suit: A sport jacket and dress trousers, with a button down shirt and tie. For a more relaxed look, remove the tie. Make sure to keep the colours conservative; this is still an interview, and you still want to present a professional appearance. At the most casual end of this look, a pair of chinos will work well.

More Casual: Lose the the jacket, and put on a nice sweater. This will work better with a tie to contrast with the less formal nature of the outfit.

The Most Casual: The most casual outfit that I would recommend is a well fitted button down shirt, and dress trousers or, at the extreme, chinos. As I’ve said before, I don’t think you should wear a tie without a jacket (or sweater), but if you really want to, then go for it, but add a tie clip to keep things neat.

People often confuse casual with sloppy; you are still trying to present a professional image, just a less formal one. Make sure all your clothes fit you properly, and are clean and pressed. When in doubt, look in the mirror and ask yourself “Would I hire me if I looked like this?”; if the answer is “no”, then maybe a change of clothes is in order.

The Shirt

The two best (and really, only) options for your shirt colour are white, and light blue.  Solids are the best option, but a small and subtle pattern can also work well.

ME00140_WHITE ME00142_LIGHT-BLUE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wear french cuffs at your own discretion, and try and avoid button-down collars. While button-down collars are a business staple in the U.S, they are traditionally a more casual, sporty look, and you would be better off without them for an interview. (Shirts pictured are by Brooks Brothers)

The Tie

Stick with darker, more conservative colours for your tie. Red is an excellent colour for an interview tie, as is navy blue. Red is the colour of passion and confidence; two things which a potential staff member should have, while blue is the colour of loyalty, authority, and knowledge; also characteristics that may describe the perfect applicant. As with shirts, stick with solids and subtle patterns. Below are some examples of ties that would work well for a job interview (images from www.ties-necktie.com).

Blue Shirt Red Tie CS0501_md_TNT CS0507_md_TNT CS0528_md_TNT

Putting it all together

My go-to interview attire is a navy suit, red tie, and white shirt. Theoretically, the colours represent the idea that I am passionate, knowledgeable, powerful, and confident; practically, the contrast between the colours creates a visually striking and memorable image, one that is often referred to as the ‘power look’, demonstrated here by US President Obama:

red 4

Perfect for addressing the press, meeting with foreign dignitaries, and interviewing for a job.

Whatever you wear, make sure that you are comfortable in it, and that you look professional, because if you aren’t comfortable people will be able to tell; and you are going to be nervous enough already, why add to your stress? Look the best that you can, so that you have one less thing to worry about during the interview; and remember, even if there are a dozen other applicants lined up for an interview,  sometimes you don’t have to be better than your competition, you just have to dress better.

Which Watch Should I Wear?: A Guide to Choosing the Right Watch for the Occasion

I love watches. Especially mechanical watches; there’s just something about the repetitive movement that I find therapeutic. I can sit and watch (pun intended) the inner workings of a watch for hours. I love all sorts of watches (except digital), so it bothers me when I see someone wearing one improperly; like wearing a sports watch with a suit, or doing manual labour with a dress watch.

For those of you who are unaware, this is what a watch looks like:

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Three excellent examples

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Watches are made up of far too many parts for me to cover, and there are only two that I will be talking about here anyway: The Face, and The Band. The band is the part that goes around your wrist, and the face is the part with the time on it.

Black Tie Event

Discreet and Elegant are the keywords here. The most formal option is a nice pocket watch (assuming you are wearing a waistcoat), otherwise, stick with a plain and simple wristwatch with a black leather band. Try and match the colour and metal on the watch to your cufflinks.

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In The Office with a Suit

You have a bit more freedom here. If it is a conservative office, try to stick with leather bands. The colour and general texture of the watch band should match your shoes (and belt, if you wear one). It doesn’t need to be exactly the same, just similar enough that, at a distance, there shouldn’t be much difference. A brown watch band with brown shoes, black watch band with black shoes, etc. Also feel free to wear a watch that it a bit larger, with a metal band. Don’t be a show-off, but a flash of gold or silver from your wrist can make a large statement. Pictured here are two of my favorites by Omega.

Omega Seamaster

Omega Seamaster

Rolex Oyster Day-Date

Rolex Oyster Day-Date

Omega Speedmaster

Omega Speedmaster

Lounging Around

Casual events call for a more casual watch. Depending on the exact event, you can feel free to wear larger watches (within reason) with metal or fabric bands. Avoid watches with formal leather bands; if you do want to wear a leather band, choose something with a bit of texture more striking colour. Brushed steel makes for a great casual watch. Here are two excellent examples of casual watches by Fossil.

Brown Leather Fossil Fossil Steel

When You’re Sweating

When you’re exercising and need a watch, stick with a durable rubber sport watch; this is the only time you should be wearing one. Avoid the urge to go digital at all costs. Try to find something stylish, but remember that it will be taking a beating, so be wary about spending too much on one. A good example of a cheap sports watch is below.

Men-s-Fashion-Design-Rubber-Analog-Quartz-Wrist-Sports-Watch-(Black)-1_10-more-5

These are just a few examples, so if you are ever in doubt as to what watch to wear,  remember that you can always just leave a comment and ask.

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.