How To Dress Your Way To A Promotion
Whatever your profession, here’s what to wear for the job you want, not the one you have.
If you work in a sprawling office with lots of employees, then it’s possible the main impression the decision makers have of you will be a superficial one: how you dress. Whether you’re in a cubicle or a corner office, when it comes to deciding who gets promotions and pay rises, what you wear and how you wear it can be key determining factors.
To help you stand out for all the right reasons, our style editors have put together five looks for different white-collar jobs – from advertising to law to finance – which collectively illustrate some useful tips about combining colours, patterns and textures. Here’s how to be the smartest guy, as well as the smart choice.
The Media Exec
Many of us are not expected to wear formal tailoring to work, but still want to dress neatly without looking out of place by overdoing it. This all-ages, smart-casual ensemble shows how to accomplish that by combining complementary textures and colours. Although all the textures are different, there is a unifying matte softness that means they all work together. The unlined and unstructured knitted wool jacket has the slouchy tactile feel of a cardigan and coordinates nicely with the grey wool panels in the office-appropriate Atelier de l’Armée backpack. The button-down check shirt from Beams Plus is made from soft brushed-cotton flannel. The rich corduroy trousers from Ami are a warmer alternative to chinos and a smarter option than jeans. Their autumnal colour works harmoniously with the reddish brown Tom Ford knitted silk tie. Even the rubber-soled Tricker’s brogues have texture as they are made from pebble-grain leather.
If you work in a conservative corporate environment such as an accountancy firm, the chances are that most of your male coworkers will be wearing a grey or navy suit. The secret here is to change up the default uniform, but to do so in an almost imperceptible way. People should notice something different about you, but not quite be able to put their finger on what it is. You should look responsible, but not overtly flashy. The double-monk-strap shoes from O’Keeffe will help you stand apart when everyone else is wearing Derbies and Oxfords. And this Richard James suit is a “petrol” colour, which looks grey in some lights but green in others. You can draw out the green more obviously with the use of complementary accessories, such as these green tortoiseshell glasses from Cutler and Gross. The tie is also dark green but with a blue and cream dot pattern, a colour scheme that is echoed in the silk Kingsman pocket square. The double-cuff Charvet shirt is a very pale blue, which is more flattering on pale winter skin than a stark white collar. Pay attention to the proportions of shirt collar, tie width and lapel and make sure they agree. And note the high placement of the button on this one-button suit which helps to elongate the wearer’s legs, giving him the optical illusion of a couple of extra inches in height.
The Hedge Fund Manager
Many offices now have an open-neck shirt and no-tie dress code. To elevate this, wear good quality tailored separates and a shirt with a stiff-enough collar that will stand up without the support of a tie knot and not slip down – for example, this blue Bengal-stripe shirt from Emma Willis. The buttoned cuffs will easily accommodate a statement watch. The jacket and trousers are clearly not part of the same suit, but each has a similar fleck in the fabric which ties them together. The grey Ermenegildo Zegna trousers have a very subtle Prince of Wales check and some woven-in stretch, which makes them comfortable to wear when sitting at a desk or at a long lunch. This generously-lapelled double-breasted Bottega Veneta jacket gives the wearer a commanding and authoritative V-shape when needed in meetings. But remove the jacket and this look becomes everyday casual, especially with these suede penny loafers from Cheaney. And if you’re going to be signing on a lot of dotted lines, treat yourself to an impressive Caran d’Ache pen.
The Account Manager
If you want to stand out, especially when everyone else is trying to fit in, pattern is the answer. However, there are a few prescriptive rules: make sure the patterns are contrasting in scale; and don’t throw too many different colours into the mix. It is often easier to pair entirely different kinds of pattern – stripes with a check, say, or polka dots with stripes – because then the contrast is obvious. But you can put stripes together or checks together, so long as the weighting is different: thin stripes with thick stripes, or, as is the case here, small gingham check shirt with a larger Prince of Wales check suit. This tie looks plain within the overall ensemble, but up close you’ll see it has a subtle herringbone pattern. Normally, you wouldn’t put too many patterns together in the same outfit – try and stick to two. This outfit also illustrates how you can elevate the general impression with accessories. The slim-fit suit is Sandro and the Chelsea boots are A.P.C. – contemporary brands at prices that are more within reach of the younger man. If you want to buy into luxury brands, do it with the furnishings. The tie is Prada and, as you can see from the flash of red and green, the document holder is Gucci.
No matter how hard we try not to, we all make immediate assumptions based on appearance. A study by Cornell University even found that better-dressed defendants in a court are acquitted more often and do less time than shabby looking ones. Likewise, the lawyers defending them will have more sway with the judge and jury if they are dressed to impress. The tailored look above demonstrates how to work some playful designer wear into a formal setting. The big statement here is the printed Prada shirt. On the hanger you might think it a little bold for a professional setting, but worn with the coordinating Prada houndstooth tie and calmed down by the plain Maison Margiela charcoal grey flannel suit, it works. The shoes are Prada, too, with a quirky fringe kiltie. Their comfortable rubber sole is substantial and will subtly add an extra inch for those days when you need to stand that bit taller. And if you are going to rest your case, make sure it is good one like this black leather briefcase from Saint Laurent.