Does what we wear to the office really matter?
Mikey makes heads turn with his blue plaid scarf. Does he appear more sophisticated? Or well disciplined? Ambitious?
It is a unique human behaviour that we determine social status by clothing cues first before letting someone speak. Perhaps it is rooted in our youth of how we perceived authority figures or adults that refined attire represents intelligence and leadership. This observation is supported by online celebrity sensations lack of clothing needs.
What does the colour of your socks have to do with project management? Although as a society we have made progress with trying to accept all individual persons in office management, bad hygiene and daisy-dukes still push the acceptability boundaries in the corporate HR department.
Like previous generations, we still like our management to be moderately if not fully professional. Even if that means a pressed non offensive t-shirt, clean jeans, and new runners. Putting effort into yourself shows that you are willing to work towards putting effort into your team to make them look good too. Additionally, it presents to everyone your respect for your own personal value.
As it becomes stressful for individuals to spend time coordinating and trying to decide on what top matches which bottoms, offices tend toward a non enforced uniform. Kaki pants and blue shirts had popularity in engineering firms in recent years. It doesn't matter if there is a specific style - crisp, clean, and appropriate is required in the office.
An easy way to determine if what you are wearing is office appropriate: if you look like your graduation photo or a tourist in Vegas, then you should ask a peer for their opinion. You can also take a picture of a look or style you like and walk into a clothing store and match it. With all the low-cost clothing stores we have today, there is no reason not to look good. Another inappropriate dress give-away: if a co-worker hasn't looked at your face during a conversation then something is either too high or too low. The last thing you want is to be the distraction in the meeting when you are trying to define action items and solutions to project issues.
You can also ask a peer or complete stranger if you smell funky or have bad breath. In our polite HR oriented workplace, we tend to walk away from Pitstain Pete or not include Bad Breath Betty.
On days where the universe has singled you out of a billion people to unleash a deluge of frustration and failure at your doorstep, black-on-black clothes or black-and-white are a safe pick. Sometimes going to the office can feel like a black hole, so all black is appropriate. Wearing all black everyday may start to get teams talking about you therefore you may want to rotate how many days a week you wear it. Unless you work in an aspect of design - then there are no other colours.
Kevin isn't interested in wearing anything. The odd time outside he will don is collar. Yet, he is always groomed, has typical cat breath, and keeps his white's white. With his confidence as well as appearance, he is ready for success.
Fiona Warren - 17 years experience with large high-profile projects and teams.