2011 October 19

Britain’s dress code changes in autumn and many people get caught out by this: particularly in the workplace. While summer’s relaxed clothing allows everybody to feel comfortable together, the colder temperatures bring new clothing rules and as middle managers start to look at their teams and weed out the slackers, clothing can be an indicator, in their minds, to commitment. T-shirts start to suggest to the cynical mind that somebody isn’t really bothered about looking good at work and wrinkled clothing can even hint that it was picked up off the floor on the way to the door.

Polo-shirts, especially those with a front pocket, usually pass the test in all but the most formal organisations, but to be on the safe side, paring them with a smarter than summer pair of trousers or a non-denim skirt will bring such garments into an acceptable smart casual range.

Short-sleeved shirts and trousers or skirts are a safe bet: they suggest serious-minded effort without the desire to get the boss’s job, which is nearly as unattractive, to a nervous manager, as outright laziness. While many self-improvement books used to suggest it was important to ‘dress for success’, recent behavioural psychology studies suggest that dressing too much like the boss can cause colleagues to think you are not a team player and to resent your superiority complex! Suits should only be worn if your immediate manager wears one, and ties shouldn’t be sported unless they are worn by people doing the same job as you within the organisation.

For women, power dressing can be much more subtle, but labels matter, and ‘out-labelling’ your supervisor may be a counterproductive move. Keep Gucci and Prada for the weekends, unless your immediate boss is a brand wearer too.

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