2008 December 30

As the recession hits home, many people are losing their jobs. Of course if the company you’re working for goes bust, you’ve got no choice but to look for another job, but if the need is for redundancies, you don’t want to look like an old stick-in-the-mud when management are hoping to hang on to the best, brightest and most likely to help them beat the down-curve. While we can all ignore clothing rules in our personal life, it’s going to become increasingly important to look right in the workplace to ensure we keep our jobs in the tough times ahead.


Never tuck anything in unless your workplace dress code insists on suits.

Tucking in tee-shirts, polo-shirts or even casual shirts suggests you are old, formal and possibly difficult to get on with. It may seem unfair, but outside of the military and the professions, being too smartly dressed can be a definite downer for your career.

Don’t stick to one colour.

It’s a temptation to say that if you buy everything in light blue: shirts, T-shirts, polos etc then you can be sure that everything matches, but actually this says that you have no dress sense and don’t care about your appearance.  To look younger and trendier, invest in a couple of items in ‘non-standard’ colours such as pink, yellow or red and wear them every couple of weeks. A red polo shirt with chinos looks lively and sporty, while a red or pink shirt with black trousers suggests you’re relaxed and approachable.

Lose the helmet cut.

Smoothing down your hair says you’re ready to retire and invest in Brylcreem shares. Too neat is always aging.  Go to a hairdresser or barber who doesn’t know you and tell them you want an easy to maintain but modern cut. You’ll be surprised how many years it takes off you.


Don’t dress like your mother.

Never wear anything with braid on. It immediately says you’re a granny and proud of it. Instead, invest in single colour clothing (checks imply you’re into patchwork covers and knitting) and match it with textures: a plain white shirt with a lacy cardigan looks elegant, the same shirt with cargo pants looks casual and down to earth.

Double-breasted jackets are only for headmistresses.

Double-breasted clothing is never as flattering as single-breasted, especially if you happen to be less than slim. It has connotations of matronly figures and humourless school nurses. Stick to single-breasted wear and never button a polo-shirt or cotton shirt right up to the neck unless your company dress code insists on it as this too implies you’re more keen on the rules than on the business.

Dress intelligently.

For women, much more than men, judgements are made about intelligence from clothing. T-shirts with kittens on instantly mark you down as being unprofessional, as does wearing too much pink, too much jewellery, and – above all – still wearing the hairstyle you had when you left school. If you wear one bright colour: an orange teeshirt, for example, ensure everything else you wear is neutral toned so that everybody knows you chose the Tee to make an impression, not that you’ve reached the age where you think gaudy colours are your birthright, because the next step from that is the tea-cosy hat and the blue rinse.