How To Dress To Impress At Work

Dressing for the modern workplace can be a minefield and, with more offices adopting casual dress codes, it is only likely to get more difficult. Do you know how to dress to impress at work? The greatest challenge of all is getting it right when you start a new job and all you have to go on before dressing for your first day is some vague guidelines in the employee handbook. But fear not, a recent survey from Original Penguin sought to explore the changing attitudes to office wear to help workers navigate the tricky terrain of modern-day work wear. The survey looked at not only what workers are currently allowed to wear in the office, but also what they felt they should be allowed to wear. Perhaps one of the less surprising findings was that younger office workers take a more relaxed approach to work wear than their older counterparts. On average, 57 percent of 18 to 24 year-olds say shorts should be permitted in the office, compared to under 30 percent of over 55's. Overall, almost two-thirds of over 55's said they felt shorts, flip-flops, baseball caps or vest tops were not appropriate work wear, compared to under a quarter of 18 to 24 year-olds. The generation gap was also clear to see in current office dress codes, with just 41 percent of younger workers claiming they’re not allowed to wear the items at work, compared with 62 percent of older workers.


What Respondents Can Wear In The Office

  • Shorts 26%
  • Flip flops 25%
  • Vest tops 25%
  • Baseball caps 12%

What Respondents Think They Should Be Able To Wear In The Office

  • Shorts 37%
  • Flip flops 23%
  • Vest tops 19%
  • Baseball caps 12%
What sector you work in will obviously have a profound impact on what is considered to be appropriate office attire. The survey found that workers in financial services still adopt a conservative attitude to work wear, while those in education were the most liberally minded when dressing for the office. The dividing lines were also drawn between the sexes with women in general being permitted more freedom with what they wear in the office, with 35 percent of women saying they were allowed to wear flip flops, compared to 15 percent of men. Three times as many women than men were allowed to wear vest tops. Men were also keen for shorts to make it into the office dress code and the survey showed they were more likely to say women should be able to wear shorts in the office than women themselves!

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Women often have more relaxed dress codes than men, but still have relatively conservative attitudes to work wear.
  2. The younger generation thinks office wear should be more relaxed, whereas the older generation are fans of the traditional office dress code.
  3. Your industry will likely define what is acceptable to wear to work. The traditional office dress code will likely still apply in more corporate environments.
If you’re unsure, play it safe. As a rule, it is generally better to be too professional rather than too casual, particularly if you work in a client-facing environment. Your clothes are there to make a statement. Just ensure that they’re making the right one. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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