Your working day may involve hundreds of decisions, both small and large. In fact, depending on the nature of your job, you may have to make dozens of critical decisions every hour. But for most of us, the first important decision of the day happens the minute we get out of bed and open the closet. What should we wear? For the moment, let's ask an easier question: which items should stay at home and never be seen in the professional workplace?
1. Clothing that is torn, stained, or unraveling.
Your favorite sweater is getting a little thin and threadbare in the elbows. And sometimes you like to pull the sleeves down over your hands to keep them warm. That's fine…but as soon as those threadbare patches wear all the way through, the sweater has to stay at home. And as soon as those sleeves develop cute thumb holes, the sweater no longer belongs in the workplace. The same applies to pants; watch out for threadbare knees and fraying cuffs.
2. Shoes that are old enough to look old.
Your office may allow sneakers (especially on casual Fridays), but if you wear them, make sure you chose a pair that's clean and new. No holes, no dirt, and no foot smell (please).
As for your dress shoes, Italian leather boots, and stylish heels, polish, repair, or 86 them as soon as you can see a problem. If you can see it, other people can too.
3. T-shirts with sayings.
If you wear T-shirts to the office, avoid shirts with words on them. A simple company logo can be casual but still acceptable in most workplaces. A statement, a personal philosophy, or a "funny" saying is not.
4. Pants that don't fit.
As a simple rule of thumb, avoid any pants that draw attention to your midsection, your rear end, or your crotch area. Nobody should be thinking about these parts of your body during the workday.
If in doubt, men should choose longer pullovers, sweaters, and suit jackets that cover the entire zipper area, and women should err on the side of one size too large rather than one size too small. If you look in the mirror and your eyes are drawn to your waistline/crotch area first, something's wrong.
5. Cuffs that are too long.
Your cuffs should never touch the ground. If your pants barely skim the ground when you're wearing three inch heels, then don't wear those pants with flat shoes.
6. Skirts that rise more than an inch above the knee.
Hold your arms straight down against your sides. If your fingertips fall below your hemline, it's too short for work. An even simpler rule: don't wear anything that you need to keep tugging at and wrestling with throughout the day. Your clothes should cover enough to make you feel comfortable.
7. A bad attitude.
Actively think about your posture and your resting facial expression throughout the day. Are you a natural sloucher or scowler? If so, get this straightened out. Your face is your most important workplace accessory, and people will judge you more for this item than anything else you wear. Try not to look spaced-out, confused, angry, exhausted, or defeated as you walk around the workplace—especially if this doesn't reflect how you actually feel.
Your Clothes are Like a Wearable Resume
Your clothes and your resume are both essential items your career toolkit. Make sure both of them are representing you as the reliable, confident professional person you are. Visit MyPerfectResume for tips and guidance related to both.