We use the phrase all the time—but what does it actually mean for you and your real, actual job?
“Dress not for the job you have, but the one you want” practically sounds like a bible verse at this point. Dreams of sharp three-piece suits and pristine shoes to go with your corner office are great, but what if your boss shows up to work in nothing but a bomber jacket and jeans every day? Here’s how to dress your best at work without making your colleagues—or the person in charge whose job you’re gunning for—uncomfortable.
Assess the Landscape
Does your place of work abide by a strict shirt and tie dress code, or it somewhere where even sweatpants are a-okay? If you’re new to the company, take a few weeks to feel out what the spectrum of formality is. Chances are there’s going to a few people on the low-end in beat-up shoes and wrinkled shirts, and a couple over-achievers who are always one-step shy of black tie every morning. You’re gonna want to find a sweet spot somewhere just north of the middle.
Take the Extra Step
If normally you just wear a button-down shirt with jeans, crank things up a touch by switching out the denim for wool trousers. If you’re a guy who wears sneakers to the office—and we don’t care how fancy or Italian-made they are—maybe think about sporting wing-tips instead. And if you’re a hoodie kind of guy, may we suggest raising your game with a crewneck sweater? Or—GASP!—a turtleneck.
Invest In Yourself (Without Outspending Your Means)
Even if you’re not making the big bucks yet, spend what extra cash you have on pieces that’ll last you for years to come, like a beautiful topcoat, perfectly-tailored suit, and the absolute most expensive dress shoes you can possibly afford. But, it’s important to not be the guy strutting in his conspicuously expensive threads. No one wants to help a guy get ahead who’s already apparently rich.
Stress (but Don’t Sweat) the Details
When we say things like “dress like a boss” we mean two things. 1) That you wear what you’re wearing with confidence and 2) That you look refined, clean, and basically razor-sharp. That means paying extra close attention to things like the fit of your suit jacket, but it also means doubling-down on your grooming routine. Spend those additional 5 minutes in the morning to trim your beard when you need to, and pay a few extra bucks a month to make sure you’re getting the best haircut your money can buy. If you’re going to be the face of your company someday, you’re going to want it to be a face you’re proud of.
Ease Into Your New, Better Dressed Self
Don’t just go from T-shirt-and-sweats-guy to suit-guy overnight. People will surely call you out on it, and they’d be right to. No one’s style changes that quickly, and doing such usually means they’re either after something or applying for a new job. Make your transformation is slow and steady so that when you do show up to the office looking like a million bucks, everyone will think it’s because you got the big promotion.
Don’t Brag About How Good You Look
Even if you’ve never looked sharper in your life, you want to let your colleagues be the one to tell you so. If you’re lucky, your boss will even hear them doing so and begin to wonder what all the fuss is about. Before you know it, you’ve dressed, groomed, and swaggered your way up the corporate ladder.