Corporate Dress Code

We’ve all heard the cliché: Dress for success.

Well, I hate to say it, but it is true. People often judge by appearance, and although you may be a non-conformist and desire not to be judged in this way, you must play the game to win the game.

Enough of the cliché’s. The corporate atmosphere has metamorphosized from uptight and manly to stylish and comfortable with the invention of the “casual Friday.” We have gotten comfortable with wearing jeans and a Polo shirt on Fridays and Dockers with a collared shirt the rest of the week. But don’t get too comfortable—casual Friday and business casual have been slowly replaced once again with business attire. With the recent bankruptcies and mishaps in the corporate environment bringing down morale among consumers, business owners have once again adopted a professional attitude and a professional look.

One business that has never strayed from the business professional look is Nordstrom. After working in two Nordstroms, one in California and one in Florida, I saw firsthand how a professional look can give a 20 year old without a college degree the authority over a 50–year-old professional when it came to picking a suit or tuxedo. Nordstrom has never wavered from its original dress code: suits for all men, hosiery for women, nary a pair of jeans or T-shirt. And as we can all see, Nordstrom has also never wavered in success.

But of course, how do you dress in a professional atmosphere when you are under the age of 45 and not the CEO of the company just yet? And how exactly can you impress the decent-looking coworker at the other cubicle when you are forced to stick with a rigid professional dress code? Two words: color and style.

I typically dress around my shoes. I pick a pair and go from there. But this may not work for you. A few short tips follow …

Add color to your wardrobe with shoes, scarves or accessories. Or be daring and wear a red suit instead of your brown one. Even better, mix the suits.

Remember that it’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it. You don’t need a low-cut shirt or the latest Ferragamos. But confidence in what you wear is key.

Boys can play, too. Color or style apply to the men as well. Don’t be afraid to change it up with ties, belts, cuff links, shoes or a well-chosen watch.

Stick to the rules. They were made to be broken, I know, but still—you would rather dress according to code than get fired, right?

It’s not about being conservative; it’s about playing the game with your own style in order to win in the long run and in your business.

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