Forget the suit. Dump the tie. Burn the neural colors.
So why wouldn’t our clothes change?
Often power dressing evokes an image of a silver-haired man with a tailored, Italian three-piece suit, a silk tie, and leather loafers. Think Richard Gere’s character in the 1980s classic, American Gigolo. Yet the most powerful people in the world dress like they’re heading to the grocery store.
The most popular example of modern power and new dress is Mark Zuckerberg. The billionaire is known for wearing his simple gray shirt and jeans as his work uniform. With tech upheaving industries, the leaders of those companies are setting the work trend.
Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox, wears jeans to work. Billionaire founder, Jeff Bezos, is often found sporting a casual polo and aviators. The world’s leaders are dressing like it’s At Home Saturday and the style is trickling down.
A 2017 survey conducted by Travelodge found that 43% of 2,000 participants said that suits had no place in the office. The reason why the hotel operator initiated the study was that hotel managers noticed that less suit-associated wares were being left behind than in past decades. The survey also found that 7 out of 10 people dress casually in jeans and/or chino because they value comfort; more than half of respondent said that dressing casually requires less money and less attention.
Given the survey also found that workers admired Mark Zuckerberg’s and Richard Branson’s style (whose company has no dress code policy), how should we be dressing? We want to exude professionalism, but don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb for dressing formally.
What’s the new workplace’s dress code? There is none. Given the few rules, be sure to keep these principles in the back of your mind.
Know the power of a first impression
Fortunately we’re living in an era that men and women can dress to express their personalities. Every industry and workplace has their vibe, but modern employees enjoy the liberty of dressing as they wish. In a world where casual dress code policy is the norm, think of 3 adjectives you want people to think of you upon first meeting you. Luckily you can color a bit outside of the lines according to these words.
Keep it clean and tidy
Just because casual is in does not mean grunge is acceptable. Quite a few people forget between the comfy flip flops and their favorite shirt, one still needs to look presentable. Do not wear clothes that have holes in them or that are wrinkled or dirty. You still have an impression to make for clients and colleagues.
Own a great blazer (or two)
In the Travelodge study, they found a few clothing items still garnered respect, including a blazer. Somehow a blazer can add a gentle professional nod to an otherwise-casual outfit. It can make a person look a little more put-together without making them feel too formal in a roomful of jeans and t-shirts. A blazer, jeans, and a shirt can arguably be the modern power dressing outfit. Find a classic black blazer and another blazer in a versatile print, like plaid or stripes. Check out a few examples below.
Wear quality shoes
If there’s anything you spend a little more money on in your wardrobe, pick shoes. They endure rain, sun, and tripping; they go through a lot and if they’re not made out of quality, it quickly shows scuff marks, peeling soles, or wrinkle easily. Flip flops may be acceptable in some places in the world; if you’re still keeping it casual, look to closed toes tennis shoes, loafers, or worker boots if you’re a guy. If you’re a woman, pick from the shoe variety of flats, kitten heels, or Converses. Whatever your shoe game, make sure shoes are clean and well-maintained.
Play with print, color, and texture
Black, navy, and beige have seen their day. Nowadays employees are free to go beyond rolling up their collared white shirt with their gray slacks. Color, texture, and print are all acceptable to wear in the workplace. Even some of the most formal industries (like consulting) are loosening up. Statement necklaces paired with a knee length dress adds personality. Men can mix lightly patterned pants with a subtle collared shirt (no tie) with no issue. If you work in a more creative field, colors and prints can be bolder. If you do work in a more conservative area, like law or consulting, still play with patterns, but in more neutral colors. Or employ pops of color in small quantities throughout, like socks or cuff links.
Power dressing means casual wear that expresses a person’s individuality. Think of how you want others to perceive you at the workplace. Your wardrobe can help you communicate your creativity and ambition. Go ahead, channel Zuck and find what casually expresses you.