Do you have to let go of your signature look and take on a more professional style?

Fashion and Style for the Workplace in an Age of Self Expression

Feb 5, 2016 · 4 min read

Whether you grew up and learned to express yourself in the 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s, or beyond, there would come a point when you knew you were going to have to let go of your signature look and take on a more professional style. The old saying of “Don’t dress for the job you have, but for the job you want,” rang true from the bottom of the career ladder to the very top. To reach the highest level you were going to have to be “one of them.”

Today youth has much more room to express their individuality. They may feel like they are boxed in, as all youth do, but it is a much more freeing time for people to be who they want to be and express their individuality in their style, even while working in their careers.

We now accept that billionaires aren’t confined to suits and ties, in fact many of them wear jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers. Their wardrobes are often consistent and predictable, not because they are trying to be a fashion icon, but because they are concerned with being comfortable and want their biggest decisions during the day to be about their companies, not about what to pull out of their closet. It also halts the fashion police at commenting on your style if it never changes, at all. They then concentrate on who you are, not who you wear.

As an entrepreneur your viewpoint of acceptable attire for the workplace may be helping or hindering your progress. If you influence or dictate the style choices of your workers, then you need to question if it is to make you comfortable, keep the workplace professional, or is it to keep to your own perception of success? You should perhaps look at who your customer is and who the customer is that has eluded you. If your customer sees you and your workforce in person or in marketing materials, or online, then do they see stuffy, pretentious, or professional people? Do they see discipline or do they see rigidness? Do they see relaxed, creative, artsy, or sloppy and unpolished? What they see depends on them. One sees what they see according to their own experiences. It’s a delicate balance and it may take trial and error, but it is worth considering.

Your marketing and your efforts in attracting and keeping loyal customers is wound into more than just your product and services. Your brand is more than your logo and clever slogan. Customers see at deeper levels. Yep, the pressure is heavy.

If you are climbing the career ladder, it’s essential that you determine if you will do well to express yourself at work with a particular style, if you should become a team member fully, even down to your shoes, or if you can blend the two. It matters. Put more energy toward the consideration of your chosen career style. It may seem unfair, or be an unpopular viewpoint, but to play the game you may have to look like the team, but that doesn’t mean you can live in cargo shorts on the weekends. Perhaps it will give you a clear and tangible barrier between work and your personal life, and for some careers that’s great.

If you are an entrepreneur, a leader, a business owner, a startup genius seeking venture capital, or on a determined career path, ask yourself if you are putting too much emphasis on wanting people to know you right away or make judgement of who you are according to your style or if you are being you and letting judgement come about when you speak, act, and perform?

Style should be an expression that developed out of your own experiences and aspirations, never about wanting to be seen as something that you know you aren’t. That’s just imposter syndrome sneaking in and stealing your happiness. The emotion you have when you pull a piece of clothing out of the closet says more about you than anyone that will actually see that item.

Pull off the layers if they are covering up who you really are and who you want to be. Let your style say I am me, I am a team member, I am an asset, and I can do amazing things. That may be said with a crisp white laundered shirt, your dad’s old army jacket, a designer suit, or it might be said with a black turtle neck shirt, or a grey t-shirt and jeans.

It’s a great time to be alive. There are opportunities galore. There are voices being heard. There are changes being made. Be comfortable in being you, and yes, I still believe in dressing for the job you want — it’s a part of preparing and putting the plan in place. The good news is you don’t have to read a blog or pick up the latest fashion magazine, just go out and find what feels good on you, and what makes you happy, what sets you up for success and to thrive. Make it happen.

Thank you for reading — it means a lot to me. I appreciate your sharing as well. Please follow me on Medium, Twitter, or LinkedIn — I’d love to connect and be a part of your network team. On social media I share my own articles, but also those that I find helpful and relevant to business, success, entrepreneurship, community enhancement, and personal development. You can find out more about me at

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