One of my favorite terms is Business Casual. Never has there been a merge of more contradictory terms. I consider myself a seasoned professional, and there are those with much more experience, as well as those just starting out that would agree that business is anything but casual. Business is business.
I’ve always thought the term business casual gave the professional dress code a lowest common denominator mentality. A ‘what can I get away with’ view of getting ready for work. Quite frankly, I don’t accept that. I believe that your professional brand is something that should carefully thought through and curated. Yes, there are those that could care less what you look like at the office. But always remember this: those that need to notice, will.
Below is the approach for three levels of professionals. From the exec, to middle management, to the more common ‘work from home’ styles…here is a practical view for you:
From top left:
Brooks Brothers Fitzgerald Cashmere Sport Coat: Sport coats are like a suit of armor. They look good, but the key is fit. An ill-fitting sport coat is like whitewalls on a Ferrari.
Ledbury Alden Red Windowpane Dress Shirt: Good shirts in solids and diet checks. Always pressed…you can usually get away with wearing it two or three times; the second and third time under a sweater.
Martin Dingman Julian Alligator Belt: A good belt brings the whole outfit home. It’s the flare of the outfit.
Mont Blanc Classique Platinum Rollerball Pen: A status symbol that might be a little passe, but with these pens, you get what you pay for…especially if your signature is required.
Sid Mashburn Herringbone Topcoat: Outwear at this level is the top of the heap. No raincoats or fleece, instead opting for the underrated topcoat.
Incotex Slim Fit Dress Trousers: At this level, wool trousers are the way to go. Flannel for three seasons and lightweight wool in warmer months. Meticulously tailored and always pressed.
Bally Derby Black Oxfords: Black is the power play. Brown can be mixed in, but black shoes are the go-to for an exec.
Brietling Navitimer Watch: If it’s good enough for a pilot, it’s good enough for you.
iPhone 6 Plus: Since an exec rarely spends time checking email at their desk, the iPhone 6 Plus’s size is perfect for the meeting gauntlet of the day.
From top left:
Orvis Merino Wool Zip Neck Sweater: A sport coat is not the norm, but a sweater gives the outfit a more buttoned up, pulled together look.
Lumina Black/White graham Check Buttondown: Checks and checks and checks. Try to deviate from blue, as that is what EVERYONE does. Greens, Reds, and Blacks are a great, professional (and non-pastel) alternative.
Moleskine Classic Lined Notebook: Smart buisness people take notes. Be prepared.
Anderson’s Burnished Leather Woven Trim Belt: A good leather belt is paramount to the outfit. Just keep it looking good – no scratches, stains, or tears allowed. If it looks bad, replace it. Otherwise it’ll ruin an outfit.
Rolex (2007) Green Submariner Watch: Get something good with your first big bonus. You earned it, so treat yourself. A good watch is something that will stick with you for a loooong time.
MacBook Air: The ultimate computer for the workplace. It’s light, powerful, and easy to use.
Render K Copper Bullet Pen: Something cool, and a clear step up from the Bic Stic.
Jack Donnelly Dalton Slim Fit Pants: Good khakis are appropriate for the workplace. They should be tailored; and fit as if they were made for you. There are some good off-the-rack choices, but the intent is to look professional.
Barbour X Dept (B). Beacon Sports Coat: A good, logo-less coat. Be smart.
Wolverine Montague 1000 Mile Chelsea Boots: Please avoid any corrective leather shoes or anything with a square toe. This time of year, a good pair of Chelsea boots are an excellent option.
Personally, I don’t believe anyone in an office environment should dress below the ‘Middle Management’ example I have above. There is a certain level of respect deserved at an office that a vendor-logo’ed polo, baggy khakis, and bad leather shoes just don’t meet. Another piece of advice: the old adage ‘dress for the job you want’ is actually pretty accurate. Don’t let the visual part of your personal brand be a prohibitive factor in your career advancement.