Is it important to look fashionable at work?

This is another popular question that I get asked frequently, and the quick answer is “No.”

However, it is important to look up-to-date, regardless of your age, your gender and the work that you do.

Looking fashionable vs. Looking up-to-date

Looking up-to-date is completely different to looking fashionable. How? You may ask. The way I see it is this: fashion trends are short-lived. They come and go very quickly, sometimes within months. Some of them are meant to be fun and quirky, and certain trends can be perceived as being too frivolous or inappropriate in most business situations.

Take the trend of wearing sparkly socks with high-heeled sandals, for instance. It’s a look that works brilliantly on the runway, where the unexpected twist is often needed to ensure attention from fashion journalists and buyers. In real life, however, this kooky look would only work for a tiny minority of the adult population: typically those under mid-twenties, working in a creative field with a quirky personality and lifestyle to match. How many of us would fit into that category?

In recent years, for men, the silhouette of the suit has become more fitted: the waist of the jacket is now more nipped in, and the width of the trousers is slimmer too, enabling the wearer to look taller, leaner, more dynamic yet still feel comfortable. This is an up-to-date look worthy of your consideration. However, the extreme angle of this look is the shrunken suit: very fitted jacket with a hemline that sits on the hipbone, worn with ankle-length skinny trousers. It’s what I call the ‘Korean boy-band look’. Now, this style looks fab on those guys in the bands and it would normally work for those in the fashion and creative industries, too. But I often see this look being adopted by younger staff in sales roles across the more formal sectors, such as finance and banking, in Asia. I find this trendy look distracting in such an environment. It raises uncertainties as to whether those individuals are qualified or experienced enough to advise their clients on serious matters such as finance, and whether they are interested or committed enough in the service that they provide.

It is important to find a balance between enjoying the new and sticking to what you’ve always been used to.  In business, we are expected to update our technical skills and be adaptable to change. Therefore, our professional image should also evolve with the times: an up-to-date image suggests and up-to-date mind set.

So what does looking up-to-date look like in the workplace?

Looking up-to-date in the workplace means adopting one or two elements of the current trends that you know would look great on you and are appropriate for your age, physique and work environment. It’s your way of communicating to others that you’re aware of fashion and social trends, and that you’re savvy enough to select the details that are right for you. When you choose to look up-to-date, your professional image will always look fresh, interesting, intelligent and timeless.

Here is my key advice on looking up-to-date:

Whatever age you are at, reassess your overall image every three years, paying particular attention to your hairstyle, make-up if you’re a woman, eye glasses and shoes, as they are the key signals that reveal your knowledge of looking up-to-date.

Image source: Adam Katz Sinding.

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