Blokes About Town: Dressing for the workplace
The power suit for men may be a thing of the past in today’s workplace but how you dress for the office still says a lot about your personality and position on the corporate ladder. The lunching lads share their thoughts on how to dress for success.
First impressions count, particularly when it comes to dressing for the workplace and it’s not just the ladies who struggle to find the right balance between professionalism and personal style. Given our climate, gents on the Sunshine Coast favour a more casual approach when it comes to workwear, and who could blame them, the thought of wearing a three-piece suit and tie during a Queensland summer is enough to make anyone sweat! But where do you draw the line between smart casual and too casual? I caught up with the lads over a delicious lunch at the recently opened and super cool Brouhaha Brewery at Maleny for their take on what is appropriate work attire these days. Joining me for lunch was talented Sunshine Coast photographer, Jason Hay; Matt Jones, media and communications officer with Tafe Queensland East Coast; Craig Levitt, marketing manager with Think Money; Rob Outridge, owner of IGA Maleny; Owen Gray, assistant manager at IGA Maleny and Antonio Puelma, owner of See Restaurant, Mooloolaba.
profile: How would you describe your dress style at work?
craig: Very conservative! As you can see I’m wearing blue as usual! I have tried to step outside of blue but if you go to any store and you look at business shirts it’s all blue and not much else. I wore a suit for many years when I was working in Sydney but I don’t think I’ve worn a suit since I’ve been in Queensland. When I worked in an advertising agency I worked better when I was wearing jeans, I felt less restricted and more creative somehow. I don’t own a suit apart from a dinner suit.
matt: Casual is a must. The secret to my work wardrobe is three or four plain staples, which I mix and match. I don’t tend to wear anything too bold because people are more likely to remember you wore that the other day! I am lucky I work in a creative industry. Thank goodness I am not in finance where a suit and tie is expected. You can always dress things up with a nice pair of brown shoes or a nice watch or pocket square. It’s all in the accessories.
craig: I must admit I was a bit surprised when I went to Melbourne a couple of months ago and saw most business people on the street were not wearing a suit and tie so, I think work attire, in general, is becoming less restrictive.
antonio: I think you do look out of place in a suit and tie on the Sunshine Coast. It’s all about smart casual clothing here. In the industry I am in, good jeans, a nice shirt and dress shoes is a good rule of thumb. You want people to feel relaxed. You also have to get yourself a good man bag!
owen: I have a man bag for every occasion. I have a black one I wear to work, a medium-sized one and a small one.
jason: You dress for the occasion. I think on the Sunshine Coast we need to keep it a little more casual. When you are dressed to the nines, it becomes too distracting and everyone becomes fidgety. If people nudge it back a little, no tie, open shirt, they become more relaxed. I find when photographing men and women, if they are too restricted they are just not themselves. I agree with the other sentiments too, good shoes and a nice watch shouts class without having to be too formal.
These days a person’s fashion sense can give you a wonderful insight into their personality and, on any given day, their mood.” – Jason Hay
profile: How do you feel about tattoos and piercings in the workplace?
rob: It comes down to what society expects from a supermarket and it can be a real challenge for us because Gen Y wants to have tattoos, they want to have piercings. We are constantly reviewing our uniform and dress policy and asking ourselves, ‘Are we being too harsh because our Gen Y’s are constantly stepping over the mark’. But we work in fresh food, what if an earring ends up in a customer’s salami or their fresh fish?
antonio: I agree. If you have piercings, take them out, if you have tattoos, cover them up. Sometimes I have interviewees who have great experience, great everything, but when I advise they will have to remove their face jewellery, often they will turn the job down because they believe they should be allowed to be themselves. It’s okay if you are a rockstar but not in the workplace. Something small and petite is fine.
jason: It’s a shame because it probably eliminates some good candidates, but when you make the decision to have that sleeve tattoo or facial piercing, you are the one restricting yourself.
craig: At the cost of sounding extremely old, I think because there are less rules, in terms of structure, for younger people these days they don’t even consider the fact that having tattoos and piercings might affect their employment opportunities.
rob: We are so visible in the community. Employees have to understand they are the face of the business.
profile: Do you judge others by their appearance/dress in the workplace?
rob: Yes, it is unavoidable. We are human beings and we are constantly assessing our surroundings and the people in them.
matt: Their dress is certainly a guide to that person’s commitment to either their position or company or both, as well as highlighting their own self respect.
jason: I’d like to say I don’t, but I do. Don’t we all? Like it or not, I think we all unintentionally judge others, either in the workplace or socially, by how they look, how they dress, and how they carry themselves. Mum always taught me to never judge a book by its cover, but I think these days a person’s fashion sense can give you a wonderful insight into their personality and, on any given day, their mood.
profile: Do you think how you dress affects how people treat you in the workplace?
rob: I think it is part of a package which is “you”. Every part of the package is important, from grooming, making eye contact, paying attention to people, the shoes you wear and the clothes you wear, all tell a story. If the overall perception of you is good, then I believe people will treat you better. And, you will feel better about yourself. Once again – human nature.
matt: Absolutely. I think the clothes I wear make a huge difference to what people think about me. Clothes can convey credibility, command respect and persuade cooperation and participation in the workplace. Clothes say a great deal about who we are and can signal a great deal of socially important things to others, even if the impression is actually unfounded.
jason: Absolutely. If you present a high standard of dress, grooming and hygiene, then you almost demand a high standard of respect and professionalism right back. It’s also worth adding, it pays to dress to your level of position as well.
[A person’s] dress is certainly a guide to that person’s commitment … as well as highlighting their own self respect.” – Matt Jones
profile: Aside from work attire, what is your pet peeve when it comes to men and their attire?
craig: Guys wearing their pants halfway down their bum. I don’t know how it could even be comfortable. I don’t need to see a guy’s undies.
owen: Bike pants are never okay. It’s wrong. Just wrong.
jason: Yes it would have to be the dragging pants too.
antonio: Singlets and thongs anywhere other than on the beach.
Fashion facts for fellas
No matter what your job is, you’re going to need a decent suit at some point. If your job requires you to wear one regularly, you should look for a variety of colours and styles; if you don’t wear a suit to work and only need it for special occasions, a classic single-breasted, two-button suit in black, charcoal grey or navy blue will stand the test of time.
Appropriate footwear is the first step to dressing sharp, and it pays to buy a pair of good quality leather shoes as they will not only be more comfortable, but they will last longer too. Just make sure you take good care of them with light cleaning and the occasional shine.
Seeing blue and white
White and blue dress shirts are a staple for a well-dressed man’s wardrobe – in fact 90 per cent of dress shirts sold worldwide are white or blue, as they suit most complexions and body types. Once you have a core collection of your favourites in these standard hues, don’t be afraid to liven things up with patterns and other colours to keep your look fresh.
Wash with care
First impressions count, so make sure your office attire is freshly pressed and wrinkle-free.
You also need to ensure you’re taking care of your clothes from the moment you buy them. That means having good hangers for your suits, shoe trees for your shoes (or keep them in the box), and take note of washing instructions on your garments – if it says dry clean only, it means dry clean only.