With office dress codes becoming a thing of the past, wardrobe choices are more important than ever in showcasing your personal brand at work.
What You Wear to Work Matters
A personal brand is a microcosm of your company’s brand, just as you—a front-facing worker or owner—can be the face of the company itself. In that light, most people know it’s crucial to make a good first impression. Avoiding messy, wrinkled, or mismatched outfits is a given, but does that mean you need to wear a freshly pressed three-piece suit every day?
The short answer is: no. But of course, it depends on many factors.
For one thing, there’s your chosen industry. If you sell high-end menswear or work high up on the corporate ladder, a full three-piece suit might be the appropriate choice—if you offer landscaping services, sell your own paintings, or run a bakery, not so much.
“Even jeans and a t-shirt can have a purpose, if that’s accepted clothing in your line of work,” says Jim Joseph for entrepreneur.com in this article.
Location is another element to consider. Here in Phoenix, summer temperatures can make suiting up impractical at times. Foregoing a jacket or wearing a polo in place of a button-up is considered more acceptable in the desert than a city like New York.
And of course, we all have that friend or colleague with a signature line of Hawaiian shirts.
So Maybe I Can Ditch the Formal Wear—What Next?
While in many places it seems the days of stringent workplace dress codes are on the way out, the freedom to make every day Casual Friday doesn’t mean standards should go out the window when it comes to attire.
“No matter your occupation or personality, you should have your own personal ‘dress code,’” says Joseph.
The key is brand consistency. We have a great blog on “Why Brand Consistency is Important”, and the lessons there can easily apply to your personal brand as well.
Sticking to your self-imposed “dress code” every day can:
- Become an extension of your larger brand
- Define your style
- Communicate your company values
- Help you find a target audience of like-minded clients
- Get you in the mindset for work—like a uniform or suit of armor
- Signal what is acceptable to your employees (if you’re the boss)
- Show you’re ready to step into other roles (if you’re not the boss, yet)
- Give others a sense of reliability
The goals are brand recognition and brand loyalty. Setting expectations for appearance and then meeting them with consistent wardrobe choices is a great way to achieve these goals and avoid mixed messages.
Beware of Boring
Though consistency is a decisive factor in personal branding, you must also be wary of sameness. There’s something to be said for owning identical button-up shirts in every color, but a good personal brand goes beyond the basics for a distinct look. You want to use your wardrobe to communicate what makes you—and by proxy, your company—unique.
Consider Hillary Clinton: politics aside, many have commented on her choice of the iconic pantsuit. It is recognizable, it is versatile, and it is a garment she has turned into a statement of identity. Even Clinton herself has joked about her favored attire: her Twitter bio lists “pantsuit aficionado” among her credentials.
She has leveraged the pantsuit into a reflection of her personal brand. The pantsuit is Hillary Clinton, and vice versa. It’s a shrewd branding strategy, and one that may pay off as she appears consistently to vie for the top job in the country.
For others, a personal brand can come down to well-chosen accessories. Examples can include flashy jewelry to class up an outfit, funky socks for a bit of fun, or colorful handbags to signal youth and vivacity. The idea is to be noticed by standing out consistently. Remember our friend with the Hawaiian shirts? He knows the power of his personal brand, and how to dress for his own success.
At Infinite Reach, we know the power of branding, too. We take your brand identity into account in everything from web design to corporate photography—where the right outfit is essential! Check out our full range of services or contact us for a free consultation.
In the meantime, read our blog about “What Branding Colors Communicate to Your Clients” and start shopping for the right shades to suit your business today!