It’s not a point of controversy that television commands a powerful influence over the fashion of a generation. There’s a degree of chicken-and-egg to the dynamic, but it’s hard to deny the ideal 60s look of Rob and Laura Petrie (Mary Tyler Moore) on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Rob donned a classic business look straight out of Mad Men, and Laura’s Jackie-O influenced dresses were part of a trend that still gets raved about today. Tyler Moore would get her own show in the 70s, one where she pursued her own career rather than a family life, and her colourful styles were hallmarks of the women’s liberation movement.
Today, curating your own style has become an entire career, as macro-influencers stand to make up to almost $2,000 per Instagram post. The traditional business world has seen a split as well, with the tech industry bringing a more laid-back aesthetic. It’s a competing aesthetic that’s perfectly represented by two major shows: Succession, with its more classical approach to well-tailored suits, dark colours and turtlenecks; and Billions, a more Silicon Valley-inspired look.
The field within which you work will impact how you’re supposed to dress. Work has always had an unofficial uniform of sorts, but it’s your personal choices that will truly make you stand out. Regardless of your industry, there are some old truisms that should always be upheld. Here’s how to style your way to relevance—preferably without having to spend your life savings.
The Right Clothes Say a Lot
However unique your personal style may be, a part of fashion can often be about fitting in. Observe the higher ups in your workplace and take note of how they compose themselves. The key is not to directly copy anyone, just take what you like and incorporate it with a personal twist. This is a harmless, effective way to exploit an affinity bias that studies have shown lead managers to hire those with whom they identify.
On a psychological level, dressing like your superiors can also help you feel the part.
The Power of Neutral
In recent years, the term “stealth wealth” has frequently been thrown around the fashion industry. The recent wave of negativity online about “nepo babies” is a perfect encapsulation of why it’s grown in popularity. Sure, you’re wealthy, but you don’t have to brag about it. Fortunately, it’s not that hard a look to imitate on a budget (this is where boutique thrift shops can often come in useful): simply invest in quality over quantity. Ensure you use only the finest fabrics you can afford, and stick to neutral colours. Beige, black, navy blue are ideal, and comprise most of the costumes on Succession. Dopamine dressing can be left to your personal life; at work you’re all business. This minimalist approach suggests you have more important things to do than worry about something flashy. Your style should always suggest that you focus on performance as much as you do appearance.
Naomi Klein Was Right
Logos are tacky and draw too much attention to yourself. In keeping with the stealth wealth trend, you also don’t want to display any kind of brand loyalty. This is a fashion faux pas in the business world that applies across the board—Mark Zuckerberg may dress casual, but he’s noticeably logo-free. More personal statements, such as shirts for bands you love that may even reflect company policy in some way, are more acceptable, though only for a particular kind of workplace dress code.
Tailor When Possible
A sign of great wealth and success is not a lot of expensive jewelry and shiny gold that’s vain. Trump-like wealth that impresses no one anymore (if it ever did). What is impressive is looking as though you’ve taken a trip to Saville Row. Check reviews and ratings for tailors in your area, find one you can trust. The most affordable way to use a tailor is to have them modify clothes you already have. If you can’t afford one, be more selective in the department store, ensuring you get the right fit.
Take Care of Your Clothes
Taking good care of your clothing and maintaining them is not just being thrifty. If your clothes look messy or poorly aged, you’ll never quite get the look correct. Always wash everything according to the directions, and properly dry clean what’s necessary. Air drying your clothes will help keep them fresh. Invest in an iron to keep them looking crisp.
It should be noted that, if you’re working remotely, standard business fashion rules should apply for what colleagues can see through the webcam, along with pictures of your family, artwork or mementos that are best easily explained and non-controversial.
Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer