Blog: Is there an office-dressing etiquette we should adhere to?

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Is there an office-dressing etiquette we should adhere to?

So, what is considered as a formal attire? Well, the answer has gone through multiple refinements over the past two decades and is still going through a big churn even today.
Is there an office-dressing etiquette we should adhere to?

If given a choice at your workplace, how often would you prefer wearing Jeans vis-vis a tailored Trouser? Well, the answer is obvious: most of us would prefer to wear something casual and comfortable. In fact, most institutions which were traditional in outlook for a good number of decades or even centuries are now finding it difficult to stay relevant in an informal culture. Tie-wearing news anchors and salesmen with briefcases are now eclipsed with late-night comedians with open collars and young college-girls wearing low-waist Jeans. So, in this age of constant change and disruption, is there any merit in still sticking to a formal attire? Is there an office-dressing etiquette which we should be really mindful?

It is true that sifting through our wardrobe to select an appropriate dress, check whether it fits our current body shape and then to iron the shortlisted dress could rob us of some few minutes from our busy schedule. However, by wearing a professional attire coupled with some good grooming etiquettes, we tend to make a good impression on our colleagues and clients, even before we start speaking. Also, how one chooses to dress tells a lot about their personality and ambition in life. While a creative person might prefer to leave his hair unkempt, a suave leader would always like to be dressed in perfect formals. My motivation to dress professionally increased when my mentor once said, “you don’t dress for the job you have, but for the job you want”.

So, what is considered as a formal attire? Well, the answer has gone through multiple refinements over the past two decades and is still going through a big churn even today. While the common answer is to dress according to the expectations of your Organization, it would be expedient to spot the thin line which separates the formal from being informal. While it may be perfectly fine to wear business casuals in some Organization, it would be highly inappropriate to wear slippers to office. Hence in this article, we will try to explore some good etiquettes to be observed with respect to presenting a professional image, but will stop short of discussing the different dress options available currently.  

Common – Dos and Don’ts:

  • Pick up a dress which would complement the color of your skin.
  • Choose the fabric of your cloth which would gel well with the current climatic conditions – you don’t want to feel out of place, literally.
  • Always wear an outfit which would fit your body shape perfectly – sometimes, Tailors do a good job than the Machines!
  • Ensure there is no slogan or pictures present in your T-shirt – preserve those T-shirts for Jantar Mantar parades.
  • Avoid loud or ripe colours like green, yellow, etc. – unless, you want to grab some quick attention of your sweet Boss.
  • Do not wear dresses which are crumpled and soiled.
  • Please wash your socks daily and wear a clean and polished shoe – unless, you want your irritating colleague sitting next to you to take off!

Men – Dos and Don’ts:

  • Always tuck in your shirt, even while you play table soccer – it is good to start your day with everything, including your shirt, under control.
  • Do not forget to wear a waist-belt, especially after tucking in your shirt – you wouldn’t want to be caught by your manager “pants-down”!
  • The color of the waist-belt should match the color of your shoe or vice-versa – in fact, it is also a good idea to match the color of your watch strap with your belt and shoe.
  • Remember to wear socks while wearing a formal shoe and ensure the socks are always stretched long enough.
  • The color of your socks should ideally match the color of your trousers or pants – and remember, it isn’t appropriate to wear white socks unless you are the progeny of Michael Jackson.
  • Try not to sport a sports shoe while wearing a formal dress – imagine Usain Bolt running the Olympics with a suit and a tie!
  • In formal occasions, shoes with laces and full sleeve plain or stripe shirts are always preferred over cut-shoes and half-sleeve shirts.

Women – Dos and Don’ts:

  • Apply minimum makeup every day, which could enhance your image tremendously – however, be cautious in not overdoing it and end up looking like a clown!
  • Do not wear earrings which are larger than your ears – simple but elegant (pearl) studs should be perfect.
  • Try to avoid wearing excessive bangles and anklets which could make noise while you move – it’s good to remember that India has done away with the “lal batti” VIP culture.
  • The necklace you choose to wear should not be shining bright and distracting – here too, an elegant pearl set would look great.
  • Remember the thumb rule of wearing accessories: anything less than five and fancy – this could include a pair of earring, one finger ring, one necklace, one wristwatch and a pair of bangles or bracelet.
  • Choose a designer handbag to compliment your professional image – a woman without a handbag is like a bird without wings.
  • The style of your shoe should preferably be closed-toe and shouldn’t have heels greater than 3 inches – you don’t want to trip over in this mad corporate rat race!


In conclusion, while the above list may not be exhaustive, it would indeed strike a chord with your client, if you could remember these good etiquettes while proceeding towards your wardrobe. Moreover, how you dress would not only give away your social status, your attitudes towards fashion and traditions, but also your organization’s values too. Hence, the golden rule to remember in office-dressing etiquette, or for that matter any etiquette, is not to wear or do something which will distract people around you and make them feel uncomfortable. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, do you?

Disclaimer: “The views expressed in this article is mine and my employer does not subscribe to the substance or veracity of my views”

Topics: Watercooler, Life @ Work

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