Stylin’ and Profilin’ – thoughts on business dress sense

I’ve seen some pretty terrible ensembles in my time, mainly in the mirror but I like to think I’ve reached a modest level of suaveness. Not quite Roger Moore, but not David Dickinson either. [girls/ ladies, apologies, this is a very much male fashion focused article, my knowledge of female business fashion only extends as far as the back page of the TM Lewin posted catalogue – get in touch if you’re interested in contributing]

As a consultant you will need to fix up and look sharp. Jeans and a shirt and some brown shoes just won’t cut it. OK sorry, slightly patronising there. Of course you know that, but sometimes you just have to cover all your bases

true story: a colleague of mine actually had a candidate go in for an interview wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat! And, actually asked the interviewer if he could borrow a light to spark up a cigarette!!

So, you’ve probably worked in offices already, therefore you’ve already got some kind of business dress sense. But, it doesn’t hurt to take a step back and look at one’s interview/ assessment centre appearance. After all, don’t people say that impressions are created in those critical first few seconds. True. To an extent. However, I’ve found that as soon as people start talking, attire becomes immaterial. Nevertheless, it’s as much about how a certain tie, shirt, suit etc. makes you feel as it is about what message it telegraphs to those around you.

With that in mind, let me introduce you to my fashion sense:

  • black or navy blue suit with gold or light blue lining respectively
  • TM Lewin slim-fit white shirt (TM Lewins crease way too much but it’s my nicest fitting crisp white shirt)
  • Understated plain shiny silver rectangular cuff-links or deep blue gold rimmed circular cuffs
  • Plain dark red tie, plain golden yellow tie or dark blue tie with small white and blue squares

One day I’ll get some braces in and advance to a blue shirt blood red tie combo with garish thick pin-stripe suit! Just like Gordon Gecko – the ultimate power facade!


But for now, this get-up leaves me confident in my appearance as I’m not doing anything too out-there, I’m comfortable and it’s just about professionally stylish enough to not be school-boy. Boring and bland to some. Safe, understated and effective for me. [This is all heavily subjective if you haven’t realised by the way.]

So let’s talk about best-practices. Starting with the no-nos:

  • No weird coloured suits and no light greys, we’re not estate agents or used car salesmen
  • Like painting a house for an easy sale when it comes to coloured shirts, avoid strong, dark colours and black.
  • No novelty stripper cuff-links or anything to suggest you have a penchant for gambling
  • For ties, avoid wacky patterns and garish colours
  • No brown, pink or yellow shoes
  • Also, make sure nothing’s overly tight fitting, for obvious reasons of comfort and decency

I would recommend instead:

  • Plain dark coloured suit – take the tag off if it’s new – the tag lightly stitched onto the sleeve of the suit by the way; i’ve seen two guys wearing them still on at interviews!
  • Shirts: white or light blue, preferably plain – stripes are fine but keep it subtle
  • Ties: plain, mildly patterned, or striped. Blues and reds work nicely. Not black!
  • Black shoes – polished

As I said, looking good will only get you so far and there are too many pithy examples to choose from to illustrate this so I’ll refrain. Nevertheless, take pride in your appearance, put some thought into it and you may find that your performance benefits significantly.

[Apologies to any girls reading once again, if you even made it this far – it would be excellent if someone could produce something similar aimed at a good female business dress sense – do please get in touch about contributing, even if you’re a guy]

More thoughts on business dress:
Killer consultant: Shopping for the first day; clothing

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One response to “Stylin’ and Profilin’ – thoughts on business dress sense

  1. Pingback: KPMG talk about Dressing the Part « Consultinggrad

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