The Do’s and Don’ts of Modern Career Wear

The days of the suit-shirt-tie combo in the workplace are numbered. Here’s how to navigate the new sartorial minefield with style and authority. -

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The Do's and Don'ts of Modern Career Wear

GOODBYE business suit, hello new career wear: elevated casual style that’s sharp and tailored while losing the buttoned-down conformity of old.

That’s the news coming from a growing number of companies that are officially ditching the traditional dress code.

“We’re in a war for talent,” says Sue Horlin, human capital leader for PWC Australia. “One of the best ways to unlock the passion and the creativity of our people is to give a small signal that we trust them to bring themselves to work comfortably and confidently. So we say you can wear what you want.”

Over at Myer head office, work-wear standards have also been reimagined with a more contemporary edge. Chris Wilson, general manager menswear, encourages the team to tap into the latest trends, to bring a modern face to the business. “We wanted to create a fresh look as a fashion retailer,” Wilson says of the move. “The team’s appearance says a lot about the company.”

While liberating, the new rules can also bring a degree of sartorial angst. No longer can you dress on autopilot each morning, simply shrugging on the suit-and-tie uniform. The new business wear requires a more considered approach. “Often it’s what you’re used to wearing on the weekend – your Friday-night wear dressed up a little bit,” advises Wilson. The key to getting it right is to dress for the day ahead. “Think about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with,” Horlin says. “At a board meeting I might feel at my best in a corporate outfit, but on other days, if it’s not a client-facing day, I’ll happily put on jeans.”

Use these tips to nail the new career wear and look like a high-flyer even if you’re not donning an old-school suit and tie.

DO Add extra personality to your accessories. “Pocket squares are the new tie,” says Wilson.

DO Look like you’ve made an effort. “You don’t want to appear too recreational,” says Phuong Vo, menswear designer at Trenery. It’s a workplace, not a barbecue.

DO Look appropriate. “It’s not a dress-down policy and it’s not a dress-up policy,” Horlin says. “Dress how you feel comfortable and best present yourself.”

DO Have fun with color. “Navy, tan and black are staples, with this season’s go-to colors being greens, red or light blues,” advises Stewart Lock, head of design for Van Heusen.

DON’T Forget to iron. “That’s sometimes enough to look more polished,” says Vo.

DON’T Be disrespectful. “Think about language or pictures that might be offensive to colleagues,” says Horlin. If you’re not sure, ask a trusted colleague. “I’m pretty confident they’ll put you in the right direction.”

DON’T Wear ripped denim. Denim is an option, but keep it dark, straight-leg and classic.

DON’T wear athletic trainers. Opt for simple, unfussy sneakers in low-key colors. And make sure they’re clean.

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