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Keeping Up Appearances: How to Make Your Point with Style and Win Points with Customers

Would you take financial advice from an accountant with many visible tattoos? Entrust your life to a surgeon who couldn’t look you in the eye? Take flying lessons with an instructor known for a hair-trigger temper? Probably not. These rather extreme descriptions show that how we look, speak, and dress determine how we are perceived.

Yet take a look around almost any workplace, and you might conclude that managers spend more time packaging products, designing signs, and arranging window displays than “packaging” their most important assets: themselves and their employees. Read on for advice on ways you and your team can make a better impression, build confidence, and in the process, boost the bottom line.

No Loose Threads: Casual Dress Codes can be Professional
Defining a dress code may seem like a frivolous task, but first impressions do count. If suits or uniforms are the standard in your line of work, you’re in luck, not much effort is required to set the tone. In most other workplaces these days, from retail to finance, some form of business-casual attire seems to be the norm, and professionalism is often a casualty. If you’ve ever seen a bank teller wearing a mini-skirt and belly-bearing top (not an uncommon sight), you have witnessed business casual gone awry.

As the boss, it’s your job to set the standard and enforce a dress code that allows employees to work comfortably while projecting a professional, trustworthy appearance. Follow a few tried and true guidelines for appropriate business casual attire.

Recommended for men:

  • Chinos/khakis
  • Sports shorts or polo shirts with collars
  • Sweater or sports jacket
  • Casual loafers or lace up shoes
  • Well-groomed hair and nails

Recommended for women:

  • Casual skirts or trousers—neatly pressed
  • Blouses and sweater (not too tight)
  • Blazers look nice over casual trousers
  • Low heeled shoes or boots, no athletic footwear or beach sandals.
  • Appropriate jewelry and natural looking makeup
  • Clean hair and nails

Never, for either gender:

  • Athletic wear
  • Bare midriffs or low-cut garments in front or back
  • Hats and caps
  • Ripped or tattered clothing
  • Tight-fitting clothing, short skirts, or revealing clothing
  • Heavy perfume or after shave
  • High heels or cowboy boots (unless you’re teaching ballroom dance or rustling cattle)

Add a few scenarios to help employees decide what to wear: If it’s great for the gym, it’s not great for the office. If it’s right at a rock concert or nightclub, it’s not right for the office. When in doubt about an outfit, it’s best to leave it in the closet.

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