By Kelsey Mulvey
No matter how many rounds of interviews you aced or the number of glowing recommendations your former co-workers and employers gave on your behalf, the first day at a new job is stressful. During the course of the day, you’ll probably forget all your co-workers’ names, ask for directions to the restroom (at least) five times, and face a few glitches with your computer at your new desk. But perhaps one of the most stressful, and least discussed, challenges is not looking like such a newbie. Let’s face it: Nobody wants to look or come across as helpless in the office. Of course, fighting with your nearby printer and the back-to-back orientation sessions may be dead giveaways; however, the way you dress on your first day can read more stylish than S.O.S. Dress too formal and you’re a total department rookie, but too casual will look unprofessional. Want to find the perfect balance? Read on for these six men’s fashion tips.
1. Do your research
Whether you’re changing career paths or switching companies, one thing’s for sure: Each office has their own work culture and an unspoken dress code. Sure, most bankers are restricted to a conservative suit while recording studio execs are bound to sport more casual ensembles, but these generalizations do vary based on company. Instead of calling human resources to learn all about the sartorial rules of the office — which is a step too far — think back to your slew of interviews. Was your new employer sporting a formal blazer or sheath dress or was the vibe more relaxed with flannel shirts and jeans? Use your boss as your style role model for the first day of work, but as a general rule of thumb, your outfit should be a smidge more formal than his or hers.
It makes sense: If he or she overlooks several employees, your supervisor is bound to have a little more leeway with everything from hours to outfits. Plus, a more polished look tells your boss that you are professional and ready for whatever challenge comes your way. So how do you take your look up a notch on the formal scale without looking too stuffy? Sport some business casual pieces. If your boss was rocking a cool leather jacket, wear that wool herringbone blazer you bought a few weeks ago. As for pants, swap out your boss’s jeans for a crisp pair of khakis. But what if your new employer was dressed to the nines during every round of interviews? Copy his look with a conservative suit and tie.
2. Pull out your dress shoes
You may sport your ratty gym shoes during your morning commute, but slipping into a more formal pair of leather kicks during work hours is a must — especially on your first day. Let’s get one thing straight: Besides the gym or an adventurous hike, when else are your crummy sneakers appropriate? Never. Even if you have the most elegant suit on, accessorizing with a pair of gym shoes screams, “I’m immature and you probably made a mistake by hiring me.” Consequently, a dressy pair of loafers or lace-ups says the exact opposite. Whether you opt for a masculine iteration of a penny loafer or a retro wing-tipped alternative, finish your look with a versatile brown or black pair.
3. When in doubt, stick with neutrals
Want to blend in? Opt for your subtle black, brown, tan, or navy-hued pieces. Whether you’re on a first date or starting a new job, bright colors tend to be a wordless way of begging for attention. And while you’ll likely stand out at work for your ambition and, well, newness, being known as “he who wears marigold and aqua” is less impressive. Xfinity.com agrees. “Standing out in the office in bright colors like fuchsia and tangerine is a big no-no,” the website writes. “Stay away from neon jackets, red pants and using too many colors to complete your office look — you’ll be notable in the office for the wrong reasons.” But if you’re yearning to add some pigment to your outfit, select a light blue or striped shirt.
4. Add some pizzazz with your accessories
Showing off your stylish side at work can be difficult when you’re dressed like every other employee as far as the cubicle-chained eye can see: average suits in ho-hum shades, slicked back hair, and brogues. It’s no secret that your favorite accessories can transform an outfit from being nothing special to best dressed-worthy, so take this time to spice up your nine to five ensemble with some treasured accessories. Translation? Now is the perfect opportunity to pull that ultra-cool knit tie out of hiding or strap on your old dad’s watch. But beware, gents: Don’t be surprised if all the stylish guys in your office are pining to be your friend after taking a look at your add-ons.
5. Find the perfect fit
Let’s face it: there’s nothing better than curling up on your couch in an oversized T-Shirt, sweatshirt, and pair of sweatpants. Who doesn’t feel liberated by the lack of a belt or three-piece suit? While it’s easy to start imaging the rest of your life in loose garments, the bottom line is that tailored threads are a necessity for the office. Sure, your baggy apparel may be more cozy at times, but your new co-workers and bosses won’t be (secretly) evaluating your outfit on comfort.
“Overly baggy clothes will make you look you’re wearing sloppy hand-me-downs,” writes Kinowear owner Jeremy Reeves. To make matters worse, sloppy hand-me-downs can easily translate to unprofessional. On the opposite end of the spectrum, incorporating a tailored jacket or fitted shirt will show that you care about your appearance, and will leave onlookers convinced that you mean business. Need to alter some of your pieces? Check out our quick and easy hacks for faking the perfect fit.
6. Plan, polish, and iron
From scouring LinkedIn for your potential employers’ profiles to crafting the perfect response to the oh-so common “Do you have any questions?” portion of your interview, finding a new job requires lots of preparation. But don’t be fooled: the planning doesn’t end when you’ve received your much-anticipated official offer. In fact, a lot of it happens the night before: memorizing your office’s address, setting your alarm clock to agree with your new hours, and picking out your outfit.
Sure, sifting through your closet before 8:00 a.m. the day of is slightly reminiscent of your parents demanding you to have your first day outfits prepared the night before circa elementary school, but it will help the next morning to be worry-free. By preparing your outfit the night prior, you won’t be completely blind-sided by any missing buttons, stains, or ill-fitting garments. Plus, this will also give you time to iron a crinkled shirt or polish your pair of dull shoes. After a low-stress morning, you may wonder if your parents had it right all along.