The New Continuum of Dressing for Success: Part 3 Jeans Permitted

Yes, there are some occupations were jeans, nice jeans, are an option for work.  Nice jeans do not have holes or a lot of stitching that has seen its day in fashion.  Additionally, this category might include uniforms found in many occupations. It is imperative that anything that you wear for work is clean, pressed, without tears and lost buttons, and fits properly. Often at this stage most people don’t give much consideration to what they’re wearing or how they are wearing it and assume that anything goes, but that is farthest from the truth.  Communicating your professionalism is just as important.  In many high tech companies such as Apple or Facebook, jeans and t-shirts are common place and its ok just as long as they are in good condition for work – there is a difference!

Pants and skirts in denim and a variety of casual fabrics are the highlight of this category.  Some jobs that might fall under this category, depending on the corporate culture might include retail, restaurant, music, and the film industry where being able to move equipment and work a scene is a must.  This category does NOT exclude other dress options suggested above but permits denim.  Hence, consider hard working fabrics such as twill found in Docker brand pants, as well as some fashion alternatives such as longer skirts.

For Men: As mentioned earlier jeans and t-shirts are acceptable in a many types of occupations; however, if considering them have a good pair of jeans and several work t-shirts without writing or graphics on them. Jeans need to land at the natural waist in either a straight or boot cut leg and t-shirts need to be in really good condition and are substantial in weight so they have body and don’t show through.  Regarding the style of the t-shirt try one with short or long sleeves as opposed to sleeveless tanks.  Consider cargo pants but avoid camouflage or military-type apparel.  Consider leather jackets and vests for variety and long sleeved flannel, denim or suede shirts.  Hawaiian shirts are great if you live in Hawaii and California but be sure that they not loud and overwhelming with neon colored designs.  Regarding shoes, consider those devoted to comfort such as athletic shoes; but again, refrain from loud, highly detailed ones that draw attention to your feet rather than to your face.  As well, avoid flip-flops and sandals.

Choose pants that have a classic look with minimum detail.  If you wear a shirt with a hem you will want to tuck it in and wear a belt with a conservative belt buckle.  Avoid belt buckles that are large and ornate and save those for your time.  Light jackets are great; however, avoid “hoodies” and hats of any kind.  As well, avoid sweatpants, warm up suits and other athletic apparel, since you’re going to work, not playing baseball.  Consider bringing your gym bag with your stuff in it if that will be part of your day.

If you wear a uniform, it should fit and be clean and pressed.  If you need to provide your own shoes make sure they are made for comfort and coordinate in color with the uniform. As well, jewelry should to be kept to a minimum.

For Women: It is just as important to dress professionally at this end of the continuum as it is with more formal traditional businesses.  Seek tailored styles and avoid sexy, revealing clothing such as skirts with slits in the front and side.  Exposed midriffs and cleavage are also not appropriate as well as wearing fashions latest craze. As mentioned previously what you wear to work needs to be clean, pressed, coordinated, accessorized and needs to fit. Consider polo, crew- and V-neck style shirts but avoid halter tops. If you wear jeans consider straight legged or boot cut styles with minimal detailing that land at the natural waist.

Consider unstructured jackets such as jean jackets and cargo pants with limited detailing but avoid “hoodies” and hats.  Pants and skirts need land at the natural waist or a little below but avoid hip-hugger styles.  As well, skirts, shorts, and dresses should be no shorter than three inches above the knee.

Save the sun dresses, halter styles as well as beach cover-ups for your time.  As well, avoid sweat pants and work out apparel, even warm up suits for the office. Consider cargo pants but avoid camouflage, military-type apparel.  As well, introduce split skirts or mid-calf length types gathered, pleated or plain front in denim, leather or suede with boots or tailored flats for your office attire.  Avoid leggings, jeggings (leggings out of denim), flip-flops and very high platform shoes – period. Greek styled, gladiator sandals that go up the leg need to be worn during your time and not for work.  If you want to wear athletic shoes consider those that have minimum detail and bright colors. Have a pair for work and one for your time.

If you wear a uniform make sure that it’s clean and pressed and fits. If you need to provide your own shoes seek those that are comfortable and tailored in a color that complements your uniform.  Jewelry is best kept at a minimum and if you wear hose consider tights but avoid fishnets.

If your company does NOT have a dress policy look at what your supervisor or the owner is wearing for clues and use these categories mentioned above to help guide you regarding what works for work and you.  More detail regarding options for each will be spelled out in the next chapter.  Bottom line – realize that your appearance counts at work no matter what you do!


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About vseitz

Marketing Professor at California State University, San Bernardino and author of "I Don't Wear A Suit."

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