How do you tell someone what not to wear? When it comes to looking professional, many factors come into play. We all recognize the need to be clean and pressed (right?), but what about our hair or our nails or the scuffs on our shoes? I remember years ago interviewing candidates for a CEO position. One of the finalists crossed his legs. When he did so, I noted a hole in his shoe. Maybe, that should not have made an impression on me, but it did. Unfortunately we hired the man. He turned out to be the worse choice ever. Was the hole a hint?

Our appearance tells a lot about us. When we rush the comb through our hair in the morning, we miss the little strands that misbehave in the back. When we throw on our clothes, we miss tucking in our shirts. If we miss those details, maybe we also miss the important details in a proposal. Whether you are being interviewed for a big job or to land a big client, these little things matter.

Even as I write this post, however, I wonder what messages we give our young people. If you watch television, you’ve probably seen an episode of CSI (New York, Miami–it doesn’t matter). It’s wonderful that the scientists in the crime labs include women and minorities. What I wonder about is why the educated woman, who make up the crime lab team, wear tight tops that reveal too much? Yes, this is television you say, but. . . what do our young people see? Perhaps they get the message that it’s
okay to wear tight low-cut tops to work?

If you’re wondering what not to wear to work, here’s a partial list.

1. Tight pants or tops

2. For women, low-cut blouses or tops.

3. Scuffed, unpolished shoes or old worn out tennis shoes

4. Glittery jewelry (not too much bling at work, please!)

5. Baseball caps (particularly backwards)

6. Anything see-through

7. Stiletto heels

8. Get a decent haircut or wear your hair pulled back or pulled up.

9. Hot pink boots

10. No Mickey-Mouse ties.

Some companies allow for a casual environment where people may stretch the dress code to allow them to demonstrate their creativity. Just remember you are what you wear. What message do you want your appearance to say about you?

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Curtis is CEO of Total Communications Coaching. She's been a leadership consultant for over 20 years and is a communication and business coach. Her clients include executives in a variety of industry. Find out more at