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Corporate Circus #2: Suit Up

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A week before my first day in the corporate world, eight and a half years ago, I went shopping! Formal pants and shirts were bought along with shoes and bags. I even picked up some Indian wear for office as my joining location was Chennai and not Bangalore. Of course, everyone wants to look professional and be comfortable at work. The initial few days at work, everyone was dressed in their best. Top to bottom in formals. I could see some of them wearing ties as well. Soon, we realized that there was no strict dress code in our company. That is when the trouble started.

Dressing well is really important to me as a person. At work, or anywhere else. Unfortunately not everyone thinks the same. Sometimes I feel that it is important to include a hygiene clause while hiring someone. IT companies seriously need to think about it. I know it is a personal choice, but at times people only do a few things when they are asked to. A few years ago, I worked in a team where the team lead had a pair of jeans and two T-shirts. He wore the same clothes every alternate day for like close to a year. Then came a new pair or jeans and a couple of T-shirts and the drill followed. To start with, wearing jeans and a T-shirt to a corporate is not something I would do. Start up culture is something else altogether. But when you are working with clients and dealing with people from many nationalities, you need to maintain a decent attire. Dirty and stinky clothes is a strict no no.

I believe that good clothes always create a good impression and I do believe in the concept of power dressing. Since my work environment is not too strict, I do wear jeans to work. Yes, even when it is not a Friday. I wear jeans with a shirt and closed shoes. That is a crazy peeve of mine. Formal clothes need closed shoes. When I see men and women wearing very neat formals with floaters or sandals my eyes actually hurt. A peep toe shoe is good too, but definitely not flip flops. With Indian wear, you can wear sandals. But not with trousers and a shirt. Wearing jeans and a shirt is semi formal and that suits me. Although occasionally I do wear formal trousers and a shirt to work. I never wear tops with jeans from Monday to Thursday. Somehow, that takes away the seriousness for me. I have seen women wear tops and jeans throughout the week. I have seen men wear T-shirts and jeans throughout the week too. In that case, what is the need for a casual Friday?

In the corporate world, many people take their knowledge very seriously, but care much less for their appearance. I'm not telling that one should wear a suit to work everyday. Whatever you wear must look professional and neat. I once wore a blazer to work and a colleague mocked me asking if I was a manager. I replied that someday I soon will be and I'm working my way up for it. That is another distinction that is clear in the IT world. Only managers are expected to suit up. The freshers would wear formals and the ones with some experience will be as lackadaisical as they can. To a certain extent that is true as well. Men wearing shirts that are not tucked in or slogan T-shirts, sport shoes with formal trousers, or still better, chappals with trousers. Yeah, I have seen it all and cringed enough.

It is not about having a great fashion sense, it is all about the decency. An office is a place one comes in to earn their daily bread and butter and the least one can do is show respect to it. Work is a serious environment and it does require a certain level of dedication from one's end. Imagine having the best brain in the business and looking unkempt for a meeting. I know it is all about what's on the inside that matters, but looking neat and tidy is not too much to ask for. Another thing that needs to be considered is body odor. Wear a deo or a perfume and smell pleasant. Working with a large group of people in a confined environment with centralized air conditioning requires a certain level of cleanliness to be mentioned. Primarily for you, but mostly for the sake of others.

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If you are one of those people who go to work wearing whatever you want to without maintaining a level of professionalism, you need to think again. Also, messy hair or hair tied in a bun is a nice look for a day out with your friends, but not to work. Loose hair spilling all over the desk is not a good sign. Creased clothes also is a no no. Please invest in an iron box. No matter how much the company is paying you, I'm sure it is enough to buy an iron box atleast. Remember, it is not about looking fashionable or the brands one can afford to wear; it is all about looking presentable and fitting in with the work environment.

While some companies stress on the importance of dressing in a work place, some are pretty lenient. But it doesn't mean that you take it for granted. Dress well and neat. Look formal and take care of yourself. While this may not be the only thing, this definitely is one thing that people are watching.

This is what you should wear:

For men:

~ Monday to Thursday - Formal trousers, formal shirt neatly tucked in, a belt and formal shoes.
~ Monday to Thursday (If allowed) - Jeans, formal shirt neatly tucked in, a belt and casual shoes.
~ Friday - Jeans, collared/round (no slogans) T-shirt and casual shoes. No floaters or flipflops.

For women:

~ Monday to Thursday - Formal trousers/skirts, formal shirt (tucked in or let out), a belt and closed/peep-toe formal shoes.
~ Monday to Thursday (If allowed) - Jeans, formal shirt (tucked in or let out), a belt and closed/peep-toe casual shoes.
~ Monday to Thursday - Salwar Kameez or a kurta with leggings and open/closed sandals.
~ Friday - Jeans, no slogans T-shirts/tops and casual shoes or sandals.

All of this with neatly done up hair and a pleasant smelling perfume will set the tone right for you in the work place.

Of course it will not take you high up the ladder, for that the grey matter matters.


  1. Good observations there. Sadly l have seen dressing descend to completely casual especially in IT companies and startups. Like you l like to dress up neatly and formally. But then when events around you is dressed in rags you stick out like a sore thumb. Forget sandals this lady used to wear chappals to work without batting an eyelid. Once l wore a nice sari and got a lot of attention.
    Sigh! People just don't pay attention to clothes these days. It also filters down from bosses. Don't know how shabby became okay as office attire. Good tips there fit professional dressing.

    1. It's really a sad state these days. Such a turn off to go to work at times.

      Thanks Rachna.

  2. That was quite an appropriate and concise list of workplace dressing. I've worked in retail wherein we are the face of the brand so it becomes even more important to be presentable especially if you're on the shop floor attending to customers. Spraying deos and shaving regularly for men is mandatory. While I do wear casuals since I work in the back end I do ensure that I've turned out well. I feel strongly about sloppy dressers too.

  3. Soumya, I love reading your posts..esp the ones on clothes/appropriate dressing. It would be good to have series on these more people could find it useful what with the helpful tips you give.

  4. ha ha! funny and true at the same time. I know what you mean. I also like being presentable at work. We also don't have a dress code. We dress per our day and I ensure that the day I have meetings, I am formally dressed - closed shoes with jeans or skirt, or a proper pinned saree. There are days I am in my floaters but those are no meeting days and I know I can carry the college look. ;) I also believe in power dressing. We all need to dress up for the next level. Fun post and can easy be passed for a dress code policy :)

    1. You my dear can carry off anything! :)

      Thank you.

  5. Excellent post and very useful too. Loved the quote very much, Soumya !!!

  6. I hear you, Soumya!

    We always had a formal dress code in all the organisations I worked in.

    I remember, in one of my jobs, which was with Hertz India, one of my responsibilities was to make sure our fleet of drivers were impeccably dressed. Now picture me - dressed in a saree, top knot, high heeled shoes, checking a row of drivers standing with their hands in front, palms down, chin up, as I checked their nails, their clothes, their hair. Yes, laugh. I also adjusted colleagues' ties and scolded them over their choice of footwear. I cannot stand a carelessly dressed person, either. That quote is perfect, ya know. Sadly, these days, there are too many people with zero dress sense.

    Sigh. What a put-off!

    1. Aha! I can already imagine how sexy you would have looked rolling those big eyes :D

      Sadly yeah. Luckily there are hot people like you and me to restore the balance ;)


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