Dress to Impress: The Ways Your Clothes Can Help Your Career

It’s no secret that getting dressed for work can be a drag. “Why can’t I just wear my sweats to the office?” you begrudgingly ask yourself as you tighten your striped tie. As you very well know, there are so many rational reasons not to dress up for the office: You’re tired, it’s a bonafide scorcher outside, you only had three hours of sleep last night, or maybe your co-workers always sport ratty tees and distressed jeans. Even though donning your gym sneakers and running shorts seems like an easy alternative, the bottom line is that your office attire matters. Want proof? Read on for the ways clothes can impact your career.

1. Stand out amongst your co-workers

Stylish man wearing office attire

Do your best to stand out — in a good way. | Thinkstock

Regardless of which rung of the totem pole you’re on, every motivated employee wants to differentiate themselves from their cohorts. While standing out amongst the crowd should be done by exceeding your supervisor’s expectations and conquering each task at hand with a smile on your face, your clothes are also a not-so-obvious factor. In addition to standing out to your direct employers, your company’s executives will also take notice. Case in point: The CEO of your company is looking to promote someone from your department. “What about the guy with the brown hair and glasses?” he asks his advisers. That could be at least four different candidates. “What about the guy who always wears a crisp pocket square with each suit?” he asks instead. Much better.

2. Make a positive first impression

Businessman wearing suit

First impressions matter. | iStock.com

Think back to your first day of work. While you were nervously sweating in your best suit and lucky tie, you were trying to make a good first impression. Of course, you were also judging your new colleagues. Did they seem nice? Were they intelligent? How did they dress? While it’s no longer your first day, week, or perhaps month in the office, you are still making a first impression to new employees, prospective co-workers, and interns. By choosing a pair of polished brogues over your stinky sneakers, not only are you creating a positive first impression without opening your mouth, you are also setting the precedent that you should be treated with respect.

3. Represent your company

businessman with headphones travelling to work

Represent your company inside and outside the office. | iStock.com/Halfpoint

When you’re on the company dime, there’s a certain code of conduct you must adhere to: be friendly, don’t drink excessively, and don’t disclose any company secrets, to name a few. While “looking presentable” isn’t technically part of the policy, what you wear will reflect positively or negatively on your office. Between impromptu meetings and taking potential clients to lunch, you never know who you’ll see each day. And while the rest of your company may be used to casual Friday attire all week, employees from other businesses may not. It may sound dramatic, but taking that extra step of putting together a crisp, professional outfit could be the deciding factor when trying to secure that new account. After all, what type of company is going to trust the accountant who seems professional, but is wearing a hoodie during a boardroom conference? Exactly.

4. Accelerate your career

dressing well can accelerate your career

Dress shirts like these can help you advance. | iStock.com

By now, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” sounds like a tired cliché. However, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit there was some truth to that saying. Even in a world where office apparel is becoming increasingly casual, what you wear still matters. “It may seem superficial, but clothing makes a statement about who you are and where you want to go,” Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert, told Fortune. Without saying it, opting for a pressed dress shirt while your cubicle-mate sports a flannel shows your boss that you are ready for the next step in your career. Don’t forget to thank us when you snag that sought-after promotion.

5. Get your daily dose of creativity

Young businessman doing video conference call on smartphone

Feel free to be creative with your outfits, too. | iStock.com/diego_cervo

You pay attention to trends and are the go-to expert for men’s fashion in your group of friends; however, your analytical 9-to-5 job does not double as a creative outlet. Instead of stunting your experimental growth, assembling well-styled outfits will give you the creative freedom you’ve been desperately craving. The key is to integrate fashion-forward pieces that are appropriate for your occupation. For example, an investment banker shouldn’t wear a Canadian tuxedo to the office. Instead, highlight your creativity with an interesting tie, fun socks, or a modern briefcase. Do you have a more creativity-charged career such as public relations or journalism? Up the sartorial ante, and kick-start your imagination, by boasting a cool fedora or desert boots.

6. Look good, feel good

Man wearing a suit

You’ll feel great when you look great. | iStock.com

Struggling to wake up each morning, counting down the hours until the end of day, and scouring through job boards every chance you get: We all know what it’s like to hate your job. While a good shirt isn’t going to make you loathe spreadsheets any less, sporting a good outfit is bound to put you in a better mood. According to a study by researchers at Columbia University and California State University Northridge, the way you dress can improve your mood and lead to more big-picture thinking. How’s that for fake it ‘til you make it? If being impeccably dressed doesn’t instantly put a smirk on your face, perhaps the string of compliments on your awesome watch will.

Follow Kelsey on Twitter @KMulvs