I am currently a college student who has recently taken an office job at the university I’m attending. When I’m not taking classes, I’m at work usually meeting with all sorts of people and I often act as a representative of my university. Currently my closet consists of clothes that just scream “poor college student.”
My question for you is what are some of the staples when it comes to dressing for a professional environment and what are some clothes I could wear that can easily translate from the classroom to the office?
Some things about me are that I’m 5’5 and a bit bulky from my chest up and arms. My preferences for clothes is something that’s casual (think joggers with blazers), fits me and is trendy, but not too cutting-edge or avant-garde. I also like a white/dark/gray color scheme but would try anything.
I would love any advice you have. As a long-time reader, I know that you have an excellent taste and know how to make people look their best.
Sam, 20/Utah, USA
You sure know how to flatter a girl, Sam! I don’t often get a lot of questions from male readers so when something from a guy pops into my inbox, I read it immediately. Because menswear is somewhat limited in scope (unless you’re the kind who’s really willing to try ANYTHING), I always hope that any male fashion-specific advice I post is helpful to people like you. And as you can see, I didn’t publish your photo but thanks for sending it anyway because it really helps me look for better recommendations!
Level Up: From T-Shirts to Polo Shirts
T-shirts are the most basic and casual pieces in your closet. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck wearing them forever. In your case, it’s even more important not to limit yourself to just tees because you work in an office and represent your university. Wearing a polo shirt, on the other hand, makes you look a little more spiffy (as long as you don’t pop the collar – that is so 2010!). It’s very versatile and works with pants, denims and shorts. With the right fit and your choice of colors (I’m betting on warm tones), a few polos in your closet would certainly extend your wardrobe options!
Level Up Further: Button-Down Shirts
I know it’s cool to wear an open shirt over a T-shirt but there’s a big difference between a boring, lazy outfit and a smart-looking one. Button and tuck your shirts. I can hear you yell “But that looks boring!” from here, Sam. This is where you use simple tricks like rolling up the sleeves, wearing colors that flatter and choosing engaging prints or patterns so you look neither old nor boring. You don’t have to be stuck wearing plain solid colors all the time, or have to stick to stripes or checks. If you don’t have those options, then wear accessories like quirky bow ties or neckties in bold colors or with funny cartoon prints to showcase your personality.
Level Up: Plain/Distressed Jeans to Dark-Wash Jeans
Try to imagine meeting Tim Cook or Bill Gates wearing only jogger pants, a blazer and a T-shirt. I hope you understand the point I’m making here. Not that dark-wash jeans are always acceptable for job interviews but jogger pants – like T-shirts – are casual attire. Wear them to class by all means, but I’m sure you won’t want to wear joggers every single day anyway, especially for important events. Dark wash jeans are now considered acceptable smart-casual attire (and the ones you’re wearing in the photo look good). These are your non-distressed, non-decorated (studs, faded streaks, etc.) denims that look good with just about everything. As long as they fit you well, including the inseam, you’re good to go in these all the time!
Level Up: Sweatshirts to Cardigans and Vests
I know sweatshirts are practically the uniform in college but they totally obscure whatever top you’re actually wearing, and since they’re roomy, the outcome doesn’t always look nice. Blazers aren’t always practical so your other alternative here, aside from hoodies, are cardigans. Yes, I think plain hoodies are okay but for something a little more dressy, cardigans and buttoned vests will work. These look great with button-down shirts and the cardis also pair well with polo shirts. With these options, you don’t need to wear them all the time but when you do, it instantly elevates your outfit.
Level Up: Sneakers and Flip-Flops to Chukkas and Bucks
It’s the little things that count, Sam, and I see a lot of guys who wear sneakers and flip-flops with everything. Sure I like my Chucks and flats but one word here: #lifegoals. Don’t ruin your new sense of style by just pairing it with basketball shoes, sneakers or flip-flops. Get accustomed to wearing good shoes like chukka boots or bucks (lace-ups but made with buckskin and have a flat sole), loafers and moccasins. Trust me, these are the things that really make or break your outfit and image. Try a simple combo of a button-down with your dark wash jeans and a pair of leather slip-ons instead of the usual canvas ones. You probably won’t recognize yourself!
P.S. If you’re sending a question, please don’t forget to include any helpful information about your body type or shape, your tastes or personality. You can include a selfie (link only please) or a photo of your clothes (which I will never publish without pre-approval). Thank you!