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GROOMING YOURSELF FOR THE CORPORATE LIFE

It’s not too complex, but can be if you let it go unnoticed. It might mean a dramatic ‘makeover’
for some, a simple adaptive twist for others and just being what you are for a rare few. But the
bottom-line — in corporate life your grooming etiquette makes you what you want to be seen to
be. And that’s just not the external piece. People frame opinions on how one looks or smells, and
that better matter, because these opinions are what get you to where you want to go. If you
think this is just a skin-deep approach — yes it is. But then remember: it’s the skin that feels hurt
or delight first.

Let’s face it. How often we’ve bought something because we liked its packaging. Remember
those soft drink makers who sell you the fizz with ads on the shape of the bottle likening it to
some movie star, or those inviting chocolate wrappers. Be it the clothes you wear, the way you
smell, or the shape of your hair; remember that’s what people see first. So make sure you are
“appropriate”. All essential grooming begins and ends with one word — “appropriateness”. It’s a
wonderful “win-win” where neither you nor the folks you interact with are distracted. A loud tie, a
strong perfume, an exotic hairdo or just a crumpled shirt is all unacceptable extremes. Here are a
few quick tips on getting ready for your life ahead.

Start the shopping early

Remember at least 5 days a week you will need to be “appropriately” dressed and that’s a lot of
load on your wardrobe. So don’t wait for the first-job-shopping-frenzy — start building your
collection early. And of course, get the maximum out of any “inappropriate” college-wear. You
might not have much chance to use it after.

Start trying the new you

If there’s a different hair-do that might be more acceptable, then give that a shot. Try the new
perfumes and remember newer must-do’s like the mint after the “smoke”, or a more regular
shaving routine. It’s a whole new life waiting for you outside of college, so you rather look at
those than yourself then.
Now getting to specifics. Here’s an indicator of what to wear and how to be. “Business casuals”
are the most common style in corporate life

Pants in fairly conservative colours: khaki, brown, blue, grey, black, beige, etc. The fabric may
be cotton, synthetic or blend. The styling varies — flat-fronted vs pleated, cuffs or no cuffs, etc
— and all of these are OK. They should be long enough to hide your socks under normal
circumstances, and short enough not to touch the ground at the back. Pants with cargo-style
pockets, decorative zippers, or weird straps and loops are not usually business casual. Anything
with contrasting external stitching or rivets on the seams may be a bit too close to jeans,
depending on your workplace’s standards. Shorts

may or may not be acceptable in your workplace in the summer, but if you wear shorts they
should be the short version of the pants that we just described.

Shirts in plain colours, stripes, checks, or subtle patterns. Long or short-sleeved. Cotton or
synthetic, or blends. Tuck your shirt in, wear a belt. And if you need to wear a tie, remember

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unless you are a pro at it, “match than contrast” is easier. For starters let your tie in some way
merge with your shirt and trousers. You can get adventurous later.

Shoes in black or brown or other neutral colours, usually in leather. Ensure that you coordinate
them with the right trousers. A brown shoe on a blue trouser might not be the best. Don’t let
your shoes show a high polish, but they also shouldn’t look too beat-up either. If you wear a belt,
it should approximately match the color of your shoes. That is: black shoes, black belt; brown
shoes, brown belt. Getting a reversible belt makes life a lot easier. But buy the good brands.
They are costlier but last longer.

Socks. Don’t wear white socks with dark shoes. Match them with your shoes and your trousers.
This is the trickiest, so watch it!

Sweaters and other such warm things: plain colours or simple patterns (a couple of stripes
across the chest, for example). Jackets of various kinds are also suitable — anything that they
sell as casual wear in that business-suits-but-not-jeans store is probably OK.

Hair long or short, as long as it’s clean and neat. Shaved bald is fine too. Brightly dyed hair
(green, red, etc), dreadlocks, or unusually shaved hairstyles aren’t appropriate with business
casual. Facial hair likewise: clean and neat; stubble is less appropriate with business casual than
with entirely casual dress.

Personal Hygiene could be a maker or breaker of even official transactions. Keep away bad
breath or body odor. Mint and deodorant are absolute essentials and never be without them.
Clean manicured hands are as important. Remember, “You need not be attractive, but please
don’t be repulsive.”

Jewellery should be kept to a minimum. Watch, wedding band or class ring, and not much else.
Some plain metallic necklaces and bracelets are okay, some aren’t. Look around and see what
your co-workers are wearing. Remember to “fit in”.

Piercing are becoming more and more common. Earrings are no problem at all with business
casual, though you probably don’t want anything too attention-drawing. If you have multiple or
stretched ear piercing, go for something fairly simple in stainless steel. Facial piercing may or
may not be acceptable in your workplace, and in general the less obtrusive the better, but again,
go for something plain in the way of jewellery.

Bags aren’t part of your attire, but you’ll be seen with them anyway as you come and go from
work. Backpacks, courier/messenger bags, laptop bags, etc. are all fine, but the important thing
here is that they shouldn’t be too battered, nor covered with band patches or political stickers or
whatever.

Care and maintenance of your business casual attire is much more important than for casual
clothes. Make sure your shirts and pants are ironed, or else buy ones that don’t need it. If
anything has a stain, put it aside for weekend wear. Don’t wear shirts with missing buttons.
Replace your shoes before they disintegrate.

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Quantity If you’re wearing business casual every day, you’ll want at least 3 pairs of pants, 6
shirts, and 2 pairs of decent shoes. This is enough to last you a week between laundry loads,

with a reasonable amount of swapping and changing. (The sixth shirt’s just in case.) If you only
wear business casual occasionally, such as for interviews and meetings, you’ll still want two full
outfits so you don’t always appear in exactly the same gear. Or, at minimum two different shirts.

Business casual for women is in one sense easier (because the unwritten rules are less strict)
and in one sense harder (because the unwritten rules are less strict). Just about anything
described for men, above, is suitable for women working in the technology field, with the
following exceptions:

• The range of acceptable colours and patterns is broader — for instance, it would be okay to
wear a bright green shirt that would be considered rather eccentric on a man.
• Fitted/styled women’s shirts are more acceptable than similar shirts on men.
• Skirts are acceptable, but appropriate if not too short (just above the knee is acceptable) not
too light/frilly/feminine in styling. Plain colours or subtle stripes or patterns are best.

• Sarees, salwars, churidar kameezes are all okay and good is not too loud or flashy.
• Sandals are usually acceptable for women in warm weather, and the range of acceptable
footwear is broader overall.

• Makeup isn’t required, but if worn, ensure it is not loud. The sparkle eyeshadow is best done
without.

And finally those Shopping tips(only if you think you need them!)

• Take a friend if and only if you think s/he’ll actually give good advice and you actually want to
listen to it. Otherwise, it can just be extra stress.

• Go at a quiet time (not Saturday, not lunchtime) when the stores are less busy.
• To a certain extent, price does indicate quality, and quality is worth paying a little extra for.
Higher quality garments won’t need replacing as often, and are cut and constructed with greater
care so they will sit better on your body and make you appear to better advantage. I’m not
saying go for the most expensive brand name, but conversely don’t just go for the cheapest you
can find.

Every company has its own stipulated “dress code”. It is professional and courteous to stick by it.
To reiterate: “appropriateness” is the key and with it unlocks your exciting life ahead. The clock is
ticking.