Are These Style Mistakes Ruining Your Career Opportunities?

by Sunjeev Prasad  |  in Business Attire

The following is a guest article from Sunjeev Prasad of Street Gentlemen.


The blink of an eye. That’s your window of opportunity.

Do you feel like you give your best effort at work, but you barely get the recognition you deserve?

I know the feeling.

In my university days—prior to launching Street Gentlemen—I worked as a server and bartender to pay tuition. It was grueling work. Especially the shifts that lasted until 2AM after being up that morning at 6AM for class.

I gave it my best effort and did everything management asked for. But it always seemed like the ‘favorite’ staff got the best shifts.

They would get the best sections on the busiest nights. That meant more tips.

In other words, they earned more money than me.

It wasn’t until I found out what I was doing wrong that it finally made sense. Eventually I did work my way up to the most coveted shifts. I thought it was strictly due to my work ethic.

Little did I know that my efforts to improve my appearance over the years actually played a factor. Or that the same principles would apply to the corporate environment.

Don't Let These Style Mistakes Ruin Your Career Opportunities

First Impressions Matter

People make snap judgements about us all the time. It happens whenever we’re dealing with others face-to-face — in a restaurant, around the office, or at a networking event.

The reason is that we process over 60,000 thoughts per day. Wouldn’t it be tiring to consciously deal with every single one?

As a result we only have a quarter second to make a first impression.

A study conducted by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital found that this is based on our looks alone!

Think about how many complex, big-picture decisions a CEO has to make on a daily basis. They have intense demands on their time. There’s no way they can fully get to know each and every member of their team.

They’re forced to trust their gut. To make snap decisions.

According to this study, 76% of executives say “notable appearance blunders” can “derail talented up-and-comers.” I’ve compiled this list to help you get ahead and leave the style mistakes behind.

Dirty Nails

This should be a no-brainer. Poor hygiene reflects lack of attention to detail — bad for workplace success.

Don't Let These Style Mistakes Ruin Your Career Opportunities
Good hygiene is a sign of self-respect. Slip-ups could signal that things aren’t going so well for you.

Want to be perceived as a leader? Don’t settle for poor grooming.

Scuffed-Up Shoes

Your entire look can be flawless. Every detail carefully chosen — pocket square, tie, and suit.

But scuffed up shoes ruin even the best outfits.

Don't Let These Style Mistakes Ruin Your Career Opportunities
People notice the condition of your shoes almost instantly. So you’ve got to clean and shine them regularly.

Worn out beyond repair? Toss ‘em without thinking twice.

Savage Facial Hair

The difference between a beard that’s work appropriate vs. savage comes down to maintenance.

If you’re taking the beard route keep it under control. Loose hairs and rough edges are definite style mistakes. And sure signs that it needs some loving.

Keep the edges of your beard clean. Shave the top and bottom lines daily. Go with the grain to avoid razor burn and always remember to moisturize after.

You need to trim the wild hairs within your beard too. Your best bet is to use a precision trimmer like this one from Braun.

You also want to keep in mind the dress-code expectations of your office. If it’s more buttoned-up and conservative, perhaps clean-shaven would be your best bet.

In open, creative working environments you can rock a full beard without getting a slap on the wrist from HR.

Stained Clothing

There comes a point when it’s time to part ways with old clothing. Yes, it might be comfortable or have a lot of sentimental value.

But stains are never acceptable.

A great way to minimize stains is to be mindful of your eating habits. Maybe spaghetti for lunch isn’t the best idea.

A classic trick is tucking your napkin into your shirt collar. Sure, it may feel a little odd at first. But it’s worth it to save your beloved shirts.

Keep in mind that lighter colors are always more likely to be stained – and not just from coffee or food.

These are common stains guys have to deal with:

  • Sweat
  • Anti-perspirant
  • Salt on leather shoes (specifically in winter)
  • Raw denim stains on light footwear

Sweat is the #1 enemy of shirts, especially when it comes to lighter colors like white, blue, or pink. Be mindful of your cuffs and collars since sweat stains appear there first.

If you happen to be cursed with a stain, don’t panic. Certain food stains (like most sauces) can be minimized by dabbing them with soda water on a napkin.

Heavier stains should be addressed with a stain remover pen. Store one in your jacket pocket or desk drawer for easy access.

Of course, anything with an obvious stain needs to go. If you’re really attached to an item, save it as a layering shirt to go underneath sweaters.

Wrinkled Clothing

Wrinkles make it look like you don’t care enough to put in the effort to present yourself professionally.

Have you ever seen a CEO or President with a wrinkled shirt on? Not a chance!

The first step to becoming a leader is to have people picture you as one.

Are These Style Mistakes Ruining Your Career Opportunities?
Avoid this problem by investing in a quality iron or steamer. T-Fal makes great irons that don’t stick to your clothes or leak water all over them. Their steamers are also well-reviewed.

Having the time to iron or steam your clothes first thing in the morning isn’t always an option. Your best bet is to have everything pressed ahead of time. You’re guaranteed to step out the door looking your best.

Bonus benefit: This makes you plan your outfits ahead too.

Little Details, Big Impact

Little style mistakes can make or break your chances of climbing the corporate ladder. Everything – from personal hygiene to proper care of your business attire – plays a factor.

Being the smartest, hardest working guy in the office isn’t everything. Up your style game. Your boss and co-workers will take notice.

Has your personal style helped your career? What style advice has helped you advance professionally?