How to Dress for Success

The other day I got my copy of a great new Walk the Talk book full of life and career success advice. I really like the people at Walk the Talk, they have published three of my books. Their books are no BS – clear, concise and to the point. Their latest, 180 Ways to Live Your Life Like It Matters, by Scott Black is no exception. You can get it at

This week I want to feature some of Scott’s life and career advice.

Point 54 says…

Dress for success. There is a term used in the fields of leadership and goal setting: “as if.” AS IF is a great way to move from where you are to where you want to be. If you start dressing AS IF you are successful, you will feel more successful. And that affects your confidence and the way you view yourself. Commit to maintaining a successful, professional appearance and notice how you feel…and how others treat you.

I offer similar career advice in tweet 67 in my career advice book Success Tweets. “Demonstrate self-respect. Be impeccable in your presentation of self.”

Successful people dress for success. You don’t have to spend a fortune to dress well. Here are my best tips for looking good at work.

Business Casual…

Men should wear khaki or light gray slacks, an oxford cloth button-down shirt and a blue blazer, and carry a “just in case” tie in their briefcase. Women should wear slacks or a skirt, blouse and jacket.

If you don’t know, err on the safe side. Men and women should wear suits, and men should wear a tie. It’s always OK to ask about a company’s dress code when you are arranging a first meeting.

Quality matters…

All of your clothing should be of quality fabric, clean and neatly pressed. Shoes should be shined. Heels should not be worn down.


Wear your hair neatly styled. Make sure your breath is fresh. Keep your fingernails trimmed and clean.


If women don’t wear hosiery, they should make sure their legs are well maintained. They should wear professional shoes in the office. Save the strappy sandals for weekends and get-togethers with friends.

Have an “Outfit B”…

It’s a good idea to keep a backup business outfit in your office. This can help when you have an unexpected meeting come up – or worse yet – if a waiter spills something on you at a business lunch.

Here’s an example of the importance of “Outfit B.” The idea really hit home with me. Several years ago, I was conducting an off-site team-building retreat. We were in a meeting room at a hotel. We adjourned to the dining room for lunch. The person next to me order fried mozzarella sticks as an appetizer. They came with a side of marinara sauce. We were squeezed in pretty tight. When the waiter came with the fried mozzarella, he was balancing the cheese and marinara sauce on a small tray. My friend said, “Let me help you,” and picked up the mozzarella sticks. That upset the balance of the tray, and the marinara sauce spilled all over me. I was wearing a pair of light-colored khaki slacks and a light pink button-down shirt. Both were ruined.

Fortunately, I was staying at the hotel where the meeting was taking place and was able to go to my room and change. However, from that day forward, I always kept a change of clothing in the closet in my office at work. I never needed them, but I felt better being prepared.

A while back I came across a great article on called, “What Professionals Should Never (Ever) Wear.” Here are the items that the authors suggested you should not wear to work. Some are funny. Some are downright stupid. They all are just not good common sense…

  • Crocs
  • Uggs
  • Fanny Packs
  • Scrunchies
  • Sweatshirts and Sweatpants
  • Footless Leggings and Spandex/Yoga Pants
  • Leather Pants
  • Face Tattoos
  • Velour/Juicy Tracksuits
  • Message T-Shirts
  • Too Much Exposed Skin
  • Heavy – or no – Makeup
  • What You Wore Yesterday
  • Sequins
  • Flip-Flop Sandals
  • Excessive Jewelry
  • Sports Teams Jerseys
  • Hats and Caps
  • Excessively Long Fingernails
  • Messy, Wrinkled or Torn Clothing
  • Wallet Chain
  • Glitter
  • Sunglasses Indoors
  • All-Over Animal Print
  •  Short Shorts

You’d think that people would have the common sense to avoid wearing these items at work. However, I can recall seeing each of these fashion faux pas – with the exception of Mike Tyson face tattoos – in places where I have worked. One of my professors at the Harvard Business School used to wear a wallet chain. He looked like a biker in a suit. I don’t understand why people don’t use wooden watches more often, they are a simple accessory that can make you look very professional and classy at the same time.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Successful people create positive personal impact. You can create positive personal impact by being impeccable in your presentation of self. Follow Scott Black’s advice, dress for success. Professionals should dress in a professional manner. Your attire and grooming are important keys to creating positive personal impact. It’s important to look good. Wear quality clothes and shoes that are in good repair. Keep your hair neat. Dress a little better than you have to. And, look in the mirror on your way out the door. Ask yourself, “Does what I’m wearing today demonstrate that I respect myself and the people I will meet today?” If yes, get going and have a great day. If no, take a few minutes and change into something more appropriate. You’ll build a professional brand and create the life and career success you want and deserve.

That’s my career advice, prompted by Scott Black’s thoughts on dressing for success in his new book 180 Ways to Live Your Life Like It Matters. What do you think? Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment. As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success. I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you check out my career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained. The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less. The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail. Go to to claim your free copy. You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: Have you seen my membership site, My Corporate Climb? It’s devoted to helping people just like you create career success inside large corporations. You can find out about it by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.




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