How to Look Professionally Smart on a Budget…. Gentlemen’s Edition

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We all judge each other based on appearances. There, I said it!

Like it or not, our physical appearance plays an important part in the way others perceive us professionally. I often hear people say they don’t care about what people think about them, as long as they are happy. Really?

Would you be comfortable working next to a colleague who has a body odour or bad breath? How about attending an important client/prospective client meeting with a colleague who looks unkempt? What about if YOU were that person? I’m just keeping it real since we all need #adoseofreality

I personally think many men let us (all men) down by not paying proper attention to their appearance. Details matter and we need to get a few things right from the start – the earlier the better.

Allow me to share a few things I’ve learnt on my gentleman’s journey in the professional world.

1. Keep it neutral

When it comes to professional menswear, I would recommend sticking to neutral colors (i.e. white, black, navy, grey, khaki, brown and my personal favorite – sky blue).

These colors can easily be mixed and matched unlike bolder colors. Perhaps a 4:1 ratio of neutrals to non-neutrals could be used as a guide. Most of my trousers are black and navy and my shirts are white and sky blue, and I am able to easily combine them to get multiple outfits!

2. Avoid bold graphics

The transition to a professional life means that unless you are wearing your company branded clothes, you should avoid wearing work clothes (including ties, shirts and trousers) with logos and other graphics. Yes, you have transitioned from being “one of the boys” to being in “the league of men” and things are more serious now.

3. Get your tailor on board

It is true that menswear, especially good quality shirts, are expensive. But who said you can’t look like James bond (with his excellent fitting clothes) on a tight budget?

Get yourself a tailor to resize your clothes (especially the loose fitting and over-sized ones). Believe me, you will look like the smart gentleman you are with tailor-fitted clothes!

4. Respect the rules for mixing shirts and patterned ties

Yes there are rules! I won’t say too much except that you MUST respect the rules in order to be taken seriously. Click here for a cheat sheet to see what I mean.

5. Trousers are important too

Let’s be honest, we don’t wash our trousers after every wear do we? Dude, we should! However if for some reason we are not able to, we should at least air-dry our trousers between every wear.

I would recommend a fantastic product called Febreeze for keeping clothes fresh between washes. Febreeze is available in most supermarkets. Also, trousers should be washed after every 3 wears.

Lastly, since the “wear and tear” of trousers is quicker than jackets, I would recommend to having at least two trousers per jacket in your wardrobe.

6. Undershirts/vests/t-shirts

It is highly recommended, especially in tropical climates, to always wear an undershirt under your shirt, as these absorb the sweat from your body. My preference is to wear a t-shirt style undershirt as it covers the one the body part that sweats the most (armpits).

7. Take care of your shoes

Imagine you are required to remove your shoes in public, would you be ashamed to do so? Would you start apologizing for the bad smell? Your shoes are as important as your shirts and should be treated as such.

You should have at least two pairs of black shoes and one pair of dark brown shoes on your shoe-rack.

Your shoes should be air- dried when you are not wearing them and should ALWAYS be worn with a pair of socks.

Socks should be worn only once and then washed after each wear. I would recommend having five pairs of dark colored socks in order to keep this practice up.

To increase the life expectancy of your shoes, I would recommend adding a layer to your rubber soles. The additional layer under your shoes will protect them from damage and extend the shoe’s life span.

Regularly check that layer to ensure part or all of it, is not run-off, so that you can go back to your local shoemaker to remove and replace the existing layer.

Look sharp by polishing your leather shoes regularly (daily, every two days, etc.). In a dusty environment, you will benefit from polishing your leather shoes multiple times a day, but at least daily.

Mistake or misconception?

Manicure and Pedicure is for ladies: Manicure (a cosmetic treatment of the hands involving shaping and removal of the cuticles and softening of the skin) and pedicure (a cosmetic treatment of the feet and toenails.) are not just for ladies!!! With a tight budget, you can buy nail clippers to cut and streamline your nails yourself,

Body lotion is not necessary: Having dry ashy skin is not cool. Guys, please use body lotion.

I don’t need Lip balm: Chapped and cracked lips are not appealing especially in dry weather. Get some lip balm or shea butter and slap it on those lips!

Practically speaking, you need to plan with your salary. Rome wasn’t built in one day and as much as practicable, try and buy at least one professional item of clothing every month. Eventually and with time, you will succeed in building an enviable professional wardrobe.

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