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You can put your polished foot forward - but don't go over the top
Published on Thursday, 29 Sep 2011
Illustration: Bay Leung

Most people early on in their career experience some uncertainty about what to wear to work. It's an issue that can be particularly troubling if you are leaving behind student life for the more formally attired world of the office.

The trick is to keep your wardrobe simple, and not to turn yourself into a designer clothes-horse. American writer Mark Twain's comment that "clothes make the man" was not an exhortation to dash off to Harbour City or any of Hong Kong's other posh malls and pound your credit card into submission. Follow these five rules and you won't go far wrong.  

Investigate If you're not sure what to wear, find out. Phone your new boss and ask, or spend a morning observing people in your industry arriving at work.  

It's all about the basicsThe condition and fit of your clothes is much more important than their label - yes, even in Hong Kong. Polish your shoes; replace items that are worn or frayed; get a good haircut and make sure your nails look good. Make sure the colours you wear are simple and well coordinated. This rule applies every bit as much to casual wear in the office as it does to formal wear. 

Accesorise One fashion industry maxim that does apply is that accessories are all important. Bags, watches, belts, cufflinks should all be chosen to increase your air of professionalism. It doesn't matter how much your suit cost, if you pair it with a canary yellow diving watch. Keep jewellery and nail polish simple - and cover any tattoos. 

Dress suitably Dress for the job you want, not the one you're in. There's nothing wrong with aspiration - aim your image a level higher than your actual position. 

Don't overdo itIt's not a fashion show. Your appearance should complement your performance and underline your professionalism, not have your colleagues wondering how long you spend getting ready every morning.

Matthew Hill, managing director, Ambition Hong Kong


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