Often neglected but critical parts of the professional dress ensemble are shoes, socks, and accessories such as jewelry and glasses. Making the right decisions about what to wear and what to wear it with can enhance your image.
Making the wrong choices could take the focus away from you, affect your communication and leave your current and potential clients with the wrong impression.
A Shoe in
Your professional image of excellence must be complemented by the right shoes and socks. If you want to pick out a well-dressed man, look down. Shoes, like ties, say a lot about you and should be the best quality you can afford. In business you have the option of the traditional lace-ups, the capped toe, wing tips or the popular leather slip-on. A laced shoe is dressier. If you choose a slip-on, the simple tassel style is recommended; the penny-loafer and shoes with buckles are too casual for most business suits and it should be worn for sport coats and business casual attire only.
Boots may be an appropriate shoe in some cities around the country, but the problem is that in a global economy, we are doing business with clients from all over the world and an item that is traditional to one culture may not be appropriate or understood across the board. In many countries, boots are used only to ride horses.
The most appropriate color for shoes is black combined with black, navy or gray socks. Black shoes go well with all navy and gray suits. Brown shoes are more appropriate with earth tones, even though some fine clothiers suggest that brown shoes also combine with black, gray and navy. Cordovan–a reddish-black-burgundy (no brown) is another choice for suits and sport coats, especially recommended for slip-ons. Avoid any other color such as navy, gray or light trendy colors. Business shoes should be made only of leather which includes the upper part and the soles. Thick rubber soles, regardless of how comfortable they may be, do not measure up to your professional image. If the nature of our job requires rubber soles for safety, look for the thinnest rubber soles you can find. Choose a calfskin leather rather than suede. Remember to coordinate your shoes and belt colors.
Caring For Your Shoes
“You can tell if a person is meticulous or not by observing whether the shoes are well-cared for, polished or in need of new heels. If they are shabby, then the person is obviously not one who is attentive to details,” says men’s clothing designer Roger Baugh.
Many experts claim that you could double the life of your favorite shoes by simply putting a shoe tree into them at the end of each day. The shoe tree absorbs the moisture produced by daily perspiration which prevents the leather from curling and creasing.
Allow shoes to rest at least 36 to 48 hours after each wearing. Your feet will also benefit, as most podiatrists recommend alternating shoes every day so your feet aren’t constantly rubbed at the same points. Polish your shoes after each wearing, removing the dust and surface dirt first; also remember to polish underneath in the arch as well as on the top.
Choose only wool, cotton, or wool and silk blends. Natural fibers allow a better flow of air, cutting down perspiration and heat, so your feet will remain cool during the day.
Select solid colors or subtle patterns such as bird’s-eye, nail’s head or paisley in colors that blend with the shoe or the trousers. Argyles and bright colors are not appropriate for suits; use them for business casual and sportswear only. Needless to say, white has no place in business.
Regardless of the color and pattern you select, your socks must be long enough to cover the calf. No one would appreciate looking at your hairy leg. This cardinal rule was confirmed by a poll conducted with professional men and women in 2020. The female professionals listed three things about their male colleagues that they considered unprofessional:
- too short socks that allow the leg to show
- pants below the belly
- dirty fingernails
The Finishing Touches
The finishing touches are the accessories that you wear every day that either complement or detract from your image of excellence including your belt, watch, and glasses; these should be the best quality you can afford.
When selecting belts, anything other than leather in black, brown or cordovan with a simple gold buckle is out of place with a business suit. A belt should be in the same color family as your shoes, although they don’t need to match exactly. Avoid showy or decorative belt buckles. You want to draw attention to your face (framed by your shirt, tie and coat combination) not to your waist. The only function of a belt is to hold up your trousers, not to make a statement. Please remember to keep it in good condition!
Many young professionals have discovered that wearing glasses makes them look more credible and authoritative. Many others wear them for practical reasons.
Whatever frame you select, the lenses must be clear, not tinted because eye contact is one of the most powerful tools you have in business, and the less interference that you put between you and the other person, the easier the communication process.
If your hair and eyebrows are dark, select dark frames such as tortoise shell. If your hair is light or gray, select a metal frame in either gold or silver.
When it comes to jewelry, less is more. Here is a simple checklist:
- Limit your rings to two: a signet or similar style and a wedding band.
- Choose a simple and elegant watch with a leather or metal watchband. Avoid plastic, heavy sport watches with calculators or alarms that will interrupt a meeting.
- Leave the disposable pens on your desk. For meetings with clients, peers and supervisors, use a quality ball-point or fountain pen.
- Avoid medallions, gold chains and tribal wood carvings.
- Earrings in most work environments are not appropriate.
The difference between being dressed and well-dressed are the details, and your accessories are the details that are a part of this difference. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the details!