“Dress like the entrepreneur everybody wants to invest in.”
The hoodie-black-T-shirt-jeans look that tech entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg made iconic has been the unofficial uniform for entrepreneurs in the startup ecosystem for a while now. But many have come to realize that curating your look, dressing up and expressing yourself, and by extension your brand, speaks volumes.
The power dressing code today is much like an unspoken language. You want to stand out but also keep in mind that potential clientele are still looking for an ambitious, visionary, goal-oriented professional and not just a finely dressed dandy.
As an entrepreneur and founder of your company, you have the power to shape your dress code and make a strong first impression. Since you are an extension of your brand and what it stands for, what you choose to wear becomes a representation of your brand too.
Start with corporate wardrobe basics
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Getting your essentials right is the first step. Power isn’t just showcased in wearing something sombre, but rather defining the look that provides maximum self-expression, a feeling of confidence and competence.
A classic navy blue or charcoal grey suit is the backbone of every man’s wardrobe. Two piece options make you look sharp and classy. Glen plaids and pin stripe patterned suits can give you a break from the solids, while still being conventional enough for office wear. Let’s not forget a classic black suit for formal evening events either.
A pair of chinos or wool-flannel trousers are must-haves, along with classic dress pants. Aside from your crisp white dress shirts, try light blues, greys, pink and lilac shirts too. For patterned shirt options, go for pinstripes, graph checks and small (think tiny) repeat patterns.
These safe, time tested wardrobe staples can be relied on to take you through meetings with clients and investors.
Add semi-casual and casual elements
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Now that you have your basics covered, it’s time to introduce high-lo styling, with an emphasis on comfort. Running a company is hard enough, don’t add to the stress by being uncomfortable. Mix things up with plain t-shirts and turtlenecks, preferably in neutral shades, dark wash denims, chinos, casual shirts, and versatile blazers.
Good quality T-shirts and turtlenecks are good throw-on items which will match anything you own in your workwear wardrobe, from suits to blazer and denim looks.
Dark wash denims and chinos can be your go-to option for Friday dressing. Stick to regular fits and dark washes when it comes to denims instead of opting for something in a trendy skinny fit with a strong fade.
Casual shirts worn to work should ideally be in neutral tones, but with bolder details like plaids, ginghams or conversation prints. These will still look like part of your workwear while holding their own.
Knit blazers are a wardrobe staple that will help you navigate transitional weather, and a better work wear alternative to casual jackets. Navy blue blazers are one of those pieces that every man should own and they can be effortlessly styled to go from boardrooms to pubs.
You can wear looks interspersed with casual elements for your day to day operations and weekend outings.
Don’t forget accessories
Your formal corporate wardrobe should have a collection of complementary ties, pocket squares and socks. Think neutral colors, and tiny repeat patterns. Similarly, don’t forget to keep a pair or two of formal Oxford shoes in black and burgundy brown and matching leather belts. You can still show off your unique sense of style with statement ties, pocket squares, watches, tie pins and cufflinks.
Show off your playful side on Fridays and weekends by accessorising smart with a powerful man bag, funky coloured pair of socks, and white sneakers. If you want to break out your expensive digital watch, this is your chance. They add extra pizzazz to your look. Add leather boots and monk strap shoes for semi-formal occasions too.
Tailored clothes and subtle design elements
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The new power dress code is a refined take on the uber masculine style from previous decades. Think less bold shoulders and more fine tailoring – a look that is at once modern, sharp and sensuous. Subtle design elements like your choice in buttons, fabrics and lining, can amplify your appearance and show off your eye for detail.
Ultimately what matters is to be the best version of yourself. When you look good, you feel great and you perform better. The key to dressing as a startup founder is to dress yourself in a way that expresses your true self, while adhering to the expectation of others. And allow it to change, and evolve with you as your company grows.