Pioneers Get the Arrows

How to use Fashion to Differentiate Without Standing Out in a Conservative Work Environment

You’ve probably heard the saying that pioneers get all the arrows or the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. But if you don’t want to blend in with the rest of the cogs, how do you use fashion to differentiate yourself without standing out?

Approachability:

A smile goes a long way, but a 2 button, light grey suit with a playfully set puff in the breast pocket also helps to set a tone.

In conservative work environments where you have to portray reliability, thoughtfulness, and trustworthiness, how do you make sure you’re not lost amongst your colleagues? Good work is first and foremost, but if good work isn’t cutting it, then let’s consider what your wardrobe is saying about you?

Colour choices can help make you more approachable. Wearing lighter suits and accenting with “cheery” colours such as light blues and pinks can help make you feel more collegial. If your workplace seems to promote from the crowd at the water cooler, consider slight touches of colour. The way to do this well without being the guy in a pink shirt when everyone else is wearing white or blue is to think of ways you can accent your suit. Wear a pocket square that has a bit of pink in it as opposed to being a pink pocket square. Wear a tie that has some light blue in it without it being an overtly bright tie. Subtle touches can go a long way. 

Put-togetherness:

From hair to toe, being put together is a way of presenting yourself as trustworthy, reliable, and competent.

Put togetherness gives you an aura of poise and control. Is your beard trimmed or do you look like you’ve pulled an all-nighter? Are your shoes polished and the appropriate style or are they dirty and messy (a connotation that you don’t have enough time to care about the details)? Is your shirt pressed or creased like you didn’t bother to iron it after doing your laundry? Are you pants faded? All these little details contribute to how put-together you appear at work in front of your colleagues, your bosses, and your clients. 

Rememberability:

Think you would forget this guy? He’s put-together, connotes trust and competence, and knows what he’s doing, all while staying within a conservative palate.

People will remember you if you wear lime green anything to work, but that’s not how you probably want to be remembered. Instead, be remembered because there’s something about you that stands out. The person seeing you may not know, but you will. You will because you’ve put effort into differentiating yourself instead of standing out. You use every opportunity available to you for your own competitive edge. If you have a breast pocket, have a square or puff in it. If you have a belt, it compliments your shoes. The key I’ve learned from top execs who do this best is to utilize every opportunity available to you, and accessorizing appropriately is the best way to do this. Wear a scarf made from a wool-silk blend that won’t pill or that doesn’t look heavy around your neck, wear a watch that connotes reliability and not a need for attention.

Pioneers may get all the arrows, but they also get the glory.