Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Style Tips for Working with Men

As I mention frequently here, I am basically the lone female at my work. Not that I mind working with men, but it can definitely make me feel like an outsider at times.

But more importantly, it's a lot easier to learn about male behavior and how they view women when you're working in a sea of them. While I could probably write dozens of posts about what I've learned about men by working with so many of them, I'll start with this: fashion and style. 

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been experimenting with some different looks and taking notice of the reactions of my coworkers. While I have received several compliments and comments on my outfits, most of my tips come from observing their behavior around me and dissecting their own style choices.
  • Skirts confuse men. Most men associate skirts and dresses with women dressing up. No matter how casual the skirt or dress, be prepared to answer the age-old question, "Why are you so dressed up?" (Depending on who's asking, the easiest reply is that you are all dressed up for them). I'm not saying you shouldn't wear skirts if you have male coworkers, but skirts make it more obvious to men that you are, in fact, a woman.
  • No open-toed shoes. First of all, no matter how casual your work environment is, NEVER NEVER NEVER wear flip-flops to work. Now that that's out of the way, men are pretty unobservant when it comes to fashion. Do you think most of them see a difference between flip-flops and sandals? Nope, sandals are just fancy flip-flops so take them off the work wardrobe list. Secondly, no matter how trendy, what is the point of peep-toed shoes? The only thing I could possibly think of is to show off a bit of a pedicure. Just to be safe, don't wear anything that shows off toes because it either seems casual or ridiculous.
  • If you want to wear something tight, make sure everything you're wearing isn't tight. If you wear both a tight top and tight pants, you just end up looking trashy. And count low-cut as tight just to be safe. 
  • Tuck in your shirt if possible. If your shirt is long enough to stay tucked in all day, tuck it in. However, if it comes undone the minute you sit down, don't worry about it. It will look more unprofessional to keep pulling and tucking it all day rather than just leaving it untucked.
  • Bold lipstick is a bad idea. Unless you are one of the rare people who can manage to keep it on all day, go for a more subtle look. That way no one will notice when it smudges off, or worse, smudges on your face.
  • No matter the styling and accessories, a plain t-shirt isn't acceptable. This one has some caveats to it. I'm not saying you should wear only graphic tees. No matter what the rest of the outfit looks like, an uncovered plain t-shirt doesn't work. I've worn solid colored tees with jeans, slacks, a variety of skirts, brooches, statement necklaces, you name it. Men just see it and think casual. The best way to incorporate them is with layering. They are fine under vests, sweaters, other blouses, and blazers, just not alone. If you choose to try to style one uncovered, it's probably best to try on a Friday.
  • Men think women wobble in heels. They can be your most comfortable pair of heels. Maybe you can walk better in them than in flats, but men underestimate heels. Don't let that translate into them underestimating you. Unless you are 100% confident in a pair, try breaking them in on date night, rather than at work.
  • Have a signature style. Look around at your male coworkers. They're kind of like cartoon characters; you'd expect to open their closets and see twenty of the same outfit. My manager always wears a t-shirt, shorts, a ball cap, and sneakers. My mentor always wears a polo and jeans. My project leader always wears a long-sleeved button-up with slacks. My dad always wear a short-sleeved button-up with jeans. Men have a signature look and stick to it. Usually out of laziness, but for the most part, they don't play with fashion. I'm not saying you should play with it because determining a work look is very difficult and will require some experimenting. but keep the outfits that may be out of character to the weekends until you're sure it could be a safe look for work.
    Hopefully this helped to better understand the creatures around you and blend in/stand out when you need it most.

    1 comment:

    1. I'm also a female engineer in a male-dominated work environment (although mine is manufacturing, so much more limited on styles which are even permitted). Although I'll mention that our dress code is very casual, I've noticed that the way to pull off a plain t-shirt is a statement necklace. But, if I'm feeling dressy, I'll throw on a vest over it.