Have you noticed how much more 'together' people in business look nowadays? You used to be able to throw on a cheap suit, drag a brush through your hair and schlep off to the office feeling fine.
If you do that now you find yourself in the lift with people who look like they were on 'The Apprentice' last week - and feeling insignificant and unprofessional in comparison. It's all glossy, well-behaved hair, manicured nails (men and women!), shiny shoes and a can-do attitude now.
It's enough to make you want to crawl back into bed.
But all it takes is a new routine and some clever choices to keep up with the in crowd - not buckets of money and a team of stylists. Here are a few tips from those in the know:
- Start a routine and stick to it by adding it to your diary. So an hour on Friday nights could be for washing your work clothes, Saturday for ironing them, Sundays for doing your nails. (I do mine watching Sunday night TV and have been doing it so long I would fee odd if I didn't).
- Ladies need nails that aren't so long that they can't pick up a paperclip, but aren't so short that they look like they have a nail-biting habit. Varnish isn't essential but can add to your look - as long as you touch it up or remove it at the first sign of a chip.
- Men need to keep their nails trimmed short, with the cuticles pushed back, and very clean.
- Ladies will need to schedule a weekly eyebrow-tidy. Men need to keep on top of their facial (and nose) hair too.
- Book hairdressing appointments at 6-8 week intervals, again add them to your diary. Keeping your hair in good condition starts with a good, regular cut.† Hair products don't have to cost a lot, some of the cheapest have won the most awards.
- Men - if you have a beard keep it trimmed, brushed and conditioned so it looks like you have chosen the look and not just come back from 6 months in the wilderness. If your skin under your beard gets itchy and sore, smooth on some oil (grapeseed from the supermarket is good, coconut even better) and relax in the bath for 20 minutes. You'll need to wash it off with shampoo but your beard will look great and your skin will be calm and contented again.
- Fragrance - daily deodorant is essential. Chose a non or lightly-fragranced one so it doesn't clash with anything else you wear. After-shave and perfume are very personal choices - just don't wear too much. We quickly get used to smells and think we haven't put enough on! If someone you work with is allergic to perfume try using a single essential oil diluted in a bit of vodka as your fragrance, you can keep it in an atomiser. Sandalwood is lovely for men; women smell great in geranium or bergamot.
- Men - don't forget to use moisturiser on your skin. So many men have unappealing skin because they don't.
- Stick to a small numer of pairs of shoes - because the more you have the less likely you are to keep on top of their appearance. Get them re-heeled regularly (you can request 'quieter' or less slippy heels, depending on your needs) and touch up any scuff marks. Keep a shoe polish device (very cheap from supermarkets) somewhere handy - desk drawer, car glovebox, etc. - so you can give them a quick once-over whenever they start to look a bit sad. If you don't have anything handy, buy and eat a banana and use the inside of the peel to wipe your shoes. Works a treat!
- Clothes. Sign up for newsletters of your favourite brands/shops so you will find out when their sales are due - and stock up. If money is an issue, Ebay is great! Do some saved searches for clothes in your size, favourite brand, colour or design and you can pick up some fabulous bargains.
- Organise your wardrobe so you can find things. It's better to have fewer clothes as they are easier to organise, so give some to the charity shop and throw away any that are torn or worn thin.
- Keep things that crease easily on hangers.
- Store clothes that are too small/large or out of season (i.e. big jumpers in Summer) in bin bags or cases - preferably in a storage area such as a loft or garage. But make a list of what's in the bags first so you'll know where to find them.
- Keep a grooming kit somewhere handy (again - cars and desk drawers are the most popular places), containing:
Ladies - spare tights, a little sponge pot of nail varnish remover, fold-up brush with mirror, wet wipes or hand sanitiser, tissues, emery board, hand cream (dry nails with straggly cuticles can look better immediately after you rub in some hand cream - and you will be able to push your cuticles back neatly too), deodorant and/or perfume. Depending on your make-up needs: lipstick, mascara, powder sheets, eye liner.
Men - nail clippers, a comb or brush, nose clippers, spare socks, deodorant, wet wipes or hand sanitiser, tissues.
Keeping up with the in crowd isn't hard with a bit of planning and statistics show that you are more likley to get promoted if your personal appearance is professional.