Why Colour (& Style) Matters In The Workplace

House of colour
House of colour
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Could the colours and styles you wear help you achieve more in the workplace? personal-services-franchisesBrian Coyle thinks so.

A colour and style class with House of Colour meant his subsequent wardrobe changes led to more compliments, conversations, confidence and inclusivity in his work life. Much greater visibility to senior management followed, which lead to two promotions in three years at BT. He was so bowled over by the impact of colour and style in his working life that he became a Consultant himself.

House of Colour is now over 30 years old but has recently fine-tuned its focus to include the burgeoning corporate market. Helen Venables, MD of House of Colour says: “At a time when the workplace is increasingly competitive, many of our clients are businessmen and women who are fed up of looking stuffy, ordinary and anonymous. They need to make their mark in the workplace and they want to be confident about what suits them, and know how to put a capsule corporate wardrobe together in their wow colours and best style to showcase their very own, authentic personal brand.”

Coyle agrees: “Whether we like it or not, how we present ourselves in the workplace can alter how people see your personal and your company brand. A new boss should aim to exude authority but also be approachable; a manager presenting to a new client needs to look professional and memorable for the right reasons. Given we make up our minds about someone within the first few seconds of meeting them, it follows that our first impressions alone can alter future relationships between client and service provider, boss and employee, or colleagues. However, it’s also never too late to change!”

So are employers additionally buying into the importance of personal presence through colour and style? Venables says: “Employers are increasingly offering their employees style and colour away days to build loyalty and employee confidence but also to ensure their employees are also fitting in well with the company brand. Your brand exists through the people who deliver it. Employers are increasingly valuing that employee confidence is key; as is enabling individual personalities to shine through as long as they are congruent with the company product, brand or service.”

We know that colour is influential. Research participants who wore red in one study reported feeling more physically attractive, which is interesting because primary red is the only colour that suits absolutely everyone according to House of Colour. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, subjects who donned white coats that they thought belonged to doctors did better on tests than those who wore casual clothes, or those who thought the coats belonged to artists.

However, Helen Venables is quick to point out that workplace attire has changed: “In the past, we were always told to stay away from bright colours, patterns and prints at work for the risk of it looking too unprofessional and showy! Now, we are blessed with a more accepting workplace where we are venturing away from a sensible black, blue, white and grey ‘uniform’ and opting for smart designs and splashes of colour paired with gorgeous neutrals.

“The right colours make us feel positive about ourselves, appear healthy and vibrant and means we are more likely to buy into your confidence and leadership qualities which gives you a competitive edge. The wrong colours can make us look drained and typecast and can alter our moods negatively which affects the way we behave and the impression we give to everyone around us. If you look like you take care of yourself and have thought about your appearance, you are more likely to win new business, do well in presentations and build successful work relationships.

“The truth is it is harder these days to get a job and progress in your career. We are needing to work harder and smarter, and part of that is by standing out in a positive way and being noticed for all the right reasons. When we liaise, present, network and manage we need to look and feel good.”

Helen Venables’ Top Tips for Making The Right Impression At Work

  1. Wear clothes that fit you. Very baggy shirts and oversized jackets may look slouchy and un-kempt. In the same way, tight fitting dresses, skirts and shirts could give your colleagues and clients the wrong impression.
  1. Get to know your red. Red in the workplace is so powerful and can be worked with any seasonal palate. For example, if you are a Winter, opt for deep burgundy and blue based reds. If you are a Summer, try Cherry red variations. Autumns are best in fiery brick reds and Springs in bright and warm Geranium reds. Alternatively keep it subtle with just one item of red, like a bold red lip, or a scarf or tie for a man.
  2. Pair bold shirts or blouses with neutral jackets or vice versa. Work clothes don’t have to be boring, but you don’t want to dazzle and distract with a rainbow of colours. One impact colour and two neutrals are a good rule of thumb. Add an extra colour with your blouse, belt, scarf, bag or shoes to make your outfit ‘pop’, it will make you more memorable to everyone you meet.
  1. Quality speaks loudly, so pay attention to getting good quality shirts, blouses, jackets, accessories etc. for work, that extra investment will send the message that you are worth it!
  1. Accessorise! A silk scarf will soften an otherwise harsh tailored suit, or layering necklaces could give an edge to your outfit dependent on your ideal style.