What to Wear to Your Startup Job

Working for a startup is great. While a corporate job may initially pay more and offer a better benefits package, startups offer a slew of their own perks. Working at a startup likely means being part of a small team and being presented with more opportunities. Instead of spending years climbing the corporate ladder, you’ll learn directly from true innovators in your industry and have a chance to advance.

For many people, though, one of the greatest things about working at a startup is having the opportunity to work in an awesome environment. Most startups list company culture as a primary concern, so you will probably be working with fun, like-minded people. You’ll get to participate in office outings that you’ll actually enjoy, and chances are, you won’t be required to spend your days wearing an uncomfortable suit.

The dress code for most startups is fairly relaxed. In some instances, there isn’t one at all. Having the freedom to wear what you want is one of the great things about working at a startup rather than accepting a job offer in the corporate world. It can also be a bit confusing, though. Even if there is no set dress code, it is still important to dress appropriately for the job.

If you are getting ready for your first day at a startup job and you’re blankly staring into your closet trying to decide what to wear, keep reading to discover some helpful advice.

First Things First – Use Common Sense

This should go without saying, but always remember to use common sense when trying to decide what to wear to work. Even if the company doesn’t have a specific policy regarding what you can and can’t wear, those ripped up jeans you’ve had since high school probably aren’t your best choice event though you may thing they add to your creative persona. Nor is that corset you love wearing over a longsleeve shirt when you go out on the weekends. Something doesn’t have to be strictly forbidden for it to be inappropriate.

If you were interviewed in person, think back to what your interviewers were wearing or what you saw other people in the office wearing.

This should give you a good idea of what is and is not appropriate. If you were interviewed over the phone or you just can’t remember how everyone was dressed, you can’t go wrong with business casual attire. You might find that you are a bit overdressed on your first day, but trust us, being overdressed is much better than showing up for your first day looking sloppy. Even if what you wear isn’t extremely important to your new boss, it’s always best to look like you put some thought and effort into your appearance.

Startup-Appropriate Workwear for Men

If you are a guy, getting ready to head to work at a startup is usually pretty easy. Most are fine with employees wearing jeans and plain shirts. Some even allow graphic tees, but if you go that route, be careful not to wear something that could be seen as offensive. First, get a feel for what your boss and your colleagues are wearing before deciding to start sporting Nike. 

When shopping for work-appropriate denim, look for jeans that fit well and are neatly tailored. Slim-fit and straight styles in dark washes are best. Avoid cargo jeans and any that are overly baggy or distressed. During the summer, many startups are fine with men wearing knee-length shorts.

When it comes to shirts, a plain t-shirt under a button‑up shirt is always a winner. Crew neck pocket t-shirts are great for work too, and they come in a rainbow of colours to suit your personal style. Basics like solid zip-up or half-zip hoodies are perfect for chilly days.

Startup Wear for Women

Jeans and a plain shirt are usually perfectly acceptable for ladies, too. Look for dark-rinse denim in straight, skinny or bootcut styles. Plain crew neck or V-neck t-shirts that are fitted but not overly tight are universally appropriate, and they look great both on their own and under neat cardigans or blazers.

When you work at a startup, even a nice pair of yoga pants may be acceptable–especially when paired with a nicer shirt. If you go this route, just make sure the ones you choose aren’t excessively thin. Betabrand offers super comfortable dress pant yoga pants that are perfect!

Dresses and skirts are welcome in most workplaces. When you work at a startup, though, you can get away with more casual styles than you could if you worked in a corporate office. Save your miniskirts for the weekend, but feel free to rock your favorite midi- or maxi-skirt to work.

What About Shoes?

Chances are, you won’t need to worry about wearing stuffy dress shoes to work every day when you work at a startup. For guys, casual loafers are usually fine, and most startup owners have no issues with women wearing stylish flats. Sneakers and sandals are often acceptable, too, but it’s best to wait and get a feel for the business before you go that route. When it comes to footwear, a bit of common sense goes a long way. If you’ll be spending most of your time working at your desk away from clients, more casual styles are probably fine however there is no need to hide your heels in the back of your closet. If you’ll be interacting with current or prospective clients regularly, you really should leave the flip-flops at home.

Every Startup Is Different

Like snowflakes, every startup is different. While they’re generally characterized by things like relaxed working environments and non-restrictive dress codes, there is variance from one company to another.

If you are just getting started, sticking with business casual attire is a safe bet.

You can also scope the company’s website or social media profiles to get a feel for what other employees generally wear, or you can ask directly. Since no two companies are exactly alike, it never hurts to get a definitive answer before making your own style choices.

Brenda Kimble

Brenda Kimble is a full-time, stay-at-home mother of 2 daughters and a son, plus their beagle named Duke! She loves blogging, crafting, and spending time with her family. She also enjoys strolling the streets of her quaint neighborhood in Austin, Texas and finding the trendiest hotspots for fashion, food, and live music.

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