As an attended at professional conference in Boston, I had the opportunity to see T-shirts in action. As a T-shirt person, this was fun.
The organization hosting the conference asked their employees to wear company logo T-shirts so that attendees could easily pick out them out. As an attendee, I thought this was a great idea.
Being into T-shirts as I am, I noticed that the employees all wore their T-shirts with their own particular style. I asked many employees how they decided how to wear with their T-shirt. Each person had his or her own answer, but the underlying theme was, “I want to look professional, but it's difficult to do so in a T-shirt.”
After observing what was worn with their T-shirt over the 4-day event, I concluded that they were approaching the question of what to wear with a T-shirt from the wrong perspective.
They were thinking they needed to look professional from an office point of view. But they should have been looking at it from a uniform vantage.
The employer wanted their employees to stick out and easily be found. Thus, the company wanted their employees to be uniform and easily identifiable.
Yet with all the employees trying to make the T-shirts professional and reflective of their personality, they negated the purpose of the T-shirts.
Here is a list of the ✔Do’s and ✗ Don’ts of looking professional in a T-shirt:
✗ Don’t wear a dirty, wrinkly shirt. If you pick your T-shirt up off the floor in the morning and do a sniff test, that T-shirt probably should not be worn. ✔ Do wear a clean, non-wrinkled T-shirt.
✗ Don't wear a jacket or other clothing item over your T-shirt. Your customer or client will not be able to see the T-shirt and thus not be able to find you. And being found is the point of wearing the T-shirt! ✔Do wear a long sleeve solid color shirt under your T-shirt, but only if you anticipate being cold.
✗Don't wear a skirt, shorts or dress pants with the T-shirt - it just looks funny. ✔Do wear blue jeans, khakis, or chinos with your T-shirt. Your pants should be clean, stain and hole free. Your jeans should fit properly and look professional. So no skin tight or saggy jeans. No plumbers butt or muffin tops! You are not hanging with your friends; you are representing your company. This is how to look professional.
✗Don't wear sky-high high heels (CMF’s). The women wearing high heels with her T-shirt lost credibility with me. I felt like she was not working, but trying to assert her femininity or flirting. It is not a professional look with the T-shirt. Again, you are not going out to a party. This is work. ✗Don't wear cruddy, dirty or worn out shoes. ✔Do wear clean athletic, or flat leather shoes.
✗Don't wear chunky or flashy jewelry. This just clashes with a T-shirt and looks in bad taste. ✔Do wear minimal and tasteful jewelry.
✗Don't wear your T-shirt un-tucked. This looks sloppy and unprofessional. ✔Do tuck in your T-shirt and wear a belt. Note: there has been a lot of discussion here about this. The younger ones in our organization feel that it’s ok to be un-tucked and the older ones feel that it should be tucked in. We concluded that to tuck or not to tuck depends on the size of the T-shirt and the waistline of the pants. Also, consider your audience and their sensibilities.
Remember that looking professional is about looking professional to many people of different ages. Something that looks great to your generation will look just repulsive to someone older than you. Take that into consideration when you want to appear professional.
If you have been asked to wear a T-shirt in a professional situation, start by understanding why you were asked to wear the T-shirt in the first place. Then, pair your T-shirt with clean simple clothing choices.
If you pair your T-shirt without considering the why, you will only look unprofessional despite trying to look professional.
If your company is asking you to wear a T-shirt in a professional setting, they are asking you to wear a uniform. So be professional and wear it like a professional.
And once you are finished with your T-shirt, put it aside with all your other T-shirts so you can have a T-shirt quilt made one day.
To learn more about having a quilt made from your T-shirts, download our free T-shirt Quilt Buyer's Guide. It's a great place to learn about the different styles and quality of T-shirt quilts.
Andrea Funk is the inventor of T-shirt quilts made with multiple blocks sizes. The modern method of making T-shirt quilts. In 1992 she founded Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. Her life has been immersed in T-shirt quilts ever since.