Do professionals have tattoos? Do professionals have facial piercings eg eyebrow, nose, lip? Do professionals have pink/green hair? Do professionals wear black/blue lipstick? Do professionals wear hats indoors? (in the office and/or on zoom calls). Do professionals have unbrushed/wild hair?

Well yes. Depending on their profession. And their style. But my point is: does what you wear COMPLIMENT OR CLASH WITH your brand or your message? …as career coach Michael Coritsidis asked in a recent blog.

Sarah Lockett on set, Bollywood feature film, 2022

Accountants and diplomats tend to wear suits. Farmers tend to wear wellies. Pop stars tend to wear whichever weird and wonderful thing they’ve found at the flea market (meat dresses for Lady Gaga; floral blouses, pearls and knitted tank-tops-with-sheep-on for Harry Styles). It depends on their brand, image, niche.

But, having said that, for most of us, doing everyday zoom calls with clients, collaborators and colleagues, a few rules apply. You want to appeal to the most number of people, for the least effort, as I was recently saying to a group of corporate executives I was Media Training. Think like a politician: look at the Prime Minister of the day, and dress like them (within reason, and if you are of a similar age or build). The same goes for the SENIOR government team/ministers, because they will (most likely) have had some styling: some professional help in dressing, choosing clothes, accessories, makeup and hairstyles. These people are the ones to emulate.

Screengrab from ‘I’m Livestreaming the End of the World’ feature film, 2023

But! An important side-note: this doesn’t apply to backbench MPs in general, because there are some weird and wonderful looks out there. Some slightly lived-in, eccentric, geography teacher looks, with shaggy hairstyles and ill-fitting 1980s jackets, if you know what I mean.

By the way, I am no Trinny Woodall, not a fashion expert by any stretch. But even I can spot someone who looks smart and well groomed, and someone who doesn’t.

Look at any prime minister around the world, and they’re probably OK style-wise, because they have to be voted for. They have to appeal to the widest electorate they can – on the right, on the left, in the middle, old, young, black, white and everything in between. They don’t want to give anyone an excuse NOT to vote for them, because they don’t like their appearance. So, for me: I would look at (and think about emulating) Theresa May, Ursula von der Leyen, Liz Truss (yes, she looked OK), Jacinda Ardern of NZ (resigned now but still in public life), even Angela Merkel (for the older, more rounded ladies among us – she’s 68 but always looks smart).

For the guys, Rishi Sunak is very dapper (but very slight – so his style won’t suit everyone), and the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is also very presentable – another slim guy who runs marathons, so his look won’t be for everyone. Joe Biden looks good. In fact all of the Amercian presidents going back donkeys’ years have been OK. For the chunkier gentleman (!) look at the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly who’s always well turned out, and the larger than life Donald Trump was at least smart – those looooong red ties notwithstanding. If in doubt, and dark suit and a plain, pale shirt will work, with – or without – a tie.

Working from home, we see all sorts: T-shirts, hoodies with the hood up, still wet hair (guilty), baseball caps, varying degress of makeup/no makeup, shorts, patterns, a jacket flung over something much more casual etc. I think we can be more relaxed when we’re working from home BUT make an effort to make the top half look smart. And always bear in mind your brand: if you’re working in a fabulously creative field, you can be more flamboyant. I wouldn’t want to stifle the style of the tattoo artists, the jewellery makers or the fashion designers. Long may their extraordinarily extravagant looks live on!

For more details on ‘Personal Impact’ or Media Training with Sarah, click here.

Sarah Lockett

Sarah Lockett is a former BBC News / Sky News anchor who currently presents a variety of content for corporate clients and delivers media training.
She has presented on BBC News and Sky News, plus reported for Channel Four News, 5 News, Reuters and others.
She now hosts webinars and conferences, chairs corporate/academic panel discussions, hosts award ceremonies and events. She writes, presents and produces training videos, as well as voiceovers (both factual and drama/comedy). She has written two books and is also working as an actor.

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