Career Fairs have returned to Oxford, trailing clouds of paper fliers, branded pens and coffee mugs. Long before the interviews are scheduled or the cover letters submitted, the chance arises to make some memorable impression, for better or worse, a task in which the sartorial matters greatly. Questions have been filtering through about just what to wear for work-related occasions, and so we essay, as follows:
The advice from last week’s column, to appear effortlessly arrived, pays reliable dividends to the aspiring company man. Do spend a few minutes thinking about what’s appropriate for the place you’d like to work (what would you wear on your first day?), but then try not to ape the cast of Mad Men, Cirque du Soleil, the Black Watch, or whatever counts as overreaching your hopes for the future. Remember that people want what they cannot have, which for employers includes the Freedom of the student or the unemployed, both to make gratuitous reference to the latest work by Jonathan Franzen, and to push all sorts of boundaries, sartorial and otherwise. (Incidentally, carrying around a popular work of current fiction is a good way to attract attention from employer representatives who are tired of talking about their job.)
So much for trying too hard, and for looking like the rest of your peers, the latter following inevitably the former. Also eschew any thought that you might wear or carry something too ‘nice’ or ‘posh’, that this will make you a walking euphemism for the over-privileged, the sort of person who can do without the work on offer. So long as your costume bears no unsightly logos (posh or otherwise, caricatures of Ralph Lauren on horseback being the male equivalent of the Tory Burch crucifix), the only people who will know the difference will appreciate the effort.
Finally, when in doubt, toss a summer scarf around your neck, whatever else you are wearing. This never fails to leave people slightly bemused, even in summer, and the ends will give you something to grasp should you feel nervous, clammy or kleptic.