What Not To Wear: Professionardrobe

Juniors and Seniors: we have one month until summer, one month until graduation. How does that make you feel?

Some may assume you are ready to embrace the freedom of summer break, enjoy the feeling of no more homework and no more late-night studies, and be overwhelmed with a joy to be on your own.

Are those assumptions right?

NO NO NO! The majority of you are facing summer internships, summer jobs, and lifetime career choices. You’re facing the dread of no more direction from professors, no more late night study groups with close friends, and real-world-adult-life-bills to take over!

Well, we — the Eagle news team — are here to help prepare you to the best of our — and Professor Kirk Jackson’s — abilities.

Professor Jackson, CESB Dean and Assistant Professor of Accounting and Finance, kindly answered a “What Not to Wear” questionnaire in regard to fashion in the professional world. If you know him, have seen him, or have even only heard of him, you probably know him to be a rather snazzily-dressed individual. (So take his advice to heart, people!)

The "snazzily-dressed individual" Professor Kirk Jackson
The “snazzily-dressed individual” Professor Kirk Jackson (Photo Credit: OKWU)


Note: Take the following fashion advice very seriously. Your life depends on it.


“What Not To Wear” Questionnaire

Eagle: How important do you consider professional dress to be?

Jackson: Professional dress is important because it communicates that critical first impression with a new person.  Regardless what some people may think, how you present yourself determines how people perceive you.

In the professional field –

Jackson: In your professional area of work, you should conform to that industry’s norm.  Technology companies have a very different culture than financial institutions.  Know the culture and then dress to the upper limit of that culture.  There is an old adage, “You don’t dress for the job you have, you dress for the job you want.”  If you want upward mobility in any organization, you need to present yourself in a way that communicates that you are able to be a leader in the organization.  Dressing to the lowest common denominator will hurt your future career path.

For an interview –

Jackson: I always encourage students to dress in a suit for an interview, especially if they are unsure on the company’s dress code.  No one is ever offended if you are overdressed, but being underdressed for an interview can be a deal killer.

For everyday wear –

Jackson: Everyday (non-work) wear all depends on personal style.  If you are someone that likes to dress up and you are comfortable in those clothes, wear it like a boss.  However, if you are more of a casual wear person, be that person.

Eagle: Why do you consider professional attire to be so important?

Jackson: I think it is important to dress up because the vast majority of the world will only know you by your appearance.  Even on our main campus, of the approximately 600 people (faculty, staff, & traditional students), I only really interact with about 200 with any regularity.  So, 2/3 of the campus only know me as the “guy in the suit.”  If that is the only way people are going to know me, I would rather be known for setting a higher bar.

Eagle: What is your favorite type of professional clothing — personally?

Jackson: Honestly, my favorite professional clothing is the traditional power suit.  Navy blue suit, white French cuff shirt, red tie, and cufflinks.  Nothing suits you like a suit.

Eagle: In 3 words, how do you feel about this outfit?

Ryan Fischer modeling nonprofessional clothing at a ConocoPhillips fashion show
Ryan Fischer at the ConocoPhillips fashion show (Photo Courtesy of Andy Carroll)

Jackson: Since I have been influenced by Southern culture, all I can say is “Bless his heart.” Seriously, if he is going to the park for a casual afternoon, I guess it is okay.  However, if he is going to work then he has harmed himself professionally.  Also, personally I do not like flip flop footwear, ever.

Eagle: In 3 more words, how do you feel about Dr. Weaver’s wardrobe choices?

Dr. Wendel Weaver in various dress
Dr. Weaver looking fly. (Photos provided by creeping on his Facebook).

Jackson: More corporate sponsorship patches.  (I guess that is four words.) In all seriousness, Dr. Weaver is an exceptional colleague and friend.  He does a great job balancing the professional and casual dress needed for academia.  He is an example for us all.

Eagle: Would you say black is more professional than gray or navy?

Jackson: Actually, for a guy a black suit can be seen as too formal and some would say it should be reserved for black tie events.  For the professional setting (especially an interview) a dark gray (charcoal) or navy blue suit is the better option.  However, a black suit is common for women.


Eagle: In your professional opinion, should professional women wear skirts or slacks?

Jackson: This is influenced solely on personal opinion.  Skirts are considered more conservative than slacks.  I would attribute this to long held social norms about women’s apparel.  However, I have never read or heard anyone say anything negative about women wearing slacks to interviews or the workplace. So, I think either work.


Eagle: In your professional opinion, should guys wear matte or shiny shoes? Why?

Jackson: If we are talking in generalities, a professional shoe would have a matte finish instead of a shiny finish.  This is especially true if we are using “shiny” as an adjective for patent leather shoes.  Patent leather shoes should be reserved for tuxedos, so if you are wearing them every day then you are probably a secret agent for British intelligence.  However, you can make any dress shoe shine especially if it is made of cordovan leather (the leather, not the color).

Eagle: How important do you consider hair-dos to be? Or, in that case, hair-don’ts?


For guys, keep it short and clean cut.  If you are a recent college graduate and you want to be treated like a professional, have a professional haircut.  After you make your millions, then you can do whatever you want.

For women, you have more options for a haircut.  In an interview, wear your hair back so it is not in your eyes.  Brushing it away from your face every five minutes will distract the interviewer.  In the workplace, just keep it a natural color and if you are uncertain, keep it conservative.

Eagle: Do you agree with the phrase, “Look good; feel good?”

Jackson: I am sure there is a logical limit to this phrase, but in general I do agree.  If you dress well and look good it does boost your confidence.

Eagle: In your professional lifetime and opinion, would you say more professionally dressed individuals are hired over casually dressed individuals?

Jackson: Currently business culture is focused on business casual.  So, outside of a few professional roles, or if you live on the East Coast, there are not many workplaces that are business professional all the time.

Eagle: Are high heels always a good idea for women?

Jackson: I tell my students that a 1 to 2 inch heel is a good height for a dress shoe.  However, this depends on the height of the person.  My sister is 4’10” tall so she could wear a higher heel and get away with it.  However, I have had students that are 6’0” flat footed and a shorter heel would be better.  Thankfully I do not wear heels so I can only speak from observation, not personal experience.

Eagle: What is your opinion on jewelry for women?

Jackson: I instruct my students to keep it simple.  Wearing no more than two pieces of jewelry is fairly standard for interview apparel.  In the everyday workplace, personal style will probably dictate how much jewelry is appropriate.

Eagle: What is your take on gelled hair for men?

Jackson: Being a guy that uses hair gel every day I think moderation is the key.  If you wear so much gel than you have helmet hair and are able to deflect bullets with your hairdo, then you are wearing too much for the workplace.

Eagle: In one word, what is the most important aspect of appearance in the professional world?

Jackson: If I had to use only one word, then I would say “conservative.”  If you are conservative then you will be judged based on your productivity as a worker.  If you are over the top flashy, then some of your superiors may think you are distracting them from your lack of ability.  Look like you are put together and you will do well in life.

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