Dress for Success! How Beauty Pros Can Bring Their Personal Style to the Industry "Uniform"

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Expert Career AdviceLanding a Job ➜ Dress for Success! How Beauty Pros Can Bring Their Personal Style to the Industry "Uniform"

You've likely seen the social media meme that jokes about the cosmetologist’s lifestyle. Something to the effect of "It's Wednesday, so I wear black. Just like Tuesday. And Thursday. Friday and Saturday, too." 

It's no secret that black is the color of choice for most  beauty professionals—and for many good reasons. Here are the top ones . . . 

  • Black clothing always looks professional. 
  • Black clothing can hide stains well. 
  • Black clothing is the gold standard, particularly for hair stylists. (This fact is drilled into everyone  during beauty school!) 

But your obsidian ensemble provides other benefits that might not be so obvious. Your black uniform also . . .

  • Puts the focus on your client. Remember, your client is the star of this production, not you! 
  • Makes it easier to see colors. This is especially important when dealing with hair. (It's one of the reasons why the aprons we drape over clients tend to be black as well.) 
  • Serves as a great backdrop. Stand behind the client in your black ensemble; once again, the focus is on them. 
  • Makes it incredibly easy to shop for work clothes. Almost everything comes in black (or a dark equivalent like navy blue). 
  • Never goes out of style. Those black jeans and black T can be worn seemingly forever. That's good for your wallet—and the environment. 
  • Makes it incredibly easy to style. Everything works with black. And it's easy to swap black pieces with one another, like black jeans for black leggings, for example. 

Do you have to stick to the all-black look?

If you're working with hair, the short answer is "Probably yes, but it depends." 

If you work for someone else, they might have a dress code and want the staff in all black. If they don't have a dress code, it still makes sense (for all the reasons we noted above) to embrace black or another monochrome look, like dark gray, navy, brown, or hunter green. In fact, playing around with those dark solids can be an excellent way to mix things up if you're getting bored with all black. 

But it's true that other disciplines don’t necessarily embrace all-black the same way stylists do. Estheticians and nail technicians, for example, have much more freedom. (Again, this will vary depending on employers and whether they have dress codes.) 

With this freedom, of course, comes responsibility. You should always dress professionally. And yes, we know people debate the meaning of that word, especially in a  creative industry like ours. Think of it this way: You don't want to wear anything that would make you, your clients, or your coworkers uncomfortable. And when we say "uncomfortable," we mean both physically and/or psychologically. 

For example, if you know you'll be working with a lot of chemicals one day, you might opt for long sleeves to protect the skin on your arms. That’s an example of protecting your physical comfort. Now, consider that T-shirt you love that has a strong political message. You might leave that in your off-hours wardrobe in an effort to save clients and coworkers from emotional discomfort if they disagree with the message. 

A good rule of thumb: When in doubt, don't wear it. 

But what if you simply love red? Or maybe pastels are your jam? Or you just hate the thought of being stifled sartorially?

Hey, at the end of the day, you have to do you—up to a point. Remember, if you're working for a salon and they have a dress code, you have to follow it. 

But even if you're allowed to go your own way with pinks and purples or (gasp!) all white, just remember you'll be doing a lot more laundry. And you might need to keep a spare shirt on hand at work. Not to mention, some stains will refuse to come out no matter how many TikTok hacks you follow. 

Also, keep in mind that  you want your clients to take you seriously. You certainly don't want to look intimidating or as if you're competing with your clients. It's all about them, remember. 

If you own a salon, you still need to consider the vibe you're trying to put into the marketplace. Don't forget that your clients are used to (and have come to expect) the all-black uniform, too. If they go into a salon where everyone is wearing their own thing, it might create a little bit of dissonance in their minds (and not necessarily in a good way). If you stray from the all-black look, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons—and that what you and your staff members wear truly  reflects your brand

What if you're  renting a booth? You're still working inside someone else's salon and serving as an extension of their brand. If everyone in the salon goes with the all-black uniform, but you come in wearing a leopard print top and orange leggings, well . . . it could be a distraction for everyone. 

Some tips for bringing your personal style to the salon . . . while minding industry best practices.

Always research the places you're applying to. Stop by for a visit and observe how everyone is dressed. If everyone is wearing all-black ensembles, you shouldn't stray too far from that  during the interview. If you get hired, you can discuss the dress code with your manager. 

Avoid plunging necklines and ultra-short hemlines. Not only are they a distraction, but possibly dangerous if you have a day working with lots of chemicals. 

Even with an all-black uniform, you can still play with color. Think hair accessories. Think belts. Think about your own makeup and hair. Think shoes. Shoes can be a great way to introduce pops of personality . . . the color won't take the focus away from your client. 

That said, be mindful about what you put on your feet. You're going to be on them all day. High heels could be a tripping hazard (not to mention what they'll do to your feet). Slip-resistant shoes are a smart investment. (So are good soles and inserts.) 

On a budget? Turn to social commerce marketplaces. Online marketplaces like Poshmark can be an excellent way to score some gently used footwear and other garments for fewer bucks. It can also be a good way to test drive a brand you've had your eye on. (Selling and buying pre-owned items is also better for the environment.) 

Don't underestimate the power of a black apron. Maybe you wear a white T, light blue jeans, and boots so you can feel more like yourself, but the black apron becomes the main focus when you're working with clients. That's a smart way to deviate from the standard while still maintaining the spirit behind why that standard exists in the first place. 

Remember, a black top can serve as a canvas. Whether your black shirt displays a humorous meme, an inspirational quote, or a stenciled outline of a favorite celeb, there are so many different ways to wear a black top. Just remember our earlier warning about avoiding offensive graphics. 

Flourishes and embellishments on your black garments can add extra oomph. A little black lace around cuffs and sleeves can be super cute, for example. 

Consider dressing for your beauty gig as a fun challenge. If you fancy yourself a creative genius, prove it! Create a black uniform persona that's truly unique to you. 

Bottom line: You can dress for salon success while still staying true to yourself!

Find black garments that make you feel great and that you're comfortable working in. Those pieces can become your base—your everyday uniform that you can easily pull together. Then, from there, add a few other pieces to your work wardrobe to mix things up. And, of course, remember that the best accessory is a warm smile. You got this, beauty pro! 

Be sure to read our other  expert career advice for beauty professionals

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