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Dress warmly but professionally for work

By James Wanzala and Erastus Mulwa - Aug 6th 2022
Portrait of a smiling woman wearing a warm sweater with her arms crossed over her chest. [Getty Images]

While many countries close to the northern pole battle debilitating heatwaves, Kenyans are complaining about constantly dipping temperatures.

The Kenya Meteorological Department on Friday showed that temperatures in Nairobi, Eldoret, Nyeri, Kisumu and Marsabit could hit lows of 14, 10, 12, 16 and 14 degrees Celsius respectively, with maximum possible temperatures not topping 26 degrees Celsius in any of the towns.

Perhaps more than ever, office workers whose jobs demand a certain way of dressing are in a dilemma: stick to the rules and freeze or break the rules, keeping warm and comfortable, and risk the boss’ wrath?

In almost every case, there is leeway to manipulate the dressing code to adjust to temperatures. It is unlikely a boss will want you to stick to branded company T-shirts with temperatures well under 15 degrees Celsius. An article by Business Insider quoted Lynn Taylor, a workplace expert, as saying that it was possible to keep both warm and professional even in strict work environments.

“When it’s cold out, you feel inclined to wear as much bulk as possible from head to toe. You’re tempted to pull out your full-on ski gear, especially in the Northeast this week. But you can accomplish both goals of staying comfortable and professional, no matter how frosty it is outside,” says Taylor.

That heavy jacket that might look completely out of place in an office might be just what you need to put on.

Taylor seems to suggest that as long as one is comfortable in an attire (it is not tattered or dirty), the people that one will encounter are likely to find such a person looking presentable; professional.

“If you’re comfortable during your ride or walk to work, you have less of a need to catch up and warm up once you arrive at the office,” says Taylor, as per Business Insider. You do not need to go to the changing room once in the office or spend all day wondering what people think of your dressing.

The site also advises workers to have an extra pair of shoes at work, which they can change into once they have reported and want to discard the outside look.

“Wear snow boots and change once you arrive at the office,” it says.

An extra jacket should be left at work, which will be used for convenience, as should a scarf. This prevents one from carting too much baggage to and from the office.But right from the moment one leaves the house, they should think about having more than one pair of cloth on. Layers help preserve heat.

This is simple physics - air that is trapped in between the layers prevents heat loss and therefore keeps the body, swathed therein, warm. Air is a poor conductor of heat.

Whowhatwear, an international fashion company, advises that one can avoid that cumbersome look even in the cold season by spotting a stylish outfit.

“Winter outfits can often feel a little clumsy with endless layers, but one way to instantly streamline your look at the same time as making a style statement is to stick to one colour palette head to toe,” the site says, illustrating, in pictures, women dressed in such outfit.

The site advises workers to avoid the temptation of going for the nearest warmest outfit and instead look for what does not make them look less fashionable, what maintains their signature look.

“When it’s freezing, it can be tempting to reach for your warmest coat and not think about how it goes with your outfit. The best answer here is to opt for a sweeping long coat that goes with anything. A checked tailored coat always looks expensive,” it says.

Lifehack, a site that claims it helps people in “taking the complicated and breaking it down into a simple process” quotes an article on Nature.com that doubts the ideality of office temperature regulation systems, with employees required to add their layers of warmth.  

It mainly is concerned with the plight of women who lose heat faster than men, and who are often not as heavily dressed as their male counterparts at work.

“(The study) revealed that AC (air conditions) systems in the offices are using temperature settings and guidelines of the 1960s! Moreover, those were designed for a middle-aged, 154-pound man, dressed in a complete suit, sometimes along with a vest. That’s right, your office is cold because the managers are sticking to old, patriarchal guidelines,” the site says.

“Joost Van Hoof, a Professor of Urban Ageing explains that the physiology of women, who are smaller in size and have more body fat than a man, is making them lose more heat, quicker. Instead of addressing this problem, most CEOs just went with the flow and let the AC system numb their female worker’s fingers, even if this decreases their productivity.”

The site further advises women to abandon open shoes and go for closed options.

“Well, if you want to be warm at the office, opt for a pair of closed shoes, which can keep your feet warm. If you can, pick shoes that can be paired with socks, if your feet become numb over the day, due to the AC problem,” it says, adding that if one can keep a pair of shoes at work, they can “buy summer boots and keep a pair of socks in them, so you can slip from your fashionable shoes into the boots when you arrive at the office”.

Dress warmly, stay fashionable, and make a statement!

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