What to Wear to Work for a Hospitality Job

hotel manager's dress code at a hotel

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Are you starting a hospitality job and aren’t sure what to wear? When you work at a job in the hospitality industry, you will most likely be given some sort of uniform or specific guidelines about what to wear to work. Be sure to follow whatever instructions you are given. If you aren’t told anything about the dress code, check with your manager or the human resources department.

However, there are also some general rules you should keep in mind when dressing for work in the hospitality industry. By dressing appropriately from day one, you will impress your manager as well as the customers you serve.

General Tips for Dressing for a Hospitality Job

Be professional. Follow whatever rules you are given about what to wear to work. However, if you are given little direction on what to wear, dress in professional business attire. This is particularly the case if you are working the front of house at a particularly conservative restaurant or hotel, or if you are in a management position. For men, professional business attire might mean a suit or pants with a button-down shirt and tie. For women, it might mean a dress and blazer.

If the atmosphere is more casual, or if you are part of the back of house staff, such as a cook or housekeeper, you can dress in business casual attire. For men, this might mean chinos and a dress shirt, with or without a tie. For women, this can mean pants and a blouse or a sheath dress.

Make the customer stand out, not your clothes. In hospitality, your job is to serve the customer. Therefore, you don’t want your clothing to stand out so much that it distracts from the customers. Avoid flashy jewelry or lots of makeup. Also, keep your colors neutral—blacks, grays, browns, and dark blues are best. You can always add a pop of color with a scarf, simple necklace, or colored blouse under a neutral blazer or cardigan.

Wear comfortable shoes. Almost anyone in the hospitality industry will tell you this is a lesson you will learn quickly after being on your feet all day. Wear shoes that you can walk in for long periods of time. Comfortable black loafers or, if the environment is casual, black sneakers are good choices. Try to find shoes with nonslip soles; you don’t want to slip while holding a plate of food!

Take care of your clothes. Whatever you end up wearing to work, be sure it is tailored (not too tight or loose), washed, and ironed. Shoes should be clear of scuffs or stains. Customers will be distracted if you look messy, so be sure your look is clean and polished.

Develop good grooming habits. Your clothes matter, but so does the way you present the rest of yourself. Like your clothing and makeup, your hairstyle should not be too distracting. If you work in the food industry, you want your hair out of your face—and away from the food. Put your hair up, cover it up, or wear it short.

What to Wear for a Restaurant Job

In a restaurant, hosts, servers, and bartenders (the front of house staff) will typically be asked to wear solid colored slacks or a skirt, a solid colored button down, or a collared or logo shirt. Sometimes there will be an apron or hat to pull the look together.

If you are given little direction on what to wear, dress professionally. Men can wear button-down shorts and dress pants or chinos. If the restaurant is more upscale, or if you hold a managerial role, you might wear a dress vest or tie.

Chefs, cooks, and their assistants (the back of house staff) typically wear a chef coat with slacks and comfortable closed-toe shoes. Women can wear button-down shorts and dress pants, a skirt and blouse, or a dress.

Comfortable shoes are particularly important in the restaurant industry. Make sure you are wearing shoes that you can walk around in for a long shift. Also be sure to keep long hair away from your face, perhaps in a bun, ponytail, or braid, or wrap it in a headscarf.

You also want to be well groomed, particularly your nails. If you are touching food in any way, you will need to have clean hands.

What to Wear for a Hotel Job

Hotels often require uniforms or offer very specific guidelines for what to wear to work. As an employee, you are a representative of the hotel, and you need to dress appropriately.

If you have little guidance on what to wear, dress in business professional attire, avoiding anything too flashy. Keep jewelry to a minimum; piercings and tattoos should be covered when possible; hair and makeup should be conservative.

Invest in comfortable, closed-toe shoes, as you will spend a lot of time on your feet. Sneakers are often not allowed, so find some comfortable loafers or other more professional shoes.

What to Wear for a Resort or Spa Job

Resorts, spas, and clubs vary in their dress codes according to your position and their location. For example, a tropical resort is going to have more casual standards than a spa in a metropolitan city.

There may well be a uniform required, or a jacket or coat to wear with your own conservative clothing. Again, remember to wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes.

What to Wear to a Hospitality Interview

Perhaps you don’t have a job yet but are preparing for an interview in the hospitality industry.

Dress a bit more formal than the staff. Before the interview, check out what the employees are wearing. If you aren’t sure what they wear, call the manager and ask. Dress a bit more formal than the employees. For example, if everyone is wearing shorts and a T-shirt, wear something business casual, like chinos and a polo shirt. If everyone wears a suit and tie, wear your best suit.

Generally, you will also dress a bit more formally if you are applying for a job in a manager or supervisor role, like a hotel manager or restaurant manager. For women, this might mean a suit, dress pants, and a blouse, or a dress and cardigan. For men, this might mean slacks and a button-down and tie, or a suit.

Fit in with the culture. While you want to look polished, be sure to fit in with the company culture. For example, you don’t want to wear a suit and tie if everyone that works at the organization wears shorts and a tank top. If you’re working for a trendy new hotel, you might get away with wearing a more fashionable or stylish top or dress. However, when in doubt, it is better to dress conservatively.

Stand out (just a little). You want your interview to make you stand out from the crowd. You can do this by answering interview questions well, by acting professionally, and by showing enthusiasm for the job. You can also do this in subtle ways with your outfit. Generally, keep your colors neutral, and limit your accessories and makeup. However, if you want to add something to make you stand out, pick one thing, like a pop of color in your tie or a statement necklace. But remember, in hospitality, you want the client—not you—to stand out, so keep it subtle.

Look polished. Make sure that not only is your outfit appropriate, but also that your entire look is polished. Wash and iron (or dry clean) your outfit right before wearing it. Complete the look with professional, polished shoes. Make sure your hair is well groomed as well. All of these little things will help complete your professional look.