Step away from the sweats and no one gets hurt. In a salon, nail techs perform a variety of tasks that require comfortable clothes. And let’s face it, no one wants (or is expected) to perform a pedicure in a pantsuit. But too often nail techs mistake the need for comfort as carte blanche to wear just about anything to work. (Don’t think no one noticed when you wore your cut-off shorts from 1993 to work.)

Before you reach for your “work sweats” consider that you are working in a place of business. Consider also that your clients visit you for a grooming service. Consider that you are a beauty professional whose most visible attribute is your appearance. How you dress every day can be a deciding factor on how clients and coworkers perceive you — and therefore has a considerable impact on your career.

Still, getting dressed for work in the morning shouldn’t be an exercise in fashion statement wizardry. Regardless of your salon environment, work attire should be clean, crisp, and comfortable. Stocking up on salon-friendly staples will take the guesswork out of “professional attire.”

Here are some basic looks that work for various salon environments. Each outfit can be personalized with accessories, and the basic pieces may also be incorporated into the rest of your wardrobe.

What NEVER to Wear [to Work]

• Short shorts or too short skirts

• Shabby, stained, stretched, torn, or threadbare clothes

• Too tight, too revealing garments

• Too loose or over-size clothes

• Exposed undergarments

• “Conversation T-shirts” [if it expresses an opinion or makes a statement, wear it on your own time]

• Sweats or pajamas [not even “nice” sweats]

• Nothing that makes your tush a billboard

• Dirty sneakers, house slippers, stiletto heels, casual flip-flops

• Strapless tops [please, that’s just begging for trouble]

• Doctor scrubs, unless they are issued by the salon

• Clothing that restricts your movement — like ponchos and shrunken blazers


Dark jeans hide stains well and appear as crisp as trousers. For the sake of comfort, look for jeans with some stretch.

White T-shirts are a must-have staple because they are easily replaceable. Find a cut you like and buy in bulk.

This isn’t your mom’s smock. Look for a smock that offers both protection and functionality and that is figure-flattering. You can go for a basic silver or black or find something custom and cute that works with the salon’s theme and look.


Stick to dark blue or black washes. When trying on jeans, squat to make sure you’ll stay decent when performing a pedicure. (Say no to crack.)

If your jeans have a trendy wash or treatment, a good way to make them work in a salon is to tone them down with a pressed blouse. Look for a blouse that allows you freedom of motion and is made of natural fabric that breathes well. Stay away from synthetic fabrics. Cotton is always a good option. Maybe you want to consider what the color scheme is in the salon. If your menu and other salon materials are purple for instance, maybe everyone should wear purple or lavender tops.


While it’s important to convey a professional image and fit in with your coworkers, there’s no need for everyone to look exactly the same. Here are some good accessories to help you personalize your salon attire.

There’s a reason women are obsessed with shoes: they look great on everybody and say a little something about the wearer. Flats are most comfortable in the salon. Pointy toes create a longer, leaner silhouette while open toes allow you to show off a good pedicure.

As a busy professional, chances are you need to carry a lot of odds and ends with you. Look for a large, well-designed bag made of a sturdy material.

Colorful scarves can be worn around the neck, shoulders, or waist to add a touch of personal flair to any work outfit

Cardigan sweaters are great layering pieces. Throw one over your shoulders or pull one on when the air conditioning is a bit much, or peel it off when the heat is up.


A classically minimalist look, black on black always looks clean and chic. This is a good option for a salon that would like to create a dress code that is both easy and memorable. Choose fabrics that will stand up well to salon wear-and-tear. And unless you want to spend a fortune on dry cleaning, choose pieces that can be thrown in the wash.


Khakis are enjoying a resurgence of hip, making them easy to find in every fit and shade of ecru.

Comfy and preppy, khakis are versatile enough to wear in any sort of climate and weather. Branded T-shirts are an easy option for a salon uniform. White and black T-shirts are the most functional, but branded T-shirts may also be purchased in colors to match the salon’s interior or reflect the colors of the logo. Make sure each tech receives the appropriate size, and choose a cut that will work with all body shapes.


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