The way we present our body and our image to the world is an external symbol of who we are and who we want to be. Whether that’s an expression of personal taste in music or art, the clothes we wear or something as simple as the colour we paint our nails.

When it comes to alt culture, the way we choose to express ourselves can often be considered inappropriate in particular environments.

More than once I’ve been taken aside at work and told that my outfit wasn’t considered office friendly, and there’s nothing more frustrating than that feeling of having your individuality and right to expression stifled.

Long-term, judgements of a person based on their appearance is a big problem that needs to be dealt with not only in the workplace but across the world. One person’s idea of what’s ‘appropriate’ isn’t the same as the next person’s!

Until that day comes, there are still ways we can choose to exhibit our edgy inner selves outwardly that are more subtle, from the simple to the more permanent. Here are a few things we came up with...

Jewellery & Make-up

red-haired alternative girl leaning against fence

Both masculine and feminine, jewellery is a great way to add a little alternative flair to any outfit, ranging from a few discreet rings to a studded bracelet or an elaborate pair of earrings.

Choosing one key piece or several smaller items can make all the difference to an otherwise unimaginative ensemble, and investing in unique jewellery that can be paired with casual, office or formal attire can customise your look in just the right way to draw attention and express yourself without going over the top.

If jewellery isn’t your thing, make-up is an excellent option for adding a little something extra to your appearance and emphasising your style. Dramatic lip colour or dark winged liner can add plenty of personality to your expression, and if you simply don’t have time for fussing, nail colour and nail art can be a good move too.

Scarves, Bags & Accessories

male model wearing fashionable scarf

If your school, office or workplace is strict about the type of clothes you’re allowed to wear, a unique accessory can do a lot to add flavour and expression to an otherwise drab outfit.

Adding a sheer, printed or unique scarf to your wardrobe can be a versatile choice. Worn in the more traditional sense around the neck, this can brighten up a simple blouse or shirt, or tying one around your wrist or bag adds a splash of personality. And of course, there’s the added bonus of practicality if you opt for a warm and cosy knitted piece.

Another great accessory is a belt or braces - pretty essential most of the time, they’re an ideal way to show off your alternative style that can’t be argued with. If you’re going the vintage rockabilly route, opt for a bright colour or pattern. If you identify as more punk or goth, try a studded belt or a small chain to throwback to that classic 90s look.

If that’s not quite practical enough for you, choose a bag to carry your bits about in and express your individuality at the same time. From backpacks to satchels, to wallets and purses, a bag is useful and perfect for showing off your personal style.

For those of you that prefer an understated splash of personality, one simple way to achieve this is to change up the laces in your shoes, boots or trainers. Hardly noticeable, but very cool.

Hair dye

Tattooed model with curly red hair facing away from camera, trees

If you haven’t got the patience to sort out your outfit or add complementary accessories, why not opt for dying your hair a unique or interesting colour?

Whether you choose to add a streak of white, darken your overall look with a full head of black, or brighten things up with a vivid colour, there are hundreds of different ways that changing your hair colour can work to express your individuality to the world. And it doesn’t require any additional thought each morning!

Hair dye can be the ideal way to make a statement with your style with an alternative colour, whether you’re thinking pale pastel pink or bubblegum blue.

Piercings

Alternative female model posing in short denim shorts, yellow top

Not quite as fleeting as a changing hair colour, or as removable as a scarf or piece of jewellery, piercings are a slightly more permanent way of adjusting your appearance to express your individuality.

From the usual ear lobe piercings to the upper helix cartilage piercing or an understated nose stud, piercings can be a great way to show off your style without overdoing it.

True, some schools and workplaces will only allow piercings that are ‘safe’, meaning that they’re not likely to be caught on anything or anyone, or cause injury - but that leaves plenty of avenues open.

It should also be said that a piercing is no short-term undertaking. Soft tissue piercings such as the earlobes take around six to eight weeks to heal, and cartilage piercings can take anywhere from six months to a year to be fully healed.

However, once you’ve gotten through the piercing process itself, the fun begins. Entire ranges of jewellery exist specifically for certain piercings, from simple silver hoops and sleepers to elaborate jewelled pieces to brightly coloured neon. The biggest problem you’ll have left is choosing exactly how you want to show off that shiny new piercing!

Tattoos

Woman with tattooed arms, rings on fingers, holding cup

Without a doubt the most permanent form of expression (even a piercing can be taken out), tattoos are often considered a visible manifestation of your personality, showing the world who you are inwardly in the form of body art.

Probably the ultimate form of self expression, tattoos also happen to make great conversation starters, as who can resist complimenting or asking questions about a gorgeous work of art!

In the past, tattoos have been considered something that should be covered up in the workplace, and seen as unprofessional. But the world is changing. Sure, if you’ve got a tattoo on your hands, neck or face, then it might be more difficult to hide if your boss is particularly strict. Thankfully, most tattoos can be covered discreetly without too much fuss if need be.

Tattooing is an ancient art form that’s been practiced for thousands of years in various cultures, and more recent studies have shown that they can be an excellent way to boost self-esteem and body confidence.

Though getting a tattoo is no small decision, especially if you’re new to body ink, the expression of your inner self via skin art is a great way to show off your personal tastes, and decorate yourself in a more permanent fashion.