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Boardroom Fashion: The Evolution of the Apprentice Uniform

Watching the finale episode ofThe Apprentice 2022 and seeing stylish Harpreet Kaur being crowned as the winner invoked our inner fashion critic.

In business, fashion sense can make or break a deal. In The Apprentice, this mindset is taken to the extreme with the show’s boardroom style sparking fashion debates among fans. Since the show first aired in 2005, what we call the Apprentice uniform has been shaped to reflect the show’s philosophy.

But what exactly is the Apprentice uniformand how has it transformed through the years?

Throwback to 2005: 50 shades of grey

A quick look at the cover photo of The Apprentice’s first season in 2005 might make your head turn. Strictly white shirts for men peeking through classic tailored suits ofonly the darkest colours, and a mix of power suits and pencil skirts in dull nuances for women. This is what represented the next generation of business tycoons in Britain.

The colour theme is obvious: 50 shades of grey. 

How did the Apprentice uniform come about?

Some argue that boardroom fashion as depicted in the show has changed very little since 2005. Although that might be a red flag for the fashion police, there may be a reason why this style choice has endured.

Business is powerand one way to channel that power is through the clothes you wear. As American author H. Jackson Brown Jr., who used to work as a creative director of an advertising agency, says, “wear audacious underwear under the most solemn business attire”. 

It comes as no surprise that the first business attire to be popularised before the turn of the century was a uniform oversized coat until the suit was invented in the 1920s. The 1980s saw the rise of the power suit, as showcased in the iconic movie The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). It has since been toned down or spiced up depending on whether you’re aiming for a casual or jazzy look.

But it seems that both the cast and the presenters of The Apprentice are fervent advocates of the ‘80s business style, as their fashion choices are a true reflection of that decade even today. Men tend to wear dark blue, black, or grey suits with pinstripes matched with oversized ties. Women echo the style of one of the most influential women in world history – Margaret Thatcher. Suit jackets placidly cover pencil skirts and tailored trousersare paired with alarmingly high heels. Alternatively, the Roland Mouret-style bodycon dress is regularly sported by candidates in a range of primary colours.

Of course, there have been some variations to the Apprentice uniform in recent years. Colourful socks have become trendy amongst men, and women tend to experiment with peplum dresses, bold jewellery, intricate necklines, and stylish women’s heeled sandals.

Overall, however, the fashion remains the same. And no, there are no stylists at work behind all this. The contestants rock up with a suitcase full of their own clothes and it seems that they’ve all got the memo about the dress code. But how does this happen?

The Apprentice uniform not only exudes power and confidence which is at the core of business-doing, but it also represents conformity. Lord Sugar is known for his conservative beliefs and has called out candidates many times for their flamboyant fashion style. Not only thatbut using classic boardroom attire positions all the candidates for the big prize on the same plane, making sure to highlight their business ideas rather than their looks.

2022 best style moments

This year, the 16 candidates yet again conformed to the Apprentice uniform. Men were seen reinforcing the classic suit in dark colours; however, a colourful tie can help them stand out. Women also sported some unique garments, such as tailored dresses in bold colours and intricate necklines.

In the last episode, the two female finalists Harpreet Kaur and Kathryn Louise Burn wore classic bodycon dresses with sophisticated slit necklines. Harpreet, the winner, fashioned victorious white, which symbolises new beginnings and is representative of the fresh kick-start of her career alongside Lord Sugar. Kathryn, on the other hand, was dressed in blue, representing dignity and authority. Their thoughtfully selected outfits perfectly matched the vibe of the show and emanated feminine integrity.

Harpreet commented on her win: “I absolutely loved that it was an all-female final because I love empowering women, I hope that I can inspire many women that you need to follow your dreams, go and smash your goals, go and get them.”

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Will we see some fashion brevity in this seasonorwill brilliant business ideas come dressed in the Apprentice uniform we’re used to? The show will tell.

“You’re fired”: the iconic scarf and oversized coat exit outfit

A little quirk has been noted in the show since it first aired. On the “walk of shame”, when contestants are fired and are taking their taxi ride home, every single ex-candidate is wearing the same attire: a buttoned-up oversized coat and a scarf.

Some speculate that it’s a staple of the show, while others think it’s a farewell gift. The reality is that it’s all staged. The exit scene is filmed alongside the entrance scene before the candidates have even met the team. In order to create a sense of continuity, the contestants are asked to wear oversized coats and a scarf to hide their clothes underneath.


This season, we saw a parade of innovative ideas and astute business acumen. As always, the contestents didn’t shy away from some drama, and of course, proudly catwalked their business attire. Will the next season bring about the Apprentice uniform again?




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