Professional Way to Carry Keys/ID
April 2, 2019 9:49 AM   Subscribe

In short: in a job where you wear a suit (or suit like clothing) and are female, what is the best way to make sure you always have your keys on you?

I am a forgetful, absent-minded professor type and I get locked out of my office suite at least twice a week because I don't have my keys with me.

I currently dress business casual but in a couple of months I will be starting a new job where I will need to wear a suit or suit-like clothing every day in an executive-level position. In that position, keycard swipe is required to go just about anywhere.

So...if you are an absentminded person who regularly forgets where they put things and you need to dress in such a way that just wearing your keys/ID around your neck would look unprofessional, what options are there? In my experience, woman's suits/pants don't typically have pockets.
posted by eleanna to Work & Money (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Will you be carrying your phone with you? I have had good luck putting my keycard in one of those pockets that you can add to the back of your phone. I am much less likely to go anywhere without my phone than without my keycard.
posted by elvissa at 9:54 AM on April 2, 2019 [11 favorites]

small carabiner with keys on it, clicked around your bra strap, under your clothes, turned to the inside if you want to hide the evidence. Carabiners are easy to take off of a line.
posted by Oyéah at 9:54 AM on April 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

At my office, with many sales and design professionals, many of the professional women carry an expensive wallet. LV, gucci, etc. I don't care for them myself, but that seems to be standard. They grab the wallet on the way to lunch and otherwise leave it in their bag, which they leave next to their backpack at their desk.
posted by rebent at 9:55 AM on April 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

I clip the card to my waistband with a retractable key card reel. (Mine also has a carabiner for when I’m wearihg pants with belt loops.)
posted by sm1tten at 9:59 AM on April 2, 2019 [35 favorites]

I'm extremely absent minded about that kind of thing and have successfully used a retractable lanyard/badge holder that clips to my waistband. And other places! If I'm wearing a jacket it typically covers it.

To me, the key was to leave it in my car at the end of the day. That way I didn't leave it attached to my clothing and forget it that way. [on preview what sm1tten said]
posted by barchan at 10:00 AM on April 2, 2019 [8 favorites]

Tiny magnetized portable pocket, like this one, along with a vow to never buy clothing without pockets ever again. Fuck the patriarchy.
posted by carmicha at 10:00 AM on April 2, 2019 [15 favorites]

There may be small pockets sewn shut on some women's stuff. I avoid buying suits without pockets. Many women's suit jackets have some kind of (tiny) pocket.

My office issues coiled wrist/arm band things. I'm not quite sure how to describe them, but this seems to work fine worn around the elbow. To be honest I don't normally wear it around though, and just make a habit of taking it with me.
posted by lookoutbelow at 10:01 AM on April 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Do you just need a keycard or do you need keys? When I need to carry a keyCARD without pockets, I get one of those plastic name badge sleeves with a clip and clip the card to my waistband where it's hidden by the jacket.

Keys are harder. Those telephone cord key holders are good, but I take them on and off, which risks forgetting them. Another option is having a small patch pocket attached to the inside of your waistband or the inside of your jacket.

You can have a jacket lining replaced (usually) with a lining that has pockets, too. (Obviously those are interior pockets and they can create weird bulges with keys in them, but there it is!)
posted by crush at 10:03 AM on April 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

I keep my ID in my phone case for that reason - I basically never forget my phone. I don't know if it would be inconvenient to have keys tethered to a case but it's certainly possible.
posted by mosst at 10:04 AM on April 2, 2019

When I sort of upgraded my work clothes to look/feel more professional, I basically did a capsule wardrobe from Lands End with a combination of the ponte sheath dresses, skirts, and two blazers. All have good sized pockets, large enough to hold my phone and key ring with five keys. It also makes it really easy to get dressed for work because I just cycle through my 6-7 options without really having to think.
posted by CheeseLouise at 10:15 AM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Just a warning about keeping it in a phone case: smartphones all have RFID chips in them now, which can confuse some badge readers when kept right next to your keycard. The same is true of many credit cards. Also, wireless phone chargers can brick keycards. Source: I run a large physical access control system for a living and see this all the time.
posted by outfielder at 10:17 AM on April 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

I kept a retractable reel with my ID card and key on the waistband of my pants or skirt. When I wore a dress, I would clip it to my jacket pocket. It was the easiest way to get to my keys without digging around or unclipping anything.

You can get them at office supply stores with the printing/badge supplies or at hardware stores at the key kiosk.
posted by assenav at 10:42 AM on April 2, 2019

I expect that if a keycard swipe is required to go everywhere, then most people at your new workplace will wear their keycard around their necks, or clipped at their waists. I work in a professional government office that is quite formal, and everyone wears their keycard with a lanyard around their neck. I've seen many women wearing beaded lanyards like this one, and there are tons of those to choose from. But I just wear a plain one, and it's pretty much an accepted part of the uniform. No one thinks anything of it.
posted by backwards compatible at 10:43 AM on April 2, 2019 [13 favorites]

Retractable keycard holder clipped to my belt or pocket. I hate the way lanyards swing and bump.
posted by suelac at 10:49 AM on April 2, 2019

I have to wear an ID at work that lets me badge into various sites, and I have attached the physical key to my office to the ID with a ring. If I didn't have a physical key I would probably get a phone case that had a space for a card, or a retractable lanyard.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:09 AM on April 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I stopped buying pants without pockets. I have one pair left from my days of accepting the patriarchy, and clip my keys onto the internal loop designed for hanging them up.
posted by metasarah at 11:10 AM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Most mid-market women's suit pants (Ann Taylor, J.Crew, Banana Republic) have pockets. I think pocketless jackets are even more in the minority. Despite the pockets, I use a retractable-reel clip as described above for my keycard because otherwise I'm too apt to lose it.
posted by praemunire at 11:13 AM on April 2, 2019

I reduce the number of things to carry by sticking everything except the keys into a phone/wallet case. Including the ID badge. If someone wants to see it I'm happy to take it out and show them, but in the meantime, I've worked out that I can remember to pick up two items regardless of my jacket / pocket / pants situation, and that's my phone and my keys.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:35 AM on April 2, 2019

I have to keep track of at least two key badges on average. Luckily I have managed to attach up to three to my standard retractable reel holder thing. More problematic with dresses. My colleagues who prefer dresses often have a little wristlet they use for cash, phone and ID. They just carry it with them whenever they get up at work.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:44 AM on April 2, 2019

The options I've seen are pockets (many higher-end pants and especially jackets have them), tiny purses, retractable lanyards clipped to the belt, and fixed lanyards hung around the neck.

Despite the much-vaunted value of first impressions, I feel pretty confident you can wear a lanyard the first day or even the first week while you see what other people do at your new job.

The stretchy spiral loop I mostly see on (I apologize; I don't know how to say this politely in English) people working lower-status jobs like bank clerks.

Also, I see a surprising number of women reach down their collars as if they are carrying their keys in their bras. I've never explicitly asked anyone the etiquette here, but I appear to be the only one who thinks this is at all odd. Or maybe we're all suppressing our surprise and wondering if we're the only ones.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 1:47 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

My workplace seems to really not go for IDs clipped to belts (regardless of gender/clothing), despite needing our cards to go almost anywhere. Most female-presenting people seem go the wristlet, cell phone case or pocket route.

But seriously though, scope out your workplace's norms first. We get both a belt clip and lanyard card holder during onboarding, and there's something in the employee manual about wearing one's ID at all times, but no one outside of positions that typically interact with [specific stakeholder that will reveal my industry] actually wears their ID.
posted by blerghamot at 2:31 PM on April 2, 2019

Yes, a lanyard or something that clips to your clothes might be very useful.

I'm pretty forgetful about keys and such and want to suggest a few things that might help.

If you have keys that you need to carry, make a spot where they live right next to your office door, at eye level. Put them on a stretchy bracelet or something you wear on your wrist, and hang a hook next to the door. Get into the habit of hanging them on the hook every time you walk into the office, and make a habit of taking them off the hook every time you leave. Might be even better to have the hook be right above the door handle.

Right now you are spending energy thinking about your keys, and you are forgetting them. You need to make this a habit, but make it easier by giving yourself a visual reminder.

If you can't hang a hook there for some reason, then I'm going to suggest writing a little note to yourself (not a sticky note that will fall off, but something that will stay put) that says, "Do you have your keys and keycard?" and putting it right next to the door at eye level.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:18 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wear my card clipped to my waistband or belt loop via a retractable reel clip thingie. But to ensure that I always have it at the office (rather than left on my desk at home) I always put it in the same pocket in my work bag. When I take it off, right into the bag. When I get to work, because I need it to get in the door, I put it on right then straight from the bag. I never ever put it down anywhere other than in the bag's pocket.
posted by clone boulevard at 6:39 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

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