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How should a professional young man dress for a job?
February 23, 2014 2:55 PM   Subscribe

In my old job (a small creative outfit), I used to wear what is known as "sport-chic attire", which pretty much means a nice shirt and high-end jeans. It was all about having a shirt for every day of the week with 2 or 3 pants and 2 or 3 pairs of shoes. Now that I'm changing jobs, should I change my dress code as well?

How should a 27-year old guy dress for a job (corporate creative job in a big company)? Like any other guy in the world, I like expensive clothes but my budget doesn't allow for that much variety, and I'm not really digging the whole "wear a new suit everyday" because of its implications on my savings account. How can I strike a balance between making a good impression in that department (on a daily basis) and not going overboard financially? I'd like to change my clothes on a daily basis, but how can I give that impression without owning seven different pairs of dress pants? On a separate but related note: I lately gained a few pounds and I'm worrying it'll affect my image. Do you think a slightly overweight guy with an ever-receding hairline can still be well-dressed for the job? (If you do, it would be great to give some examples for self-esteem boosting).
posted by omar.a to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you think a slightly overweight guy with an ever-receding hairline can still be well-dressed for the job?

Yes, absolutely! Anyone, regardless of their hair or weight, can look very well-dressed and professional as long as their clothing is work-appropriate and fits well.


First off, even if you wear a suit almost every day, it need not be a different suit every day. Three suits in navy, grey, and black with an assortment of dress shirts and ties can give the illusion of a wardrobe full of different suits.

That said, men can easily look professional without a suit, especially in a creative position. The best-dressed guy on my floor at work often wears slacks, a button-down, and a lightweight sweater to work when he doesn't need to be in a suit. It's a sharp look that fits in well in many business environments. A nice dress shirt can standalone with slacks, no tie, sweater or jacket really needed, too.

My suggestion: get three suits that are mid-range in price (cheap suits always look bad, so it's worth splurging a bit). You can wear the pants sans jacket whenever you like. Hit up sales and cheaper retailers for an assortment of dress shirts, ties, sweaters, and (depending on your tastes) some vests.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:02 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


Also, I'd wait to spend a lot of money on a new wardrobe until you've been there for at least a few days. You may find out that you can dress much more casually than you expect - if that's the case, better to know before you've bought all of your new dress clothes, right?
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:08 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


When in doubt, dress like a guy from the J. Crew catalog. Their "Factory" usually has great deals.

I've found that unless you work in fashion, nobody can tell the difference between J. Crew level clothing and more expensive stuff.

Of course, if you have to wear a suit, you have to wear a suit. I like Sid Mashburn.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 3:27 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


If your profile location is up-to-date, I recommend you check out Off the Cuff.
posted by avocet at 3:27 PM on February 23


Look at the people around you, and dress slightly better than them. I'm in Chicago in the ad biz, creative side. I can wear whatever the hell I want, but usually go with nice dark jeans and some kind of collared shirt. Polo shirts in the summer. If clients are around I throw on a casual sports coat. I could dress up a lot more, but there's really no point. So it's hard to say unless we know exactly where you work and what it's like.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:53 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


"How can I strike a balance between making a good impression in that department (on a daily basis) and not going overboard financially?"

There are lots of suits available if you don't mind second-hand.

"Do you think a slightly overweight guy with an ever-receding hairline can still be well-dressed for the job?"

Well, Balmer isn't ecactly a clothes horse but he is worth $18 Billion. Look around at what people are wearing.
posted by vapidave at 3:54 PM on February 23


I never really thought of second-hand clothes as an option. How many young people you know go for that?
posted by omar.a at 4:29 PM on February 23


Came in to say the same thing that jeff-o-matic said: step one is to figure out what the other people at your company are wearing. Paraphrasing an answer I gave a couple of years ago in a similar thread, I would suggest that you think about men's clothing as dialing across a spectrum from casual to formal where your "sports-chic attire" in your previous job is just a stop on that spectrum, kind of like "reddish orange". For each piece of your wardrobe there are some distinct stops. Here would be my (very) rough ideas of what goes where, dialing from less formal to more formal:

shoes: tennis shoes, boat shoes, loafers, lace-up shoes (split-toes, cap toes, plain toes). Suede and nu-buck less formal than smooth leather

pants: jeans (lighter denim to darker/black), khakis, wool slacks. Pleats and cuffs to no pleats, no cuffs.

belt: braided to plain, wide to narrow.

shirt: structured tee, polo shirt, button down dress shirt, dress shirt (moving from coarser fabrics like oxford to finer and from button down collars to plain to spread collars). Buttons on cuffs to cuff links (french cuffs).

tie: no tie to tie. With tie, going from a narrower knot to a fatter knot: four-in-hand knot, half Windsor, Windsor.

jacket: no jacket, sweater over shirt, sports coat over shirt, sweater over shirt with tie, sports coat over shirt with tie, suit coat over shirt with tie

watch: plastic sports watch, metal "diving" watch, dress watch with leather band. Thinner = more formal.

general: patterns -> no pattern, lighter colors -> darker colors

So, suits are at the far end of the spectrum and there is a lot of territory in-between. If you find that people are at least wearing ties and jackets (if not actual suits), you might check out this thread about how to build a wardrobe for a jacket-and-tie environment. Good luck with your new job!
posted by kovacs at 4:29 PM on February 23 [8 favorites]


I never really thought of second-hand clothes as an option. How many young people you know go for that?

Almost all of them. Hey, your clothes are going to be used eventually, even if you buy them new.

My only caveat is that it can be a challenge to find used clothes that fit correctly, and I spent too much time buying things that were "close enough" when it came to sizing, and that did not work for me over the long term-- I ultimately replaced those ill-fitting pieces.

Outlets and the lower-end sales-every-3-weeks places are a good chance to stock up on things like wool slacks and suits/blazers at a low price.
posted by deanc at 5:27 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


I wear suits for my job occasionally. I have a closet full of Armani, handmade Italian, handmade in Hong Kong, etc., suits. I haven't paid more than $20 at Goodwill for any of them. (And then $50-100 or so for tailoring). Nobody has ever said "Oh that'd be a nice Armani suit if you hadn't got it at the Goodwill" to me though my tailor has said "You got this for HOW MUCH?! You wanna do my shopping for me?!"
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:56 PM on February 23 [5 favorites]


I'd like to change my clothes on a daily basis, but how can I give that impression without owning seven different pairs of dress pants?

Four-day pant rotation, plus, making sure your shirts and sweaters and pants all kind of work together (not match, necessarily) in terms of fabric and colour.

Agree with observing your coworkers -- what did the people actually working in your department wear when you saw them at your interview? -- but nice dark jeans and some kind of collared shirt. Polo shirts in the summer appears to be favoured among designers. Maybe buy one new amazing sweater you think will work for your first day, just for confidence's sake, and clean and press your existing stuff so you have choices while you wait out a week.

For second-hand clothes, it really helps to have an eye for cuts, probably some knowledge of labels and definitely a good tailor, as deanc and Ghostride The Whip have said. It also helps to spend a lot of time at second-hand stores (that's how you get lucky). If you haven't shopped this way before, maybe go with a friend who's good with that kind of stuff. Otherwise, it might be easier to shop sales of current stock.

If you're worried about weight gain, you might feel more comfortable in the newer classic-cut shirts vs slim-fit ones (or vs the older relaxed styles with the massive pleats in the back). Or, go up one size in a slim-fit (this can actually work well with some of the more affordable shirts that rely more on stretch for fit). Make sure that shoulders sit right -- no tugging, and on the other side, not too much of a drop that's not intentional -- and that nothing tugs anywhere else. Only buy shirts that make you feel just great.

Congratulations on your new job!
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:58 PM on February 23


What is their dress code? I was told at my orientation meeting what to wear. As a sys admin for a corporate real estate company, it's business casual. Dress slacks/khakis, dress shoes, polo/button up shirts, nice jeans on Friday. It's not expensive, especially when I can go to Ross and get some decent name brand shirts and slacks.

Truth be told, my favorite pants are Wally's George brand slacks. $20 a pair with slightly-stretchy-but-still-belted waistband (very comfortable on my gut), small pocket inside the pocket for your keys (so they're not jingling as you walk) and they've lasted longer than, look as good as, and are 25% the price of my Perry Ellis slacks from a high-end department store (that started splitting at the pockets within a few months of purchase).

Keep your eye out for clearance sales. I purchased my Johnston & Murphy slip-on loafers, which retail for $150, on sale for $40 in a "additional 50% off clearance" sale at Dillards. I had to go early to beat the crowds but I've had them for two years now and they are the most comfortable, best looking shoe I've ever owned. Now I'm addicted. Every couple of months or so I'll check some outlet stores or sales for something that'll freshen up the wardrobe.
posted by dozo at 4:07 AM on February 24


Wear a suit on day one and find out how people dress there.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:20 AM on February 24


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