Suitable for the workplace?
May 4, 2009 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Should I wear a suit to work every day?

I'm a 40 year old male. I work as a designer for a large software company. The dress code here is very casual and I already dress more formally than most of my co-workers -- they're usually in jeans and t-shirts; I usually wear dress slacks and a dress shirt. The thing is, I want to upgrade to wearing a suit (w/o tie) every day. Is that weird? I love the way I look and feel in a suit, and I already have a reputation as a bit of an eccentric aesthete around the office. But I am well liked and don't want to start coming off as superior or pretentious. I just love to wear suits.
posted by Ratio to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (57 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, it's weird, and will likely come off as superior and/or pretentious.
posted by amro at 10:46 AM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

How about wearing one on Fridays as a riff on "casual Fridays" -- then once you acclimatize them to it then add more Fridays to each week. I do think your concern about making yourself some kind of target might be justified, in that in any group situation there is the potential for scapegoating and for bitchy people to bitch. Heading that off with a bit of humour at the outset might be advised.
posted by Rumple at 10:48 AM on May 4, 2009

I got a 20% raise by dressing up--my old boss loved it. Wear what you want when you want.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:49 AM on May 4, 2009

No, it's not weird, and will likely not come off as superior and/or pretentious.
posted by Neiltupper at 10:51 AM on May 4, 2009

I hate wearing suits and luckily work in a similar environment to yours. At the same time though, if a dress code is casual surely that just means you wear what is comfortable. You feel better in a suit so go for it, you might come of a bit pretentious but there's nought wrong with wearing what makes you feel good.
posted by twistedonion at 10:54 AM on May 4, 2009

Suits are great. Your co-workers might give you a hard time about it, but it's only because you probably look ten times as good. If someone asks, just say "I like suits." Presumably you don't give them a hard time about their XKCD shirts.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:54 AM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have always thought that the jeans-n-tshirt thing in the software business is more of a "because we can" thing than a dress code. We can wear whatever we want. You can wear whatever you want too.

Affectations of appearance are definitely pretentious. There's no getting around that. Jeans-n-tshirt is just as pretentious as a suit if you think about it.

I don't think anybody will consider you superior based on your clothes, though. In fact, it might have the opposite effect. At any rate, whatever first impression you might make will wear off in time, so I say go for it.
posted by stubby phillips at 10:56 AM on May 4, 2009

You might consider giving a nod to the creative environment by choosing bolder colors in dress shirts and ties (if you wear ties).
posted by lakeroon at 10:58 AM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't go regularly sporting pinstripes and a fedora, but you're really talking about putting on one item, on the upper body, in addition to what you normally have. I do not think this is a huge deal. It's not a cravat and a monogrammed handkerchief.

"Should" is not the word I would be looking for. Just consider the consequences:

When you wear a suit, even without a tie, people will tend to take you more seriously.

You will probably get put "in front" on more projects where you interface with your customers.

As to your co-workers, it's hard to know their reaction ahead of time. If these are jeans and a smartass T-shirt from CafePress kinds of folks, they might be glad that someone else will take the dress-up duties, or they might resent you in some fashion.

I do like Rumple's idea of slowly easing everyone into it.
posted by adipocere at 10:58 AM on May 4, 2009

How do you feel about quirky suits? Colors, pinstripes, combinations! Or maybe rock the sport coat over a t-shirt look. Just don't show up in an asshole collar shirt, because then you'd look like a doofus.

Wearing what you're comfortable in should be a two-way street. Though you may need to come up with an arsenal of witty comebacks.
posted by sldownard at 10:58 AM on May 4, 2009

My brother once told me that if he ever had to save the world, he'd need to be wearing a suit. If your co-workers give you any static, explain to them that you're just taking precautions against the apocalypse.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:58 AM on May 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

I think guys in suits look great - especially with no tie, so it won't look stuffy. It's not like you're wearing a zoot suit, so go for it.
posted by HopperFan at 10:59 AM on May 4, 2009

I love the way I look and feel in a suit

And it'll show. You'll come across as more confident, relaxed, and capable. Do it.

I already have a reputation as a bit of an eccentric aesthete around the office

Err... generally "eccentric" is to be avoided. You're not talking about wearing a suit your grandpa was buried in, are you?

If you do this, make sure you're wearing contemporary styles. That means, unless your older suits are VERY high end (and thus are timeless classics), that you should consider freshening up your formal wear.

Vents, one or two, yes. Pleats, never. Two button good, three button fine (if the top button is under the lapel fold), double breasted or four buttons: not unless you're 60 and are the captain of a large motor boat or the head of an industry. If any of this sounds alien to you, please read up.

don't want to start coming off as superior or pretentious

Screw what the hipster t-shirt and flip-flop set think. Let them play-dual with their plastic light sabers while you move into the boardroom.
posted by wfrgms at 10:59 AM on May 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'd probably find it a little strange if one person constantly dressed a couple steps above the norm, and I'd be worried that the formal dresser was trying to show us up.

A good way to diffuse the potential stuffiness associated with suits would be to put your own personal twist on them, so your fashion statement is more "I enjoy dressing up" and less "I enjoy leveraging executive solutions." I'm not sure what that personal twist might be (bright shirts? cool shoes?) since I am fairly clueless with men's suiting, but it sounds like you're sartiorially aware enough to Make It Work.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:59 AM on May 4, 2009

Can you wear a suit jacket, dress shirt and jeans? I've seen it pulled off well before and may come across as more 'I like to dress nice' than 'I'm trying to make y'all look bad'.
posted by ejaned8 at 11:00 AM on May 4, 2009

Vint Cerf works at Google, wears a three-piece suit, and looks damn good. Of course, he invented the Internet so he can get away with it.
posted by zsazsa at 11:04 AM on May 4, 2009

You might need to reassure your boss you aren't going out on job interviews at lunch time. You almost certainly will have co-workers that won't believe you when you say you're not looking for a new job/raise/promotion.

That said, wear what makes you happy; a happy worker is a productive worker. I work in software, and often work in environments where some people consistently wear jeans, while others on the same team, consistently dress as you're proposing.
posted by nomisxid at 11:05 AM on May 4, 2009

There's no law against looking good. Go for it!
posted by ladypants at 11:05 AM on May 4, 2009

Do it.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:07 AM on May 4, 2009

There's suits and then there's suits. Are we talking three-piece navy pinstripe? Or maybe a summery linen or seersucker? Or maybe something altogether different? There's probably lots of room to manoeuver.
posted by mhum at 11:09 AM on May 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I once worked with a guy who did something like the "dressup Friday" idea Rumple suggests. Everyone looked forward to seeing what he'd wear, and occasionally someone else would join him.
posted by tangerine at 11:09 AM on May 4, 2009

Screw what the hipster t-shirt and flip-flop set think. Let them play-dual with their plastic light sabers while you move into the boardroom.

That's pretty much exactly what you don't want your co-workers to think that you're thinking.
posted by Mike1024 at 11:09 AM on May 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

I think the "hipster t-shirt and flip-flop" mindset comes from outside the software business. If they've been in the boardroom, they know it has nothing to do with clothes.

Actually, most of this noise and derail probably comes from non-software people.

Wear what you want. It would not matter at any software company I've ever worked at.
posted by stubby phillips at 11:15 AM on May 4, 2009

I can think of no other way to answer this question but to quote Luis Guzman's memorable character, Maurice TT Rodriguez, from Boogie Nights.

"Wear what you dig."
posted by SinisterPurpose at 11:16 AM on May 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

If upper management at your company wears suits while the designers and engineers dress casually, then you wearing a suit will look like ladder-climbing or pretentiousness.

If everybody dresses casually regardless of their position, then you wearing a suit will just look like you're the guy who likes wearing suits.

When you wear a suit, even without a tie, people will tend to take you more seriously.

Not necessarily true. To many engineering and designer types -- and not just among the hipster crowd -- a suit connotes "clueless" or (worse yet) "salesman".
posted by ook at 11:16 AM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I disagree with wearing bright color shirts or quirky patterns. You will already look different from your coworkers because you are wearing a suit. Don't make it even odder by wearing funny colors or patterns. I would keep the shirt and suit colors as neutral as possible, but make sure everything is well-cut and fits you well. Make it about creating a silhouette, so onlooker's brains will register that you are appropriately covered up and you look sharp, but they're not thinking "What's with the polka-dot suit?" Personally I think the look is already pretty dressed down without a tie. To go with the dressed-down theme, pair it with footwear such as jodhpur boots and stay away from cap toe shoes.

The quirky detail you can add is a fun watch. One of my siblings had a collection of colorful Swatch watches which he would wear with his very conservative suits. Or get a watch with a replaceable watch band and alternate with different pattern watchbands.
posted by needled at 11:17 AM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm a dedicated jeans and T-shirt person, working where almost nobody wears suits, and I say hell, if you feel good in a suit then I'm in no position to offer sartorial judgement! I think it's key that you say 'without a tie'. A suit without a tie will likely look both more elegant and less stuffy than a dress shirt/slacks combo, depending on the shirt underneath (perhaps an extremely informal one with a soft or no collar?) and especially the shoes.
posted by nowonmai at 11:19 AM on May 4, 2009

Please do wear a suit! One less pair of flip flops and shorts at the office is a good thing in my book.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:27 AM on May 4, 2009

I don't do software.

If I were your coworker, I would be annoyed with you.

I would not be annoyed with you because you look better than me.

I would not be annoyed with you because you might advance faster than me.

I would not be annoyed with you because I won't grow up.

I would be annoyed with you because I value being able to wear jeans and t-shirts to work and I would worry that the suits (in the sense of clueless management droids) would see you and start insisting that I put one on too, and I loathe suits with the heat of a thousand suns.*

*Probably because in my experience wearing a suit means being a powerless supplicant.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:29 AM on May 4, 2009 [10 favorites]

[it] will likely come off as superior and/or pretentious

Only if you act as such, which I presume you will not. Go for it.
posted by randomstriker at 11:30 AM on May 4, 2009

My friend started dressing up for work and his boss began constantly accusing him of going to job interviews on his lunch break.

I still think you should do it.
posted by hermitosis at 11:32 AM on May 4, 2009

A friend of mine definitely rocks the Formal Friday. It might be worthwhile to start with that and see what the reception is, then ease your way into daily wear.

(Though speaking as an engineer, "the suits" have always been "the corporate types" to be disdained. Whether that's the right reaction or not isn't the point; it's how it's perceived)
posted by olinerd at 11:40 AM on May 4, 2009

I work in a business casual environment (more business than casual, but we do wear jeans on other days than Friday) and there's one guy who's always, always, always in a suit and tie. He looks snazzy. He puts all the other guys to shame.

He's also a bit flamboyant with the shirts and ties that go with the suits, which makes it all the better. He looks totally put together and still creative. I say go for it!
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:42 AM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I work in a very creative open office with artists, designers, writers and programmers all mashed in together. Everyone wears jeans and T-shirts. There was a new guy who wore khakis and button-downs for his first couple months. Tidy, clean, professional.... drab, blah, conventional, authority-embracing clothes. It looked totally WRONG. It made him seem obsequeous, nervous, clueless, like he might never fit in, and worst of all, totally non-creative. And it made everyone else feel childish and sloppy, which was unfair, because everyone else was dressed appropriately in funny T-shirts and clean jeans. It actually put a damper on the creativity by adding formality and a whiff of judgeyness to the table: when we're brainstoming a creative idea, I don't want the insurance adjustor guy in the mix. If your suits are drab, I say NO WAY. If your suits are creative and designey, well, maybe: still too formal, but at least not dull. I'd say, use colour and shoes and layers and glasses to make it quirky and a little casual.

Still, if I was in your office, I might think you were being weird, clueless about office culture, pretentious, or had a lunchtime job hunt on the go.
I might also think you were hot.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:50 AM on May 4, 2009

Yes, it's weird, and will likely come off as superior and/or pretentious.

No, it's not weird, and will likely not come off as superior and/or pretentious.

Both. This will depend on the culture where you work. At my job -- where a tie is considered extremely formal -- you would be seen as pretentious and there would be some snickering behind your back. At my previous job -- where a tie was considered extremely formal -- you would have been admired as "that well-dressed guy."
posted by coolguymichael at 11:54 AM on May 4, 2009

When you start dressing up nicely, people at work will constantly ask you why you're so dressed up. They'll ask you if you're going for an interview, or if you have a meeting with a customer. Then they'll say that it's nice, but you're not going to keep it up over time. Then, if you keep it up, some people will start emulating you; they might make it sound like a joke (ie: "Well, Ratio's making me look bad, so I gotta keep up."), but really will be thinking that they're glad someone took charge and is stepping it up a notch (or two, or three). Others will be mildly disdainful. But if you keep it up, after a few months, nobody will remark on it anymore -- you'll just be known as the guy who dresses up. If others do the same as you, you may or may not be recognized as the person who initiated it, but you'll always walk around knowing that you're the origin of all these people walking around looking good.

It seems that in the field of software (and some fields of engineering), casual means wearing whatever you feel like, regardless of how bad you look; most people end up wearing ugly-ass jeans and sneakers (or worse). You're doing yourself, the industry, and your company a favour by dressing nicely. Do it proudly.
posted by Simon Barclay at 11:55 AM on May 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

It depends on the office. I moved from a company and office that was very much on the "business" end of "business casual" (pressed shirt OK if you're not doing anything important; if you are, better be in a suit and tie), to a startuppy-flavored software company where a polo shirt is considered formalwear and the t-shirt and shorts rule.

For the first few weeks, I kept showing up in my business-casual clothes because that was all I really had in my closet after years of working at the other company. Eventually, one of my officemates took me aside and told me that not only could I dress more casually, but I really should. The subtext was that it made some people uncomfortable and seemed like I wasn't interested in fitting in with their office culture, which they were justifiably proud of.

I decided to get myself some new t-shirts and save on my drycleaning bill.

So on one hand, sure — wear whatever you want. But at the same time be conscious that whatever choice you make, people are going to take that into consideration when interacting with you. If you consciously make a choice that's different from the rest of your community and set yourself apart, some people may take that the wrong way. If they already know you well and you're well-integrated into the office, it might not be a big deal; if you're new and trying to fit in, though, I wouldn't recommend it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:59 AM on May 4, 2009

Oh, and about starting with Formal Fridays: Don't do it. Go in on a Monday dressed to the nines, and dress up every single day. Go big or go home. Part of dressing well is the attitude -- you're not looking for anyone's approval, you're dressing the way you choose to dress.
posted by Simon Barclay at 12:00 PM on May 4, 2009

If it's someplace that let's you get away with dressing how you want to dress, a little personal style isn't bad, I'd just say make sure it's something that translates well that you're not dressing "corporate" but still "casual" in the loosest sense of the word, meaning you're having fun with a style and that it's your style that you're comfortable with and works logically for you. Like if you think you might do it one day then not, it's kind of jarring/incongruous and will probably make people notice even more when you are or are not dressed up. If you showed up one day dressed real nice and continued the trend, people are going to get used to it. A two or three-piece suit might not be the definition of casual, but I think what you want to go for here isn't just "I want to wear suits" but maybe something more like a consistent look or fashion sense that says "my thing is being dressed up in clothes that look good." Like say Thick as Thieves with different styles, colors, shirts and layering techniques and accessories so that you can switch it up as far as suits, or maybe sweaters/vests or just dress slacks and shirts, or any other permutations where you aren't just doing jeans and a shirt, but at the same time you're kind of keeping it casual in the sense that you're not dressing up for an 8 a.m. meeting but just dressing up for dressing up's sake.

Of course this means you have to be fine with being "that dude" for a while or forever with some people. I remember one summer out of college I worked in an office with the military, which had its own dresscode for civilian workers but I got cut some slack since I was the college summer hire (one Air Force guy I worked with said, "You have a Punky Brewster thing going on"). One other person I worked with stood out in a diametrically opposite way. While other civilians had the Dilbert buttoned down shirt and dress slacks look, he always had on full suits...and a bowtie. But his suits varied in colors an material. For example, it was the summer so I'd see linen a lot. Did he have to dress up to that length? No. In fact he stuck out like a sore thumb because his more "conservative" buttoned down look was actually flamboyant in comparison to the military setting. There was some friendly ribbing, but it was pretty much acknowledged that was "his thing" because he was so comfortable with it and you always saw him in some sort of suit and bowtie incarnation. You couldn't tell if his personality steered him towards dressing that way or if his style was part of his personality. It was just him.

Obviously YMMV depending on you, your workplace, your relationship with your coworkers, etc.
posted by kkokkodalk at 12:05 PM on May 4, 2009

In my (game development) office a suit means
1. A job interview
2. Funeral/wedding
3. Marketing
4. A low-level employee who got fired from their previous office job and has to wear a suit when leaving the house in the morning so his wife doesn't find out that he's switched jobs

In short, there is no universal code for it. You're the best judge of how it would come across. Run it past some coworkers first maybe?
posted by slimepuppy at 12:06 PM on May 4, 2009

A couple of concerns.

Your boss will likely think you're using your lunch break for a job interview. You probably don't want this given the current economic climate.

Second, your co-workers will probably think you're putting them down (albeit discretely and nonverbally) for the way they dress, as though you're trying to raise the standard around the office because you don't think their dress is adequate. At best, they simply won't give a damn, and they won't start dressing more nicely. More likely, they'll think you're being a jerk and will resent you for it. If your boss takes notice and makes a department wide suggestion to up the level of dress in the office, then you can count on all of your co-workers hating you.

In short, you probably don't look half as nice in a suit as you think in your head you do. I say you "think you do," because I can fathom only one other reason why you'd feel more comfortable in a suit: it makes you feel as though your job is more legitimate than you think deep down it actually is. My advice, get over yourself and play with the team rather than trying to draw attention to yourself. If not, you're acting as a jerk and your co-workers are fully entitled to resent you.
posted by yurodivy at 12:30 PM on May 4, 2009

I think the trick is to make sure that people know that you're doing it because you like to wear suits. If they ask, "Why so dressy?", the best response is to smile, and say, "I love this suit, is why!"

Undoubtedly, some people will think you're only doing it to be a dick, but some people will think anything, no matter what you wear.

Wear the suit!
posted by Greg Nog at 12:33 PM on May 4, 2009

You're doing yourself, the industry, and your company a favour by dressing nicely.

I respectfully disagree.

It has taken a non-trivial amount of evolution to get the industry away from the days of the IBM blue suit, white shirt, red tie. Many engineers dress the way they do because it is comfortable to them, and that is conducive to the work that they do. A comfortable employee is a happy employee, is a productive employee. That's good for the company and the industry... and believe me, the industry as a whole doesn't want to go back to the bad old days.

To suggest that someone who wears sneakers to work is somehow doing their industry a disservice is insulting. An asshole collar (as mentioned upthread) or a bolo tie strikes me as much much worse than sneakers, jeans, t-shirts or a dashiki... and that's part of why I work in the tech industry -- where there is an culture that explicitly understands that your choices in clothing are very rarely related to your ability to get a job done.

To the OP: if you prefer wearing suits, by all means, wear them proudly. That's what a "wear what you please" dress code is all about. Proudly own your image on your own terms, and while those around you might not understand why you choose the wardrobe that you do, they'll generally respect your decision to wear it... especially if it's a two-way street. It sounds like you've got the right attitude about it.

To your original question: "Is it weird?" Yes. It's weird for a designer in the software industry to wear a suit. But... the creative industries are full of weird workplaces. It is OK to be weird.

The easiest way to explain your wardrobe to your non-suit wearing brethren is a simple "This may seem bizarre, but I LIKE wearing suits. You like your soft T-shirts, I like my perfectly pressed silk/wool blend. A well-made suit is the most comfortable item in my closet. I like the way they feel; I like the way they look; I like that I can drop them off at the cleaners anywhere and pick them back up the next day. I like that I can go straight from work to a hot date without any effort. It's not my fault that so many douchebags wear them too."

Make it clear that you're wearing the suit because you like it, and that you don't particularly care that others around you aren't suit wearers, and you'll be fine.

(Though, I'll admit, as a 15+ year veteran of the software industry, it would initially strike me as offputting -- like somebody didn't want to be part of the team/culture surrounding it. This would go double or triple for a new member of the team. If you're trying to bond with coworkers, dressing like an outsider (especially an outsider that all too often thinks that T-shirts and jeans are wrong) will get in the way, bigtime.

But, if you can rock the suit in a creative way, or you've already established yourself as someone who isn't just a stuffed shirt, and you're not secretly hoping that your office will become a more formal place to work... then go for it. )
posted by toxic at 12:46 PM on May 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

I started wearing as crisp white shirt and a tie once per week. (I work in the back office side of .edu IT, and it's very casual around here.) Everyone noticed, but I just said that I like to dress nicely and to keep my tie-tying skills fresh. Offered with a smile, it makes everyone happy-happy. No one (boss, boss's boss, or co-wprkers) really cares as long as I don't take away their right to dress themselves.

I also agree the Formal Friday idea is neat, and a goodway to ease this into the office. But if you're already "in" well enough with everyone, then it may not matter.

Then again, I also wear a hat when outdoors (and I am younger then forty thankyouverymuch).
posted by wenestvedt at 12:56 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing: The answer to "why?" is "I like wearing suits."

The people who think it's weird will get used to it. Reassure your boss you're not going to for job interviews. The paranoid people will be paranoid anyway.

Bonus: Wearing suits makes faster to decide what to wear in the morning. And I find that since a suit is "special work clothes" it's easier to remember to take it off as soon as I get home and hang it up so it won't get mashed up. (Can't say that I'm as disciplined about more casual clothes that I've worn to work.)

Caveat: I take summers off from suit-wearing. 'Cause it's too hot outside for that.
posted by desuetude at 12:59 PM on May 4, 2009

Are you a software designer/coder or some sort of aesthetic or so-called 'creative' designer? I think it's definitely acceptable to have a different manner of dress from others in your office. If all the coders are wearing convention swag, jeans, and trainers, and you choose to wear something else, it shouldn't be a problem if it's still work-appropriate.

Nth the idea for Formal Fridays— you won't look pretentious unless you act pretentious about your attire. If you project the attitude that you enjoy dressing that way, and not that you're trying to one-up everyone else, people will likely continue to see you as the eccentric aesthete.

Ease into the rest of the week with dark, fitted denim and the suit jacket* over a nicely coloured shirt, and wear a good pair of shoes. It's one of the more versatile looks you can wear, since you get the silhouette of the jacket without the formality of the whole suit, you still get to wear jeans, and your shirts can be bright but not overpower anyone since only part of the fabric is showing when your jacket is donned.

*You wouldn't choose a "country" suit—typically patterned tweed—to split with denim, so unless yours is gray, charcoal, or black, I'd pass.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:32 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's no dress code, right? So go ahead and be yourself, and dress as you wish. Dress slacks + sportscoat + xkcd shirt is nice, too. When people notice and comment, I'd be tempted to give eccentric answers like "My parole officer requires it." but honesty works, too.
posted by theora55 at 1:52 PM on May 4, 2009

It seems that in the field of software (and some fields of engineering), casual means wearing whatever you feel like, regardless of how bad you look; most people end up wearing ugly-ass jeans and sneakers (or worse). You're doing yourself, the industry, and your company a favour by dressing nicely. Do it proudly.

This is just false.

You'll do yourself, your industry, and your company a favor if you write good code, provide good comments in the code, and write good documentation for the code.

What you wear while you do that doesn't enter into it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:56 PM on May 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Good points on both sides of the argument here. Throughout this thread, I keep thinking of Mr. Show-- during the opening of each episode, David was the t-shirt and shorts guy, and Bob always wore a suit. You'd be hard-pressed to call either of them more or less serious than the other, though.

But yeah, it seems reasonable that your company's individual culture, coupled with how non-pretentious you can act with a suit on, are the key issues here.
posted by Rykey at 1:57 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I took over a position that was legendary for its previous occupant, a shorts-and-sneakers guy, and decided that to make my own impression I'd dress a notch above what was expected. I did get a little guff about it to begin with, but every time I've had an impromptu meeting with the higher-ups, I'm really glad I made that decision.

And the meetings with the higher-ups are much more frequent these days. Go figure.

Anyway, one thing to watch out for: if any new guys start work where you are, make sure to let them know that the suits are your thing. We had an intern here for a bit, and I found out a few weeks into his job that he'd been under the impression that I was the dress code example he needed to follow. He was incredibly relieved to find out that he could just come in in shorts and sneakers.
posted by MrVisible at 2:13 PM on May 4, 2009

Seriously, don't worry about what other people think.

For one: be glad you're working someplace that you can wear a suit. As someone who has had his share of manual labor jobs, I am grateful I have a job that allows me to work in a suit without totally ruining it in one day.

For another, be glad you are comfortable in a suit. I've known tons of guys who get itchy and uncomfortable just because they're wearing a jacket and tie and being uncomfortable makes them look much much worse and exacerbates the issue. If you feel good, you'll look good. Seriously.

And lastly, if you want to wear a suit then wear it. I just moved into an environment that is MUCH much less formal than I was used to. I'm used to wearing a suit every day (and because of my employment history, I embraced it as soon as I could at my former place of employ because it was a point of pride for me) and the folks here could be described as Business Casual. Sweaters and jeans... it's not for me. (Though I have sported a polo and khakis on a Friday, if I don't have any meetings) So I've been rocking the suits because that's what I'm still comfortable in. And no one here has given me a second thought. At first some people were like "what's with the new guy?" but I had the advantage of coming in like that, whereas you're trying to implement it mid-stream. Really, folks will not care as much as you think they will.

I feel for you, I really do, but I can't encourage you enough. I think that we can all raise the bar, a little bit, if we all do it on our own. And I do think that positive behavior breeds positive behavior. Even if you don't get your coworkers wearing suits, maybe they'll upgrade from t-shirts to shirts with a collar of some kind. Dare to dream, right?

Oh, and stubby totally nails it:
I have always thought that the jeans-n-tshirt thing in the software business is more of a "because we can" thing than a dress code. We can wear whatever we want. You can wear whatever you want too.

You're (presumably) an adult, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to dress like one. Lead by example. Actually, it's even better when Courage Wolf tells you that.
posted by indiebass at 3:19 PM on May 4, 2009

Just make sure they are decent suits, that you have a number of them, and you retire them when they get ratty. Nothing wrecks a good look like a ratty, ill fitting suit.

And make sure it's not an affectation- do it because you really want to because you like it. Do not do it if you just want to be seen as the suit guy.

(FYI- Suit != sportcoat. A suit is a matching coat and pants, and sometimes vest, depending on the fashion of the time. A sportcoat is a more casual ("sport") item.)
posted by gjc at 4:18 PM on May 4, 2009

Ratio, check your MeMail.
posted by Simon Barclay at 4:55 PM on May 4, 2009

How about:
- linen/tweed sport jacket + jeans + tshirt or turtleneck sweater or casual shirt with/without tie
- denim jacket tailored like a suit jacket + dress pants + shirt without tie
- sport jacket + dress pants + shirt with no tie or casual tie (rough linen, tweed)
- really good shoes with all, something casual (no wingtips) like a brogue or moccasin type
- no silly stuff like cravats or cardigans or loud plaid; tweed, herringbone, Prince of Wales check, linen & textured fabrics make things casual as do brown leather, braided & woven leather, leather/horn/bone buttons.

If you're in a casual environment, you can still wear a jacket, hang it up at work, roll up your sleeves if necessary to fit in, then put yourself back together when you're out of the office. You'll still look good, tailored, and won't have the boss wondering if you're looking for a new job. I'd recommend trying to find a salesman who understands the look you're going for and will help pick things for you if this is what you want. It's harder to pick co-ordinating items than just buying a suit. You could end up looking rugged, not sloppy.

That said, if you want suits, get really sharp suits, not the standard your dad's gray flannel. Ditto above wrt salesman to make sure they're fitted properly and to help pick sharp shirts and ties.
posted by x46 at 5:12 PM on May 4, 2009

Suit up!!
posted by saradarlin at 9:13 PM on May 4, 2009

Organize "dress up Fridays" as a lark, and get others excited about it. Then you can wear your suit that day and still fit in with everyone else.
posted by lsemel at 9:20 PM on May 5, 2009

Thanks everyone.
I'm totally going for it.
posted by Ratio at 3:11 PM on June 3, 2009

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