What do I wear???
February 12, 2012 6:09 PM   Subscribe

What should I wear to a business meeting on a military base?

My company has never sold to the military before. Certain special forces units have become interested in what we have to offer and in a few weeks I'll be visiting some of these guys at their base.

I haven't been on a military base in a professional capacity ever, and my industry is traditionally very casual. I don't want to appear sloppy, however I also don't want to show up over dressed. Input from anyone with experience working with the military is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total)
Wear a suit.
posted by HuronBob at 6:14 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I work with an Army group that gets a lot of outside salespeople. In my experience the salespeople wear suits and ties when they are giving PowerPoint presentations in conference rooms, but when they are giving a physical demo of equipment, they wear more tactical/outdoorsy wear...pants like these, outdoor polos or shirts like these.
posted by hellogoodbye at 6:23 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Suit and tie. Being overdressed is never seen as a bad thing, whereas being underdressed often is.
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:32 PM on February 12, 2012

Echoing the suggestions for a suit. Also, business casual is about the least-dressed I'd want to be in that kind of position; you can easily downgrade your dressiness if you want to, by tossing your jacket onto the back of a chair.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:39 PM on February 12, 2012

Are you a man or a woman?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:56 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Depends who you're meeting. You can't really go wrong with a suit. If it's higher-level officers, you should wear a suit. For unit-level people, like you're demonstrating some gear to the people who will actually use it, you might connect better wearing something more like business casual.
posted by ctmf at 6:58 PM on February 12, 2012

Suit. They want to know you're taking their needs seriously. For fieldwork, khakis and a solid-color polo with your embroidered company logo.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:01 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

A suit is appropriate unless you're going to be demonstrating something that will get you dirty.

Also, if you aren't familiar with the military, you may want to invest some time learning the rank structure, and what to call people (e.g., a Lt. Col. is addressed as Colonel, not Lieutenant).
posted by i love cheese at 7:08 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Suit up. Or at the very minimum, sport coat and tie. The military takes dress code very seriously. As i love cheese said, learn what to call people, but also learn the rank order and insignia for that particular service (US DoD version). If multiple services, then the equivalent ranks is something to know too (for example, a Capt. in the Navy way outranks a Capt in the Army, but really, it's only the Navy that is different).
If you are doing an in-field demo of some sort, it is appropriate to show up for the meeting and then either put on overalls if you're going to be in a situation where you gotta get messy or duck into the restroom and change into khaki's before you head out.
posted by Runes at 9:12 PM on February 12, 2012

Oh, and if your demo is going to get messy, please let your audience know in advance. You don't want to be they guy responsible for getting their uniforms messy.

Also, don't make assumptions about power or network connectivity. Describe what your requirements are beforehand to whoever is inviting you, and be prepared to run stand-alone.
posted by Runes at 9:16 PM on February 12, 2012

Definitely suit up.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:48 PM on February 12, 2012

Nth-ing suit up if you don't know,for at least initial contact/meeting and you can adjust from there. FWIW I've worked with many contractors (albeit after the contract sale, such as during upgrade) and they're at least in Khaki and polo w/lanyard for IDs.

Other things to consider: just call your POC and ask. I can't speak directly for SF or the Army (though I have many friends in both) and they can answer what the style is, but more importantly what lever you're talking to. In SF it can be a senior NCO, mid level junior officer, or possibly senior leadership O-5/6.
posted by aggienfo at 1:28 AM on February 13, 2012

I work for a defense contractor (as a peon). The business guys who meet with the military for presentations are wearing jackets and ties at a minimum if not suits. When they come to the lab to see the demos I have prepared, I don't worry about dressing any different (business casual).
posted by garlic at 10:50 AM on February 14, 2012

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