So I'm pretty much not looking for a suit on craigslist anymore, right?
August 20, 2014 6:59 AM   Subscribe

I have a very very niche job. I've been doing it for over ten years now and have made about $28,000 per year. Because of my experience, I was called in for a meet and greet. It was going to lead nowhere. So, I pretty much blew it off, and blew the next one off, and showed up to the third because it was on my way home. They hired me and gave me a job that pays about $786,000 per year. I was told that they had reservations about me and told me they were bothered by the fact that I wore "denim with unpatched holes" at the interview. I didn't even think I was being considered. This is very unreal. And now I will have a job that pays me more in my bimonthly check than my last year's entire gross. I will be working with a different clientele, and my position will have more prestige than previously. So how do I dress?

Sure I know that everyone at this level wears suits and ties (85-95% conservative, and sometimes rather flamboyant-I specifically remember someone who had on a gorgeous RED suit a few years ago for a negotiation).

But beyond that I know nothing.
What kind of suit should I buy?
Actually, how many suits do I need?
Are all white shirts the same, or is there a difference between any button down white dress shirt?
Everyone wears cuff links. What kind should I buy so i don't look like a poser? Any other cuff link tips?
Do I need a different type of shirt for cuff links?

How do I have a hair cut that looks like (I make) a million dollars? How often do I get my hair cut?
Any other grooming that I should do?

So I wear Rockports for shoes, right (I don't even know if that's a joke)? Any tips for shoes? Oh my god, do I have to have multiple pairs now?

I'm guessing my Casio Data Bank watch won't be good enough. Any tips there?

Socks and underwear, any tips that may be relevant?

Cologne? Do I need to start smelling high-end? How best to do that?

Any other tips to help me look the part in this new job that will really change my life?

I'm 38 years old, and considered "youngish" at this level. What was stressed to me was that any lack of confidence in myself would be seen as a liability for the entire organization. I have no problems with confidence regarding the actual work, but I am having issues about how to join this new class of people and fit in. The clothes thing is keeping me up at night.

I'm really scared of being found out as someone who "doesn't belong", so I am posting this anonymously, and am not using a throwaway address because I don't want anybody to figure out who I am. This is as detailed as I can get. If I haven't said it here, I honestly don't know, so please take that into consideration if you think a follow-up question to me would help you answer this post.

Please help me.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (58 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a Nordstrom where you live? Make an appointment with a personal shopper.

My advice is to go with classic, understated styles with quality workmanship and materials, until you figure out your own personal style.
posted by matildaben at 7:07 AM on August 20, 2014 [29 favorites]

Go to Brooks Brothers or Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus and tell them to dress you. personal shoppers are helpful. J Crew is also okay.
You want more than 1 pair of shoes so the first pair can recover while you're wearing the other pair.
If you don't wear French cuff shirt, you don't need cuff links.
Lots of people don't wear watches because they don't need to, because they have phones.
New underwear is always a good idea. Long, dark socks are good.
Smell clean. Use soap or body wash, but not Axe.
Ask people with good haircuts to recommend someone who cuts hair.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:08 AM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

If I were you I would strongly consider hiring a personal shopper to help. What you want most is clothes that fit right and respect (a fancy version of ) your personal style, and it seems like you would benefit from a consult.
posted by nat at 7:09 AM on August 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

Personal shopper.

This won't get you past feeling like you're impersonating your new role, but it will get you started.
posted by holgate at 7:09 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Pay 5 dollars for a Something Awful account and go read through the 'You look like shit' forum. Lots of great mens grooming / fashion advice, including a suiting megathread that has some great recommendations.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:11 AM on August 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

Wow, what a score. Good luck!

You may be able to rent a suit until you get your first paycheck, at which point you can buy a suit.

If you're in the US, go to a place like Joseph A Bank (Pro Tip: they often advertise "buy 1 suit get 2 suits free" sales) or Men's Wearhouse (actually these two are now the same company). You'll be able to get your suits custom fit and tailored.

If you wear cuff links, you'll need to get "French Cuff" dress shirts, as regular dress shirts can't accommodate cuff links.

You'll need to have those suits dry cleaned, as you can't wash them in a regular washing machine. Although you don't have to, you can get your dress shirts dry cleaned as well (it's cheap enough, and they iron them for you).

I find Ecco dress shoes to be quite comfortable, but then again, my work environment is business casual; I can wear a knit shirt and Dockers -- sounds like your new job will be have a more formal dress code.

Go to a jewelry store (even one in the mall) for a new watch.
posted by tckma at 7:11 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wear what makes you feel great. The specific industry makes a difference, of course, but being confident enough _not_ to wear exactly what everyone else is wearing makes a statement. The guy in a red suit? Nordstrom probably wouldn't have sold him that.

If you have an analytic mind, look at people who are at the _top_ of your industry, and analyze what they're wearing. There's probably a range, and probably some individual quirks. Don't adopt a quirk for the sake of being quirky; your own style has to be true to _you_, and should tell people something important about yourself -- it can be a way of communicating ideas that can't be communicated with words.

Whatever you usually use your mind for has given you a set of tools. You can apply those mental tools to this.

That said - don't spend $10,000 on clothes unless you're sure this job has some stability.
posted by amtho at 7:18 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Some conservative dress advice, taking your questions/comments in order:

Do not wear a red suit.

If you’re wearing a suit every day, you need at least five. Go to Brooks Brothers and get the following suits (all two-button, single-vested, no pleats, no cuffs): charcoal grey, navy, light gray, charcoal with slim pinstripes, navy with slim pinstripes. Tell the salesman you want a classic style for each of your suits. DO NOT go to Joseph A Bank or Men's Wearhouse, if you want to look like an impressive senior executive.

White shirts are not the same. If you’re wearing a suit and tie, you don’t want to wear a button down shirt (i.e., a shirt where the collar has button holes). You want a spread or medium collar. I think cuff links are perhaps excessive, but if you want cufflinks, you’ll need a french cuffed shirt.

For shoes: go to Allen Edmonds. Buy Park Avenues in black, buy another pair of Park Aves in brown. Alternate. Make sure you have a black belt for your black shoes and a brown belt for your brown shoes.

Don’t bother with cologne. Bathe every day. Wear deodorant.
posted by ewiar at 7:18 AM on August 20, 2014 [74 favorites]

Also - Think hard about whether you actually need a new watch. Are you there to flash fancy jewelry, or are you there to get the job done? If you're working for some kind of men's fashion magazine, fine. Who are you really trying to impress, though? And what does that kind of person really value?

It may be that you really do need the whole fancy costume - but you were hired without one.
posted by amtho at 7:20 AM on August 20, 2014

Consider a full service salon for your haircut. That is, go for a facial and eyebrow trimming, and a manicure. If you'll be shaking a lot of hands, neat and buffed nails with cuticles trimmed will go a long way.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:23 AM on August 20, 2014 [13 favorites]

Others have told you about where to find clothes, haircuts, etc. Some extra tips on stuff you can do for free or very little as you're waiting for the money to start flowing:

-If your eyebrows are unruly, get them trimmed. Same with nose hairs, ear hair, etc.
-Soak your hands and clean / trim your nails.
-If you have facial hair, trim it to a shape and get any off your neck.
-exfoliate and moisturize your face. It brightens your skin and makes you look more alert.

For the future, the small things:

-if you wear glasses, consider replacing them with frames that suit the look you're going for now. You can go bold by design, but it has to work with the overall look. Otherwise, go understated.
-I've heard it said that light blue works on every male. Work in some light blue shirts with the gray suits for pops of color without going out of range.
posted by skittlekicks at 7:25 AM on August 20, 2014

Definitely go the personal shopper route. It is a free service at most department stores. Nordstrom is great because they will do tailoring for you as well - they will have someone come to the dressing room and pin things right then and there, and will have it ready for you to pick up in a couple of days. The other benefit of going with a department store is that it's a one-stop shop - you can get your suits, shirts, shoes, socks, cufflinks (if you want to wear shirts that require cufflinks), even a watch there.

Later, when you are ready for a nicer watch, go to Tourneau if there's one near you. They will have many options. You can also shop there online and they have a good pre-owned selection so you can get a high-end watch for a lower price than a new one.
posted by bedhead at 7:27 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi - my husband wore suits every day for work and has about 20. If you are making 768,000 a year, there will be an expectation of not wearing Men's Warehouse suits (while they are a decent quality) - that is not the environment you are working in.

Neiman Marcus will custom make you a suit for about $6,000 on the high end. That is insane - but closer to the world in which you work now. Nordstrom will take factory shell suit parts and tailor it to you prior to suit construction for about $600. That may be a good stepping stone for you.

Definitely get a personal shopper.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 7:30 AM on August 20, 2014 [13 favorites]

Get a personal shopper. Independent or go to Nordstrom.
posted by Pax at 7:31 AM on August 20, 2014

I'm assuming you are a man and that you are based in the US (forgive me if either of those things are wrong). Other useful context would be generally understanding your field, and who your customers are (other businesses or the public? or do you never 'face outward'?)

The advice to find a personal shopper in your area is a terrific one. Print out your question and hand it to one. They will be THRILLED to help you, and if there's anything they don't offer, they will have advice for you. I would keep in mind that you might not ONLY want suit-type things - in my own job, my clothing needs range from super-suited-up to very casual, but all in "work-appropriate" formats - think nicer denim and shoes for "casual" (not the ratty things I might wear on a day off), and different breed of dressy work casual for business functions and conferences.

If you've got clothing and grooming down to a level of "business drag" that you are comfortable with and in, it will ease your mind considerably and I promise you'll sleep nights.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:34 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

The odds are high that the clientele you are interacting with will actually notice your watch. Get a nice watch, nothing extravagant, but at least a Tag or a Hamilton. Seriously. If you want to play the part the watch is a very important piece of your "costume".
posted by lydhre at 7:35 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

No cologne. It's never a mistake to forgo fragrance.

No watch right now. A watch is optional, and you can be more leisurely about finding one...if you even want a watch.

You might think that shirts are sort of invisible when you're wearing a jacket, but the collar needs to fit very well. Lesser shirts wear out faster along the collar (especially where the collar folds at the back of your neck. It's worth the trouble to get good shirts that are sized by the neck and sleeve length. Don't buy a lot of colors right away. Get all white, or white and blue. Don't go for fashion yet -- just classic shirts that don't call attention to themselves. No short sleeves, at least in the beginning.

Ties: Quality shows, in pattern, fabric, how nice the knot looks, and how the tie looks at the folded edges. Get conservative patterns at first so you don't have to have too many to begin with.

Pants length: even with dry cleaning, pants do shrink in length. You don't want your skin to be showing above your socks when you sit down. So don't ask for your pants to be shorter than what the tailor recommends.

Always have the suit jacket and pants cleaned at the same time. Dry cleaning can affect fabric color and sheen.
posted by wryly at 7:36 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Woooo-hooo! Congrats, this is crazy!


I am assuming by your mention of cufflinks and cologne that you're male presenting. Not knowing where you live is problematic, but I'll try. I also don't know your build, which also is difficult.

Therefore I, too, would go with a personal shopper at an upscale department store, like Saks, Nordstrom, or Barneys. Do NOT go to Mens Warehouse or or Jos. A Bank. No BoGo for you, my friend, not even with tailoring. It's upscale, rich-guy time. (Sorry, tckma!)

But to get you started, here are some ideas:

For suits, I would go classic, conservative, clean, slim-fitting. Spend more than a grand.

Paul Smith.
Hugo Boss.

For good starter ties, go with black, gray, and blue. YSL makes beautiful ones. Not too wide, not too skinny. And no patterns until you know what you're doing.

For a watch, you don't want flashy. Fuck tacky Rolex or whatever. Try Shinola.

This is your hair. You can go shorter on the sides, but never longer than that. If you don't like the poofiness, just do the classic side part. Crew pomade is your friend—just a dot and not a lot. Other commenters are correct about the eyebrows and nails.

Don't wear cologne. It's way too easy to go overboard or make too much of a statement. The trick is to make sure all of your personal grooming items smell the same. It's called scent layering. I'd go with old-fashioned spicy, piney. Khiel's is great for mens stuff. Go there and tell them you don't know anything.

There are tons of "how to wear a suit" blogs and videos out there. Watch 'em! But stick to the classic and disregard the rest. And get thee to a personal shopper.

Good luck!
posted by functionequalsform at 7:41 AM on August 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

No, don't go to Brooks Brothers, Nordstrom or anywhere else like that for a suit, except for a couple of relatively inexpensive suits to tide you over for the first month or two (even so, get those tailored!). At that income level, most people will have custom made suits and shirts (unless you're ok being on firmly on the old-school, don't care about how you look side of things, in which case, any higher-end suit store will be fine). If you're in or near NYC or DC, Michael Andrews Bespoke, is great if you want your suits to be fashionable (they cost much less than $6,000 a suit too). I'm sure you can do some combination of googling/asking around to find others custom suit makers near you. You can get a whole wardrobe custom made for between 10-15k, depending on how many suits you want and if any of your existing wardrobe is still appropriate for your new job. The custom places will also guide you on fabric choices, types of collars, etc. You don't need anything but a general idea of what you want to have made.

I actually wouldn't worry so much about a new watch, you don't need to go full costume to fit in, you just have to show that you understand the world you're in now. The guys who do custom suits, rolexes, fancy cars, etc come across as either pompous or insecure, whereas the ones who pick and choose among the status symbols for what's important to them seem a lot more likable. I think the clothes are important for fitting in since they make up a big part of your first impression, but you can wear a goofy, old watch that means something to you without undermining yourself. They chose you for who you are, not how you dress!

For your hair, go to an actual salon and talk to the hairdresser to decide on a good cut. Once you have a good base cut, you can get a barber to maintain it less expensively (or, if you decide you enjoy the salon, you can keep going there).

eta: Just want to add that custom suits are often way cheaper than designer suits and pretty much always will fit and look better, unless you're a very standard sized person.
posted by snaw at 7:43 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Definitely go with a personal shopper. Be polite but firm with the personal shopper about things you don't like--and for now, go with your gut on that. Since you already feel awkward and "poser-y" about the whole suit thing, don't go flashy with your suit or shirt. Stick to solid shirts or simple stripes--don't go with contrast collars or bold prints--unless and until you get comfortable dressing in an unfamiliar way.

Yes, cuff links don't belong on "regular shirts" They are for shirts that don't have buttons on the cuffs. If you're not comfortable with cuff links, get shirts with buttons on the cuffs. You can move on to cuff links if you become more comfortable with the style options for men in suits. Same with showy ties or pocket squares. Or tie clips.

No button down collars with a suit and tie. No collarless shirts with a suit in a business setting.

You probably need a shoe upgrade. Nordstrom, Brooks Brothers, other department stores will also be able to sell you shoes. Yes, you want more than one pair--mostly because you want to air them between wearings. For men, a black dress shoe is generally appropriate for navy, charcoal, and lighter grey suits. It does not sound like you're interested in fashion-forward men's suits, which would require shoes in colors other than black. Which is not to say that you can't try out shoes with some personality once you settle into the suit look, but only to say that for most men in a business setting, a basic men's dress shoe in black is fine with all suits.

You probably need a belt upgrade. I don't know about underpants, but you will want an undershirt upgrade. Undershirts keep your shirts in better condition and are often necessary with lighter colored shirts. Try a couple brands to find which fit you more comfortably--you want them snug but not binding and long enough to stay tucked in.

Most of the male lawyers I know who work at BigLaw and need to wear suits daily own between 6 and 10 suits: navy blue, charcoal grey, and a pattern (checked, plaid--much more subtle than one thinks when one hears "plaid" or striped). The ties and the shirts tend to get more notice than the suit (unless it's something flashy and probably hard to pull off, like red).

Most of these lawyers keep an entire suit (undershirt, shirt, socks, tie, suitcoat and pants) in the office in case of mishap or in case they went casual today and now need a suit). That's why they have 6-10 suits instead of 5-10--one suit is pretty much not in rotation (the ones who are very dandy about their wardrobe rotate the back-up suit--they are the guys with 10 or more suits. Most of the suited male lawyers I know have 5 suits. Some of them have 5 of the same navy blue suit. They don't have just one because it needs to air out and it needs to not wear out quickly, but they just have the one navy blue suit, five times.)

No cologne. Just be clean and well groomed. Make sure you air your suits between wearing. This does not mean "put on a hanger and shoved into a crowded closet". This means hang the suit somewhere that it gets full air circulation before putting it back in the closet or wearing it again. A valet stand or a coat rack strong enough to support the suit is good. When you have them drycleaned, have the suit coat and the pants drycleaned at the same time to ensure that any fading from cleaning is consistent. If you're keeping yourself clean, airing your suits, and changing out of them promptly, they don't need much drycleaning.

Brooks Brothers does nice custom suits--basically, you select from their fabrics and their standard cuts and other options, then they make it specific to your measurements. In my neighborhood in Chicago, there are two local suitmakers who also make really nice suits, but these are totally custom (you pick fabrics, lapel style, how many buttons, how many vents). For your first few suits, you're probably better off with off the rack and tailored to fit you or Brooks Brothers custom because the options will overwhelm you.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:44 AM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do not bother figuring out this yourself. Get a stylist / personal shopper to do it for you.

Get some pictures out of a magazine and say "make me look like that."

Yes to Hugo Boss and Gucci (to start)

Yes to tailor-made suits.

Yes to French Cuffs (hubba hubba)

Yes to Italian shoes (you will get used to them)

I am a fan of black onyx cufflinks but ymmv
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:48 AM on August 20, 2014

If you’re wearing a suit every day, you need at least five.

I would aim more for 7-8 so you don't fall into the unfortunate trap of realizing that you've been wearing the same suits in the same order every week for a couple of months.

Also, if your office has something like casual/summer fridays, continue with your regular suits on the first/second one to get an idea of what will fly as "casual" amongst your coworkers.
posted by elizardbits at 7:51 AM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't go to Mens Warehouse. At 3/4 a million a year you don't go to Mens Warehouse.

Hire a personal shopper that doesn't work for a store until you feel more confident buying clothes, let them know the income level you are trying to fit into. They will help you match suits, shirts shoes etc. Take notes of combinations you like together.

Find a tailor that will alter suits for you, the shopper can most likely suggest one. Get the suits fitted properly. A cheaper suit that fits well looks better than an expensive suit that doesn't. If you'd feel comfortable doing it go and have the time to a full on bespoke tailors, tell them what you told us and let them bespoke the crap out of you or wait until you know what you like in a suit. At that income level, that's what everyone else is doing.

I'd wear the watch, because hey a little quirky is fun, but I am that sort of personality, if you are nervous about fitting in get a nice watch to start with.

As a women that love love loves a man in a well made well cut suit, go french cuffs & get cuff links.

TL;DR. Hire a personal shopper. Tell her/him pretty much what you told us.
posted by wwax at 7:52 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

"If you're wearing a suit every day, you need at least five" is a good rule of thumb from poster above. However, you can get by for your first 2 weeks on one reasonable suit. Maybe two, in different shades of grey. When you get your first paycheck, you can dedicate a large portion of it to your wardrobe, but for now you just need a successful launch. Hello, credit card!

While you're at those first two weeks, take some time over your lunch break to look at everyone around you. There's a wide range of what suits can look like - are people wearing basic suits interchangeable from day to day? Are they super-traditional, or modern cuts, or something in between? Are there special occasion meetings or clients that people bust out the big guns for, or is every day basically the same?

Don't rush into things, get a basic setup for the first few weeks, and take your time to look around and see exactly what the culture is that you're trying to find your niche of.
posted by aimedwander at 7:53 AM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

As for suits I would personally go with the likes of Boateng but not in the brighter jewel tones.
posted by elizardbits at 7:53 AM on August 20, 2014

as for belonging to a 'new class of people' read this book:

How to talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes

She describes in detail all the little 'cues' that give away confidence and social graces. Stupid stuff like: if you like a concert, be the first person to clap. It shows your confidence in your judgment.

She also has this book

How to make anyone fall in love with you

Which is basically a tutorial for 'marrying up' i.e. socializing with 'old money' and the esthetic tastes and verbal tics that define one strata vs. another.

Once you read those books, don't worry about 'not belonging' - you will have the tools to be yourself and fit in anywhere. Good luck! You can totally do this.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:53 AM on August 20, 2014 [12 favorites]

I can give you some advice about what to wear--and I will, shortly--but I wanted to point out that their comments about your lack of confidence may not be about your clothes at all.

You blew them off twice because you didn't seriously think they would hire you. And now, you've completely anonymized this question because you're afraid people will think you're an impostor. That's what I would see as lack of confidence, either in yourself or in the judgment of your new employers. That is the attitude I wouldn't want showing up in meetings with clients. The fact that you got hired despite this attitude and the ratty jeans says that they believe you will be an asset regardless of what you wear. It also means they like what they know about you. So don't focus overmuch on clothing as the key to fitting in to this company. They picked you! If this is a good company, this means they think you are likely to be a good fit. Focus on your company's approach to clients and the fact that you are eminently qualified to do your job. Learn from your coworkers like you do at any other job, and you will be fine.

Ok, that said:

No cologne, unless you already wear scent and know it goes over well with everyone.

Bring your entire list of questions to a personal shopper at Nordstrom's. I would add to your list a question about overcoats, umbrellas, and boots if you live in an area where it gets cold and wet, as well as suggestions about a briefcase or laptop bag in case that is relevant. Also, personal shoppers like to know what you like, so think about your habits and what you prefer in your daily clothing and style.

You may also want to start doing research on good places for dry cleaning, as well as a tailor, shoe repair and washing/pressing your shirts (if they aren't the no-iron type and you won't have time to iron them yourself).
posted by rhythm and booze at 7:54 AM on August 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

Oh, and as for personal shoppers, I would take Bergdorf's and Saks over Nordstrom. Maybe Barney's.

And make sure that they dress you from the skin out. No $2,500 suits with raggedly shorts underneath, no holey tube socks with your handmade italian calfskin shoes.
posted by elizardbits at 7:58 AM on August 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Take your time with this. You don't need to go buy a whole new wardrobe.

A lot of your access to clothes depends on where you are. In NYC or LA or even Chicago, it's easy. Go look, go see, go try things on, and don't buy them.

You also have to be yourself. Sure, men's clothes are a uniform, but they're also an expression of who you are.

Take time, do some looking, do some reading. Obviously seek consultation, like people say, but don't be sold on someone else's idea of you.

Do NOT take any advanced steps (cologne, watch, crazy hair cut, lol) at this time. Some of the most successful men I know in NYC go to the same $16 barber in the East Village. (They also have lots of $3000 sweaters though.)

If you care, some day you'll know the difference between Brioni and Zegna on sight, but you don't have to. You do have to be you however.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:10 AM on August 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Holy sh*t! Congratulations on the new gig!

I pretty much second all of snaw's advice. You can get by with two or three suits and maybe five button-downs from Nordstrom or Neiman's for the first few weeks, until you get a good sense of the style in the office and among clients. At some point later on you might even get comfortable casually dropping the line "nice suit..." at which point the recipient might tell you where they got it.

After a few weeks, a good stylist, when you have a better sense of what's going on. If you're in L. A. I can recommend a good one, memail me.
posted by vignettist at 8:13 AM on August 20, 2014

Also, yes, there is a big difference between Brooks Brothers and bespoke, between Nordstrom and Barneys, and for that matter, between the $900 Brooks Brothers suit and the $2500 Brooks Brothers suit. The thing is, once you get at the Brooks Brothers/Nordstrom level or higher and get the suit tailored to fit you, most people won't look closely enough to notice. The bespoke couture suit will always stand out (in most likely a positive way) and the sub-1k untailored suit will always stand out (in a negative way), but the ones in between (once they are tailored to fit you) will really help you blend in. Especially if you stick with conservative fabrics, whether you end up in a more conservative or more modern cut (which really depends more on your body type and what suits your shape).

I think the advice of getting a couple (2-3) very basic, good quality off the rack suits at a higher end department store and having them tailored to fit you first and then expanding your suit wardrobe as you go along is excellent advice. Even having the tailoring done in-house at the department store to start is fine. Then as you settle in to the work environment, you can ask a coworker where he has his suits tailored.

I think the advice of baby steps is also good. Don't worry about upgrading your watch and your haircut right away. Don't worry about manicures or eyebrows right off the bat. Get a basic suit uniform, then settle in to becoming comfortable in your new role. Get comfortable with the fact that you are a professional who is up to the tasks they have hired you to do; then start worrying about upgrading your outside. Often the distinction really is just having more money to spend on your clothes. Like the comment about having your shirts laundered and pressed, instead of ironing them at home. It makes an enormous difference in how even a less expensive shirt looks, but it's something only people with the money in their budget do.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:18 AM on August 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

Also, here is a fairly exhaustive post on menswear in the high end suit range. It is technically an Inception fanfic writing resource but it is nevertheless very informative for someone who just wants to go shopping.
posted by elizardbits at 8:18 AM on August 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

I have nothing useful to add, just a bit of unsolicited advice: since you're used to living on under 30k a year be really careful about scaling your lifestyle (beyond what you are required to present for the job, that is). Be especially careful about going nuts when you get your first bonus or whatever -- at that salary level you're likely to make more than your old salary in a single bonus.

If you can manage to keep up a scrappy lifestyle while socking away a boatload of money (max out your 401k and any other tax-advantaged retirement options you have available to you) even if you don't keep this gig for very long you'll be in really good shape financially.
posted by igowen at 8:19 AM on August 20, 2014 [13 favorites]

I feel like I'm missing something here. Without knowing the industry, it's hard to answer your questions, but there is a huge, vast, gaping distance between "don't wear denim with holes in it" and "wear expensive / fancy suits." They may have hired you to be a creative/thinker/community liason of some sort and don't expect you to come in wearing suits, they just want to be reassured that you know the difference between appropriate office wear, appropriate client-facing clothes, and whatever you wear at home. In many industries people only wear suits when they're in important client meetings, in others even jeans with a button down shirt and a nice blazer /jacket is considered fine. Are you saying that you already know for a fact that everyone at that level wears suits, or are you assuming this?

I totally agree with everyone saying go to Nordstroms or whatever your high-end department store and make an appointment with a personal shopper (it's free, they get a commission off of whatever you buy). But I would start by only buying two suits and some shirts and ties to make them work multiple ways while you figure out what's actually expected of you clothing-wise. Then go back the first weekend for another round of shopping when you have a better idea. Can you call the person who pulled you aside and ask them what the dress code is? Or if they're too high a mucky-muck, their assistant?
posted by Mchelly at 8:22 AM on August 20, 2014 [17 favorites]

You want "twisted knot cuff links". They are conservative and not too showy and wearing them is a sign that you are used to wearing cufflinks rather than excited about their novelty.

Other than that, as everyone else says, consult a personal shopper. I would start out at a midrange place like Nordstrom, honestly, because if will be easier to figure out what you want and what you like rather than diving in to something totally upscale that it turns out doesn't work for you.

To start out, rotating a few suits in dark navy and dark gray works out fine. Good quality shirts matter, and people can tell when someone has blown a lot of money on suits but skimped on the shirts.
posted by deanc at 8:27 AM on August 20, 2014

If you decide you want a watch, you should go with a proper dress watch. The more understated, the better. The fashion for watches has been "big and loud" for several years now. You'll want to avoid that, and go for a classic and elegant piece.

- small. Under 42mm diameter. Better if you go 35-40mm. YMMV depending on wrist size.

- No rotating bezels / dive watches. You may be tempted to go for a Rolex because of brand recognition, but Rolexes are sport watches, and not meant to be worn with suits. Lots of people break this rule, but I would shy on the side of conservatism here. Save your Rolex for the weekends.

- Leather strap, no metal bracelets.

- Choose a conservative color for the dial. White, silver, black.

- If you want to be really... coordinated, match your watch strap to your belt/shoes.
posted by reverend cuttle at 8:36 AM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


since you're used to living on under 30k a year be really careful about scaling your lifestyle

Definitely talk to a financial adviser about how best to manage your money.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:40 AM on August 20, 2014 [10 favorites]

N-thing the personal shopper idea. But not necessarily literally. Any top-rung men's store (e.g. Saks, if there's one near you) can offer very personal service, and the salesmen are both accustomed to (and likely enjoy) helping out newbies who want to clean up their acts. If you're in that biz, it's FUN to do this.

AskMeFi may not have been the best place to ask for advice on this one, because (ironically) it's such an expert crowd. You've gotten (and will continue to get) a head-spinning calvacade of tips, but you're not going to fill your ignorance with data in enough time to make the impression you need to make. For this, you really need help....someone to take you by the hand and give you stuff to try and offer their perspective.

That sort of thing is not available (at least not skillfullly available) at the lower and mid ranges. The nice thing about money (in fact, one of the few reliably nice things about money) is that it can buy such assistance (at Saks, Nordstrums, and some of the other places described in this thread). Salesmen/shoppers are not all equal, though, so if someone's not clicking for you, politely extricate and try someone else another time. You won't need to go through a zillion, though, the hit rate will be good. And try to budget ahead of time. If you stipulate an open budget, you'll be finding yourself with $150 pocket squares. Tell them what you can spend.

Figuring that out is something you must do yourself, no one can help. Make it a healthy amount (just so you can feel confident in what you wind up with; this is clearly an achilles heel with both you and your new boss, so you want to make sure you're spot on), but don't go overboard spending infinitely on this, or on anything else. It's easier to overspend at high income than at low, counterintuitive though that sounds. And high overhead on high salary equates to poverty....a bitter, ironical sort of poverty. Plus, note that you could lose this job (not to jinx you), so don't try to "inhabit" this income range.

It's surprisingly incredibly hard to find the sweet spot between over-consumption and over-thrift, especially amid a flood of money. Andrew Tobias' "The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need" isn't just the clearest, smartest, funniest book about investing (and overall money management) ever, it also talks a lot about how to find that sweet spot. What he'd tell you is to ratchet up your lifestyle one or two solid notches, and hold there (still well below your means) except for very errant special occasions, and save like crazy. In ten, twenty years, if you remain at this pay grade, gradually notch further up (if for no other reason than that you'll enjoy it more if you string it out this way than if you bump up suddenly).

posted by Quisp Lover at 9:04 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

One more thing. The new boss made withering reference to your wardrobe. I'm imagining you don't have much in the way of savings. I'd suggest you ask him for an advance so you can revamp your wardrobe....maybe making joshing reference to "unpatched denim" as you ask.

I know you'd rather surprise him, but he'll be plenty surprised anyway, if you do it right. And you'll be putting him at ease earlier in the process, which may have unexpected (positive) consequences as he mulls over the hiring decision prior to your start.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:07 AM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sorry, last posting, I promise. I loved the "assistant" part of this:

"start by only buying two suits and some shirts and ties to make them work multiple ways while you figure out what's actually expected of you clothing-wise. Then go back the first weekend for another round of shopping when you have a better idea. Can you call the person who pulled you aside and ask them what the dress code is? Or if they're too high a mucky-muck, their assistant?"

Assistants are the great untapped source of all deeper knowledge. I'd go there FIRST. And if you talk to someone who seems particularly engaged in the reply (and appears particularly well put-together, regardless of gender), I'd offer $100 plus lunch to come along on the shopping trip (for a third perspective). I'm sure you can find a friendly, non-condescending way of offering that (i.e. make it seem like they'd be doing you a favor, but make clear that you'd be glad to pay).
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:13 AM on August 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'd really recommend a manicure for the first day.
posted by jgirl at 9:20 AM on August 20, 2014

take your time to look around and see exactly what the culture is that you're trying to find your niche of

This this this. People have come in here with the assumption that you need to dress like a VP at an i-banking firm, but there's really some variety in attire based on corporate culture and who you will be interacting with within/without the company. That said, if you're working for a company that has a bunch of pictures of C-level management on their webpage, you're probably safe taking those pictures to your personal shopper and telling them that's what you're going for. Unless they had all the dudes take their suit jackets off for the PR pictures, but even that may give you an idea of the relative fanciness as you try to get a starter wardrobe together.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:25 AM on August 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

and if it helps your confidence any, remember that no matter what... YOU have a SKILL that THEY NEED. Anyone with $5k can buy a suit. But clearly very few people can do what you do. They are coming to you for your opinion & expertise. You have a value that goes beyond dress. Keep that in your (fancy new) back pocket if you ever feel intimidated.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:36 AM on August 20, 2014

Wow, congratulations! That's amazing, and you should be super proud!

I have no sartorial advice for you, being a schlub myself, but I wanted echo what rhythm and booze wrote above about projecting confidence. I don't think it's as bad as r&b suggests (I can totally see anonymizing this for all sorts of reasons), but I definitely hear you on having the feeling of "playing a part" & the unreality of it -- that'd throw anyone -- and I agree with r&b that you must NOT let that show. Take on a confident posture until it's 2nd nature: drop your shoulders, don't let your sternum retreat toward your spine, &c. Do whatever you need to walk like you own the place (listen to music that gets you pumped, remind yourself that you are awesome enough to have $.75M job offered to you out of the blue, be a "coach before a game" to yourself in whatever way works). You EARNED this, so strut it! It may feel a bit artificial at first, but the awesome thing of it is that a) taking the posture of confidence will help you FEEL confident, 'cuz there's a feedback loop between physical expression & emotion [cite], and b) your fancy new wardrobe will look even more awesome on you.
posted by Westringia F. at 10:45 AM on August 20, 2014

For a watch, you don't want flashy. Fuck tacky Rolex or whatever. Try Shinola.

I like that they're employing people in Detroit, but Shinola is ordering in $20 Swiss quartz movements, screwing them together, adding a sorta-kinda retro dial and selling the finished article for $600. You can get a Junghans Max Bill for relatively little more, but no matter: you don't need a new watch now, and you can buy one as a present to yourself once you're comfortable in your new role. Baby steps.
posted by holgate at 11:10 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Keep that in your (fancy new) back pocket

Speaking of which, suit pockets are not for storing a bunch of stuff. I would suggest that nothing more than your phone, a slim business card case, and a wallet which contains your most essential 4-6 items goes in your pants pockets. If you can carry or holster your phone without looking like a jerk, do that. If you have on your jacket, there should be a nice pen (something with some weight to it, in metal, with refillable ink, black unless you need blue for your industry, someone more knowledgeable than I can give recommendations) in there, and that's where your business card case should live. Don't be afraid to use a business card to write down important info that you need to remember (or for someone else to remember).

And don't be afraid of a man-bag which can go from your car to your desk and back again which can carry keys, other things you might keep in your wallet, etc.
posted by Night_owl at 11:40 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Congratulations! How lovely. I want to give you some unsolicited advice -- based on personal experience -- about feeling pressured to fit in or put up a front at work.

I took a job that required me to fit in and seem confident with financial advisors. (Note: this was not what I expected when I took the job.) I chafed at buying clothes to fit in with them -- no creativity, nothing interesting allowed -- but most of all, I chafed at trying to minimize my personality to fit in with them. I had some strange fear that I would burst out, "I WENT TO BURNING MAN!" in the middle of a presentation.

So I controlled myself. A lot. I became a bit colder, a bit more reserved. Some described me as condescending, which I think was a nasty side-effect of trying to hide myself in plain sight.

In the end, it probably wasn't necessary. They would've been happy and curious to hear about my adventures. We could have had real conversations. Instead, I felt lousy doing this kind of work, and they found me rather disconnected.

Worst of all, I left that job five years ago, and it's been surprisingly difficult to rid myself of that detached persona. It's hard to go back to who I am (was?). I come off as pretty corporate, even around my clients who went to Burning Man.

So! Please do not wear cologne. Please do buy the right clothes. (My personal recommendation: get a few things from Banana Republic, learn what you like, learn the nuances of this setting, and then invest more heavily in a couple of months. Don't buy everything at once then either, because you will need different clothes for different seasons.) But don't work too hard to become the right person. You ARE the right person. Clothes are just a costume. And do wear the most rebellious underwear you can find, so you can remind yourself multiple times a day.
posted by equipoise at 1:00 PM on August 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

I worry that you're about to blow multiple thousands of dollars on clothes and you haven't even been paid yet. Is a signing bonus an option at this stage?
posted by Dragonness at 1:34 PM on August 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yeah, take a moment to google image around for your new employer — not only are there likely to be pictures of people working, but also likely images of folks from the office at functions, which are another sphere of dressing to think about. I look very different in the office (I'm in a t-shirt, nice-ish cargo shorts, gym shoes) versus when I have to deal with press or be at events (I suit up, but I'm usually under dressed relative to the people I deal with). See if you can get a feeling for expectations by doing some more research.

Also: Congrats on the new job, man! Good luck! Remember: You'll always seem smarter than them because you read MetaFilter, and thus can converse intelligently on subjects of the day!
posted by klangklangston at 5:06 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like that they're employing people in Detroit, but Shinola is ordering in $20 Swiss quartz movements, screwing them together, adding a sorta-kinda retro dial and selling the finished article for $600. You can get a Junghans Max Bill for relatively little more, but no matter: you don't need a new watch now, and you can buy one as a present to yourself once you're comfortable in your new role. Baby steps.

Junghans Max Bill is doing the same thing as Shinola, but with a (good, mind you) Seiko automatic movement instead of a Quartz. Get an in-house movement, get a NOMOS.

Also, please memail me, because I am insanely curious about what field you're in.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:53 PM on August 20, 2014

I don't actually know how useful this is, because to someone from my world it comes across as some sort of elaborate joke, but here's an article I came across recently about the nitty gritty of dressing in the world of finance.
posted by lollusc at 6:08 PM on August 20, 2014

Can you tell us what industry you're in? Because you can totally get away with casual dress in a lot of industries today (though I'm in tech, and was chastised in NYC for dressing so casual even though casual was high-end Scotch & Soda type casual). Also I work with executives in that price range and it is much more about dressing nice than just buying expensive suits and perhaps coming off like, um, new money? Brooks Brothers, Burberry, etc. might be casuals you see in chains but our CEO wears them regularly to company meetings. Our parent company's London based CEO has nothing but Seville row suits.

Yes, people notice watches at that level too, but again it depends on what you do. In tech, for example, you'll get looked down upon for not having an iPhone 5S or equivalent before you'd get looked down upon for not having a watch.

Another example: LA/midwest no one notices my luggage/briefcase. It is high-end but not flashy and you'd only know it by looking at the label. Only reason I buy high-end Tumi is because I really have had good luck with them and I travel a lot and I live out of my bag. On the east coast I've gotten compliments on it that I've never had anywhere else.

So this is a very nuanced question that gets into classism and all kinds of things that you're not going to pick up on at first.

The other question you didn't ask is that you went from $28k to $700k+. How does that happen? Sales commission? Salary? Stocks? The figure is making me wary as I've never heard someone make that kind of leap that wasn't in finance, had stock mature or some other financial mechanism that didn't involve salary. Does that make sense? I should say that I know there are c-level executives and others that make that kind of money in salary alone but those aren't off the street hires.

I would just be wary until the first paycheck comes in that there's not some kind of catch, definitely don't start buying $6k suits off the bat. If they hired you in denim, you're not going to lose your job if you have to wear a cheap suit until your first paycheck.

In short this question needs more background even if the story is on the up and up (and congrats if it is).
posted by geoff. at 4:48 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

(Also for a $700k job, or any job that's not low-level, it would not be uncommon to have a casual visit to the office to get a feel for the work place. Come in for a Friday afternoon and let them show you the amenities, that should give you a good idea of what to wear and if you're walking into some boiler room, we actually encourage new hires to do this as a pre-interview, feel comfortable about the environment thing)
posted by geoff. at 4:50 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding those who are saying "know where you will work, and who you're expected to be," before diving into investing in costly clothing, especially if there's even an outside chance you get let go a month or two into the job. While investing in good suits might be a sound choice, given that this probably isn't a pure fluke and you could go to those meet and greets or even apply for jobs elsewhere should this one fall through, you still don't want to burn through your current savings on clothes.

Scope this company out in any way you can. How do they present themselves in media coverage, press releases, and on their website? Where will you fit in their hierarchy, and what do your equals look like in any publicity shots you can find of them? Of course, publicity photos could have an extra coat of gloss, compared to general working attire and appearances.

Even if you get a good idea of what your co-workers wear and how they look, you aren't going to meet clients on day one, or probably even week one, unless your skills are something they needed yesterday. At this pay grade, I'm guessing you'll either have some in-office mentor period, to make sure you fit the company profile when you talk to clients, or you're so unique you just need to get nice, new jeans that fit you well and a good suit jacket, just to show clients you're special, but not lazy.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:13 AM on August 21, 2014

I don't actually know how useful this is, because to someone from my world it comes across as some sort of elaborate joke, but here's an article I came across recently about the nitty gritty of dressing in the world of finance.

25 year old douchebags with too much money do not proper fashion rules make. They're the fashion equivalent of the guy in high school who has read one Ayn Rand book and starts calling themselves a philosopher.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:19 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Fashion 'rules' (really guidelines) are best for when you're starting out. When you grow a little more confident you can breach them selectively to great effect (c.f. Agnelli and his watch over cuff). The Italians call this sprezzatura. another article. The trick, of course, is to be aware of those rules first, and to not confuse them with current fashion, style, or fads (e.g. lapel size, cuffs, pleats, etc). Flusser's Dressing the Man is the gold standard, here.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:27 AM on August 21, 2014

For any workplace, in any job, you just try to wear what everyone else in your workplace is wearing. You can figure out those Cardin/Dior or Rolex/Cartier subtleties as you go along.

(I've been trying to figure out the big $28K to $786K salary bump, and now I'm guessing the energy resource extraction industry in Asia)
posted by ovvl at 7:07 PM on August 22, 2014

At 786k/year in direct compensation, I would also immediately attempt to find and hire a good personal assistant. Even if this costs you 100k/year (which it probably will not), division of labor guarantees you good returns.

What can they do for you? All sorts of things. They can certainly organize and acquire a wardrobe that matches your taste, style, and comfort level.
posted by enkiwa at 11:52 AM on September 2, 2014

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