SartorialFilter: keeping cool in men's business attire?
September 21, 2006 12:32 PM   Subscribe

It's interview season for me, which means suits and ties. I don't mind suits in cool weather, but it's been very warm here recently, and sweating all the way through an interview doesn't exactly scream "professionalism." How can I stay cool?

I think part of the problem is that I have a fairly quick metabolism; I prefer to wear short sleeves whenever possible. But an undershirt, a shirt, a tie, and a suit jacket all combine to make me very warm indeed. I've heard people recommend linen for keeping cool in hot weather, but I don't think I can afford it and it wrinkles in a light breeze anyway.

Ideally I'd like some combination of undershirt, shirt, tie, and jacket that is fairly inexpensive, looks good, requires minimal maintenance, and is comfortable in outside temperatures around, say, 80-85 F with moderate-to-high humidity.

posted by tellumo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Skip the undershirt, for one. For two, don't knot the tie so tight you can feel it against your neck.

Third, and most minor-ly, show up at least 10 min prior to any interview - it takes about 5-8 min to stop sweating, and if you've walked a ways or up some stairs it takes a few mins for your body to catch up.
posted by pdb at 12:45 PM on September 21, 2006

You don't say what kind of fabric you're currently wearing, buton thing: Natural fibers, natural fibers, natural fibers. They breathe more, you sweat less. Even if you can't afford linen, think cotton, light wool pants/jackets, unlined if possible.
posted by SoftRain at 12:54 PM on September 21, 2006

Also, don't put on your jacket until you've reached your destination.
posted by exogenous at 12:55 PM on September 21, 2006

What is with your undershirt obsession if you are trying to stay cool?

Polycotton mixes on shirts and suit shouldn;t be too bad. Keep the jacket off before you need to wear it.
posted by Frasermoo at 1:04 PM on September 21, 2006

Undershirts ABSORB sweat. Don't go anywhere without one!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:05 PM on September 21, 2006

Blatcher has it - a prodigiously-sweating friend of mine never goes anywhere without wearing two shirts.
posted by muddgirl at 1:07 PM on September 21, 2006

Skip the undershirt, for one.

I'm sure it's a personal preference thing, but I've gotta disagree on the undershirt thing. Since I started wearing one, I feel cooler and look cooler. It absorbs perspiration, so I don't feel so clammy, plus it keeps my shirts and suits from getting spotted (which isn't the best look for an interview).

Best wishes in the job search.
posted by rdauphin at 1:07 PM on September 21, 2006

I used to wear a linen suit when I had a suit-job. It really wasn't so bad in terms of wrinkling, and it really was a lot more comfortable (and it looked sharp).
posted by adamrice at 1:09 PM on September 21, 2006

Good grief, yes, use a quality cotton undershirt.

If you're really suffering, you could get a gel-pack cooling vest to wear underneath...
posted by Tubes at 1:15 PM on September 21, 2006

Best answer: I live in Florida. I feel your pain.

I have a linen suit and once you get the lining in the jacket and all the other construction, you still end up with a lot of layers. I find the big payoff for linen to be in the pants (lightweight to the point where I feel a bit self-conscious wearing them), but yes, they wrinkle the moment you don them. Not a dealbreaker for me. Like for adamrice, it all still looks sharp.

Aside from the linen suit, I wear lightweight wool trousers and try to find jackets with lightweight lining and minimal padding in the shoulders. That helps to take off a lot of the weight.

One thing that helps me feel cooler overall is if my hands and feet are cool. So, I make sure I pick shoes & socks that are as breathable as possible and cool my hands on the AC vents in my car or under the sink in the bathroom.

And yes, suit jacket goes on last minute.

(FWIW, I keep the undershirt. Otherwise, my dress shirts have a short lifespan.)
posted by Sangre Azul at 1:24 PM on September 21, 2006

When I need to not sweat outdoors in warm weather while wearing business dress (I work for an athletics department), I wear UnderArmour undershirts. They wick and evaporate the sweat without turning into sodden rags like most cotton undershirts.

I'll second the 'don't put your jacket on until you need to', and 'wear natural fibers'... artificial blends that aren't designed to wick and evap like UnderArmour or breathe like some other artifical fibres will trap moisture and keep you hot and swampy.
posted by SpecialK at 1:52 PM on September 21, 2006

Not that I think you're going to, but I want to echo the people saying that you cannot skip the undershirt. They protect your shirt, absorb your sweat, and prevent you from being nipply.
posted by redfoxtail at 1:57 PM on September 21, 2006

Best answer: Another suggestion, with the obligatory preceding anecdote::

I found out that I do most of my sweating immediately after I stop walking. I walk FAST, VERY FAST when I'm alone, and if I suddenly stop, I sweat a full waterfall (the kind that forms a small puddle under you if you stay on the same place)

I suggest you gradatively slow down your pace as you approach, arriving at your target at a light stroll. Then, IMMEDIATELY, ask the receptionist where's the bathroom, CHECK if it has towels, and if it has, wash your face. Spend a good two minutes washing your face and your neck (specially the back of your neck), until you feel cool. You can dry it once, and if you feel you're still sweating, wash again. Leave it a bit humid (with cool water, not sweat), the evaporation will do the last refreshing of your skin.

This may sound gay, but shave (or trim) your armpits. It makes the deodorant work MUCH better. With shaved armpits and cream anti-perspirant deodorant, you can almost guarantee you won't have circles in your armpits even if you're sweaty.

I may sound stupid here, but I feel much cooler (and I think I even sweat less) if I FEEL I'm breathing cool air. You can bring some menthol drops (like Halls Extra-Lyptus), with the added bonus of a fresh breath.
posted by qvantamon at 2:18 PM on September 21, 2006

I agree with everyone that thinks you should be wearing an undershirt. You don't want there to be even the possibility of showing your prospective employer a big sweat stain. Plus, if you're used to it, you would probably feel very strange to be without one. I know I would.

If you want a cool linen suit, you should get an unconstructed one--without all the lining and shoulder pads. This will be perfectly fine in all but the most conservative business environments (partners at a white-shoe law firm, maybe).

Don't worry about the wrinkles in the linen--linen is supposed to be wrinkled. I still press mine or have it pressed for that vague "this was once pressed" look, but it's not a big deal.

I have a lot of interview-like meetings, being a consultant, and I have always found that arriving a few minutes early and having water or something outside the building helps with the sweat--whether heat or nerves-driven.
posted by lackutrol at 2:52 PM on September 21, 2006

From a different angle, if you tend to run on the...hairy...side, a good trim/shaving will also help (at least it does for me)
posted by blind.wombat at 3:26 PM on September 21, 2006

IANAGuy, but I sweat and go to job interviews, so maybe I can offer something. If possible, change your shirt right before the interview. (Works best if you drive, but you can still beeline into the men's room immediately after arriving.) Wear a decent shirt and carry your jacket while traveling, pack a nice shirt that doesn't wrinkle in your briefcase, arrive a little early to give yourself a chance to cool down and change clothes, and wash your hands and face. Even if your shirt is dry and fresh, a hot sweaty face doesn't convey the sort of impression you want to give!

Oh, and feet are great radiators - if you have shoes you can slip off easily (and your feet don't announce themselves *cough*), you can let your feet shed a lot of heat for you. If you're traveling by public transit and you're lucky enough to get a seat, you can slip your shoes off and stay a lot cooler en route, too. If your interviews involve walking around outside, which it sort of sounds like, you can slip a heel out of one shoe when you pause somewhere - it helps a little, and keeps your feet a bit drier.
posted by Quietgal at 3:35 PM on September 21, 2006

Refuse to work for a company that requires a suit & tie.


They are ridiculously uncomfortable, and in the 21st century -- post 1950s-era conformity -- it is outrageous that they are still considered "proper."
posted by davidmsc at 5:15 PM on September 21, 2006

I agree with the above comments about lighter natural fabrics like cotton and linen. Yes to the importance and utility of the undershirt. Bring the jacket with you but don't slip it on until just before your interview.

Most importantly, using cool water to cool your temperature down is crucial. Arrive early, find the restroom, and run cool/cold water over the inside of your wrists for as long as possible. I cannot stress how effective this is in cooling you down as blood circulates through the cold point you've created.

Good luck with the interviews.
posted by empyrean at 5:17 PM on September 21, 2006

Carry around some Wash 'n Drys or alcohol rubs in your bag. I second or third getting there early at least 10 minutes. Then wipe your entire face and neck with the wipe - preferably outside where there is a little wind. Then sit perfectly still and meditate taking many very slow, deep breaths and picture every pore of your body drinking in the air. This should have the added benefit of getting you in a very relaxed state so you will be in optimal shape - body AND mind for your meeting. Good luck!
posted by any major dude at 5:47 PM on September 21, 2006

Refuse to work for a company that requires a suit & tie.

The OP's focus is on interviews, not jobs (I think), and not wearing a suit/tie to an interview is very unprofessional.
posted by blind.wombat at 6:36 PM on September 21, 2006

I agree with davidmac.

I personally enjoy wearing my socks and tiva's to interviews. That really sticks it to the man.

you can slip a heel out of one shoe when you pause somewhere -
Harder done than said with men's lace-up shoes, but I agree with everything else quietgal said.

If you're living in an a/c climate (which I suspect you do), see if you can position yourself discreetly under a vent. Bathrooms seems to have them above the door.
posted by dentata at 7:18 PM on September 21, 2006

Go ahead and just ignore davidmsc and dentata, please. First, suits are no more uncomfortable then any other piece of clothing. (Do you realize how nasty it is to wear jeans in Miami?) Lke everything else in life, you just have to get used to wearing them. Of course, it helps if the suits you buy are of good quality and fit you well. Second, you're not trying to take some half-assed social stand, your trying to get a job. Many, many companies won't even give you the time of day if you aren't properly dressed. (Further, some of us actually enjoy wearing suits and looking good.)

I would suggest getting to the job site early enough to sit down and relax in the lobby for a few minutes. If you can't do that, you might consider wearing just the undershirt while you drive to the interview. Put on your shirt, tie and jacket in the parking lot. No one will notice and you're unlikely to break out in an inordinant amount of sweat in the minute it takes to walk to the front door.
posted by oddman at 8:49 PM on September 21, 2006

Just like qvantamon, I've found I sweat the most after walking very quickly. Now, I also try to slow down my pace.

I've also had some luck with medical solutions.

After talking to my doctor about my excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), he prescribed 1 milligram (in tablet form) of glycopyrrolate twice a day. Glycopyrrolate (brand name: Robinul) is an anticholinergic that is normally used to treat people with ulcers and drooling problems but one of its side effects is decreased sweating. Reducing sweating is one of the common off-label uses of this medication. I've found that it works OK. On the hottest days, I still sweat a lot, but on average I would say that I sweat less than before. Also, you don't have to take it everyday. A one month prescription for 60 tablets is about $35 Canadian. And on days when it's very hot, I've taken three tablets and didn't suffer any negative effects. Now that it's getting cooler, I'm not taking it anymore. My doctor also suggested drysol, which is a kind of super antiperspirant. In Canada you don't need a prescription for it, but you have to ask the pharmacist for it; it's not placed on the shelves with the regular antiperspirants. You dab drysol on to your armpits at night before going to bed. It works amazingly well, though sometimes it irritates my skin. I apply it twice a week and my armpits and shirts are completely dry.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 12:51 AM on September 22, 2006

Big time sweaty guy here. Definitely wear an undershirt. I sometimes wear a very tight undershirt under a t-shirt when swing dancing. (Tight so it can’t really be seen under the t-shirt) It makes me a bit hotter, but since I KNOW I will be sweating anyway, it keeps the sweat spots under control. My problem is that I also sweat puddles from my forehead.

The only thing that reliably controls the actual sweating, is chewing copious amounts of ice. I usually chew it a bit and swallow the big chunks (obviously using common sense and not choking myself to death on ice…). I figure it cools my core temp down a bit or something. Works like a charm.
Tangentially, it is surprising some of the looks I get when I order a drink and a glass of ice separate. It’s not like I am ordering a fried weasel. >=(
posted by Chickenjack at 10:31 AM on September 22, 2006

Have to disagree -- interviews are no place for suit & tie, either. The "corporate look" of the long-sleeve shirt, coat, and ridiculous tie will one day be banished from our culture. Hell, think of what the royalty of UK, and the US founders, used to wear: pompous clothing, stupid wigs, corsets, etc. Believe me: the tyranny of the Suit & Tie will end some day. Act NOW to hasten the demise of these stupid products!

And FWIW: I too suffer from hyperhydrosis, and have found nothing that seems to help -- except for moving to a much drier clime (from S TX to MT). My sympathies to any other MeFites who have this condition.
posted by davidmsc at 7:14 PM on September 22, 2006

Davidmsc, I'm sorry to hear about your condition, but:

Have to disagree -- work is no place for jeans & t-shirt, either. The "casual look" of too-thick, dirty jeans and ridiculous retro-70s t-shirt will one day be banished from our culture. Hell, think of what the glam rockers of UK, and the US pop stars, used to wear: pompous clothing, stupid wigs, leather jeans, etc. Believe me: the tyranny of the jeans & t-shirt will end some day. Act NOW to hasten the demise of these stupid products!
posted by lackutrol at 9:43 PM on September 22, 2006

Some of us dress appropriately to the situation and environment, and don't really mind. Some even have ties they like.
posted by lackutrol at 9:45 PM on September 22, 2006

How about the middle ground: comfortable slacks (dockers-style?) and polo-shirts?
posted by davidmsc at 7:52 AM on September 27, 2006

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