What (not) to wear
January 23, 2007 1:49 AM   Subscribe

What should I wear to meetings with telco companies like T-Mobile and Cingular in the US? Consider that I'm a Dutch business development executive / deal maker from a hip, young, rapidly growing and very down to earth Dutch IT company, which doesn't allow its employees to travel business class (not even when traveling trans Atlantic). I would prefer wearing something comfortable, meaning no suit and tie. But is this in any way acceptable?
posted by IZ to Work & Money (21 answers total)
It depends on who you're meeting. If you're meeting executives, wear a suit. No exceptions.

If you're meeting with line engineers, casual is fine.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:59 AM on January 23, 2007

Please clarify for a more appropiate response. Do you mean you are meeting with the Telco companies once you get into the US? In which case where whatever you want on the flight to be comfortable and carry a suit with you to change into (if they are meeting you once you get in).

Nothing against the Dutch you understand but I went to a meeting in Zurich with people from all over Europe and everyone was in formal business attire (it was after all a business meeting) except the gentleman from our Dutch office who arrived in tracksuit and t.shirt. I am not sure if he felt out of place or was completley comfortable in doing so but it felt uneasy for the rest of us.
posted by numberstation at 2:52 AM on January 23, 2007

Best answer: When in the US, always wear a suit and tie to a business meeting unless you know for absolute certain beforehand that the people you're meeting with will be dressing casually themselves. Even if they are, if you're asking for money or trying to clinch a deal, wearing a suit and tie shows the other side that you respect them. Americans generally see casual wear at a business meeting as saying that you didn't think the meeting (or they) were important enough to dress up for.

If you're not absolutely certain of the dress code, it's better to be overdressed than underdressed.
posted by watsondog at 3:29 AM on January 23, 2007

yeah, wear a suit, you don't want to be the only one there without one

from a hip, young, rapidly growing and very down to earth cheap Dutch IT company
posted by matteo at 4:15 AM on January 23, 2007

If a tie is uncomfortable, your shirt doesn't fit you. If your suit is uncomfortable, then your suit doesn't fit you. We're talking natural fabrics tailored to be just right for your body, so there's no reason you can't have a comfortable suit.
posted by mendel at 4:51 AM on January 23, 2007

I work for one of the big US telcos and meet with potential vendors like yourself all the time. Even though our internal dress code is business casual, I think we would be shocked if a vendor showed up in anything less than a suit.
posted by daveleck at 5:17 AM on January 23, 2007

Response by poster: To clarify:

@numberstation: I'm meeting with Telco companies once I'm in the US.

@mendel: it's not that I have cheap suits, I'm just not that fond of wearing suits and ties.

@matteo: possibly cheap, but at least board members and owners of the company apply to the same standards (and they pay really well also...).

Basically, I'm looking for info on the dress code in the American Telco industry.

How about just wearing a well fitting good suit and shirt? Is it insulting not to wear a tie?
posted by IZ at 5:23 AM on January 23, 2007

Best answer: The standard U.S. business uniform is still as follows. White or blue shirt (spread collar, not button down, long sleeved), tie, suit, dark socks, dress shoes (smooth, shined leather, but not patent leather), leather belt matching shoe color.

The reason for adhering to the American business uniform is so that people will quickly forget about what you are wearing, and what your style choices may say about you or your company, and so focus attention entirely on what you have to say. The more American you look, the less you raise questions of business and transaction friction due to cultural differences, legal issues, etc. If it "says" anything at all, your dress should say, in the first 2 minutes of your meeting "I understand American expectations, and am prepared to meet them. So, you can pay attention now to what we need to discuss about my products and proposals."
posted by paulsc at 5:35 AM on January 23, 2007 [4 favorites]

I meet with telco types on the west coast all the time, and the suit is not standard in Oregon, Washington and California. This is a much less conservative, traditional part of the country.

However: I still do wear suits. Nobody will look down on you for wearing a suit, and it always looks professional.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:07 AM on January 23, 2007

Wear a tie.
posted by SpecialK at 6:24 AM on January 23, 2007

Here's what's going to happen. You will wear a suit a make a good impression. However, if you get there and no one is wearing a suit, then on the following days you don't have to either. In Business, you want to dress up, not because the suit disappears, but because people automatically respect the person someone more dressed up than them. In research, you want to dress exactly like the people you are researching, so they feel comfortable with you. It's all about status, and, yeah, it's depressing I can't deal with it either.
posted by xammerboy at 6:51 AM on January 23, 2007

Consider taking off your jacket and tie for the flight and hanging them in the coat closet (I've yet to fly on a plane without a coat closet! Just ask the stewardess as you board). Using a garmet bag for your suit and changing at your destination is probably the most wrinkle-free and comfortable way to get through the flight, although that may not be an option.
posted by muddgirl at 8:36 AM on January 23, 2007

Why is this even an issue? Wear a dark suit & tie.
posted by wfc123 at 8:46 AM on January 23, 2007

Wear a suit. There is no such thing as dressing too professionally.
posted by racingjs at 8:47 AM on January 23, 2007

Suit and tie is de rigeur here. Don't blow it.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:49 AM on January 23, 2007

On the other hand, I've shown up for meetings on the west coast wearing a suit and the response I've received more than once is "What's with the suit?" This was the transportation industry but we aren't know for being especially casual or conservative. If the meeting is in the northeast - SUIT, west - I think you're safe with sport coat and tie, south - bigger cities wear a suit and either the sport coat and tie or suit is safe elsewhere in the region.
posted by Carbolic at 9:06 AM on January 23, 2007

suit! You're selling them something. You must always be better dressed than your clients. They are (or will be) paying you(r company), and you want to come across as professionally as possible. Just put the suit in one of those handy suit bags that you get when you buy a suit (with a plastic hanger!) and have them hang it up for you in the plane. I've done it a couple of times now, no problem. Then change before you meet them.
posted by defcom1 at 9:34 AM on January 23, 2007

Carbolic - but at least if someone asks "what's with the suit?" you can laugh it off, take off the jacket and loosen your tie.

Walk into a meeting without, where everyone is wearing a suit and you don't have the option to match them.
posted by jeffmik at 9:49 AM on January 23, 2007

Telco is a not-always-comfortable mix of old & new school. Some people probably wouldn't care whether you wear a suit & tie, others might see it as a sign of disrespect, laziness, or lack of seriousness/commitment. There's really no way to know offhand.

If the people you're meeting with come from a primarily wireless background, they may be a bit more relaxed, more focused on getting things done efficiently than on protocol for protocol's sake. If they come from one of the old US landline companies, they're more likely to be the opposite. Due to industry consolidation, any given telco company is likely to have an unpredictable mixture of people from these backgrounds.

Another possible angle on this -- how important is your "hip" and "young" persona to selling whatever it is you want to sell? If you think the image is key and puts just the right spin on things, then maybe you shouldn't wear the tie -- just make sure everything else appears absolutely devoid of flaw.
posted by treepour at 10:30 AM on January 23, 2007

Suit & tie is the way to go. On the west coast, we are generally a lot more liberal in dress code. In particular, tech companies are often amused if you show up in a tie but since we are easy going in the dress department, it won't be a strike against you. In other words, suit & tie is a guaranteed no-hassle position on either cost. You can always remove the jacket and tie if they bother you and you are clearly overdressed.
posted by chairface at 10:32 AM on January 23, 2007

IZ, what company are you in?
posted by jouke at 1:53 PM on January 23, 2007

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