Friday, November 24, 2006

Fashion Advice for Geeks

So, there happen to be these unwritten rules of style that change all the time that nobody seems to tell you about and it's hard to ask and for many, harder to know you should ask. And there are people in the work world that do judge you by your appearance, for better or worse, consciously and unconsciously.  Here is some advice that I have culled from significant others, from experience and observation in the workplace, from the advice in Esquire, and even from What Not to Wear on TLC.
  • No pleated pants
  • Get rid of your pleated pants in favor of flat-front pants. Flat-front pants are simpler, more modern looking, make you look slimmer, and not like an old man.
  • Clothes should look new and fresh
  • If your sweaters are pilled and your pants have wallet or knee wear marks, or the cuffs are frayed, it's time to get some new clothes. Buy something new and donate the old.
  • Get pants with the proper length
  • If you don't know your length, get measured or fitted in a store sometime. Your pants should "break" at the ankle and continue down slightly over your shoe. If you can see your socks when standing, your pants are too short!
  • Appropriate sock color
  • White socks are generally not going to work with any business casual attire, unless is Miami Vice white suit day, but even then you probably would be better going without socks...but I digress. The general rule with socks is they should not be noticeable! If your socks stand out, they are wrong for your outfit. I mostly wear neutral socks that match my pants to not draw attention to them. If you are wearing athletic socks with slacks you need to go to Costco and get some Gold Toe dress socks and save the nike socks for the gym.
  • Your shoes tell all
  • They say you can tell a man by his shoes--they make or break an outfit. You can be totally put together elsewhere but if your shoes are crap, it's game over.  What do your shoes say about you? Are they tired, scuffed, worn and dirty or new, sleek, stylish and shiny? It sucks but you really should have several pairs of shoes so that you can rotate them. Avoid wearing one pair day-in and day-out so that they will last longer and look fresh when you do wear them. I've even bought two of the same less expensive pairs of shoes that I liked to keep them looking nicer longer.  Oh, and invest in a shoe brush and some instant shine pads.  Esquire recommends using black polish--even with brown shoes. 
  • Wear the right size shirt
  • This is another one of those things you're never taught: how to know you have the right size shirt. Here's the best way to know: Where the sleeves attach to the main body of the shirt, it makes a line. That line should roughly be even with the very edge of your shoulder blade. More than a 1/4 inch past that and your shirt is probably too big. I often see this with people who wear golf shirts (even PGA pros are bad offenders. Tiger Woods does it right though). Another way to tell if your short-sleeve shirt is too big is if your sleeves extend far past your elbow. They should probably end short of your elbow if it is sized correctly. Having the right size shirt means a sharper, put-together look. Oversized shirts tend to look sloppy or overly-casual.
  • Dress for the position you want, not the one you have.
  • Hey, I've been there where I loved being able to wear jeans and a T shirt because, hey, nobody sees me in the server room. But, if you have higher aspirations or if you interface with business folks who tend to dress nicer than you, then your clothes can be a distraction from you and your message. If anything, your clothes should be neutral or enhance your message. Beware of some managers who get nervous if their underlings dress nicer than they do, but that isn't really your problem--it's theirs for not dressing to their level in the organization!
  • Skip ironing -- use the cleaners!
  • Nothing says sloppy like a button-down shirt that has not been ironed or is poorly ironed. The difference I found with people who truly look sharp is not just tailoring but well-maintained clothing. It is so cheap to have someone else iron your shirts and it looks 1000 times better than if you try to do it that it is well worth the investment. And you can usually get a couple of wears out of each shirt before it needs to be sent back for cleaning and ironing. I pay $0.99 / shirt. If you have nice pants, you can usually get away with ironing them yourself but professional pressing also looks a lot better and holds longer than home ironing.

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