Dudes, we get it. Your 5 panel hat and advanced drop crotch pants are very "next level," and yes, I'm sure the rest of the millennials also think they are "pretty dope," but when you go to a much anticipated job interview or to work, do yourself a favor and leave them at home.
We’ve all heard the phrase “Clothes Make the Man." How you dress affects how people perceive you and even how much you get paid. Clothing is the primary vehicle in creating a positive first impression. It also denotes your status among a cohort, and can boost your confidence.
Successful consultant and entrepreneur, Neil Patel, said he invested over $150,000 into a new wardrobe and immediately started charging $1,000 an hour instead of $100. By the simple act of changing how he dressed, he was able to increase his income by nearly $700,000.
Chances are that if you’ve never been complimented by a coworker or boss on your clothes (and no, bros, your mom doesn't count), you’ve never been well dressed. But don’t fret, the bar for men is so low that it’s easy to surpass.
Here are 10 all too common embarrassing mistakes men are making when it comes to their professional wardrobe:
1. "Big guy in a little coat"
This might seem obvious, but please make sure your clothes fit. Don't pull a Tommy Boy and think that it works, when actually everyone can see the exact contours to your booze-sculpted body – yes, this also goes for you cross-fit dudes. And definitely don't go too baggy either.
You need to work to find that sweet spot.
The fact that you're sporting designer clothing doesn't matter if the clothes don't fit. Above material, above construction, the most important attribution of a foundational look is a great fit.
Whether or not something "fits" is subjective – it's personal. But to get started, here are some basic guidelines to adhere to when it comes to fit:
For more information, you can find an easy, comprehensive guide titled: How Clothes Should Fit, or if you are looking to really go in-depth, you should check out this Fit Guide.
2. Channelling the feet of Lebron James and Bilbo Baggins
What do Lebron James and Bilbo Baggins have in common? For one, their chosen footwear belongs out of the office place.
Bro, ditch the casual shoes. You may have the latest New Balance and your new off-white sneakers may have been made in Italy with only the most breathable and organic fibers, but that will only score you negative points in the professional world.
Even worse, I've actually seen guys wearing sandals to work. Even in the most casual work environments this begs the question, "Do any of us really want to stare at Brian's feet all day?"
There was once a man named Confucius, who you have probably heard of from some Urban Outfitters graphic tee or novelty mug. Anyway, Confucius once said, "Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto you."
In other words, you might be fine with your own feet, but you probably aren't fine with Brian's feet, and Brian probably feels the same about yours.
Bottom line: keep the athletics on the court and the hobbits in the shire.
“Even today, you can still tell a gentlemen by his shoes,” says The Telegraph of London. Michael Bloomberg, the eighth richest person in America, revealed he only owns two pairs of work shoes, which is all you really need for work.
If you’re just starting out your shoe collection, the two basics are a pair of dark brown Wingtip Oxfords and black Plain-Toe Bluchers. You can wear both pairs with suit trousers, chinos pants, and dark jeans.
3. Take your shoes glamping, not camping
Don't think of your work shoes as having 4 wheel drive. Unpolished, dirty shoes look unprofessional, and can really throw off the rest of your work attire.
I get that it's expensive to regularly buy new, clean shoes so here are some hints that should help you take care of the ones you own:
The important thing is to consider good work shoes as an investment. If you've never owned really good shoes before, you might experience some sticker shock (expect to pay at least $200). But if you take good care of them, and know a good shoe repair, you'll own them for at least 10 years.
There are some new brands bringing quality footwear direct-to-consumer, making the pricing more reasonable. One recent favorite is Jack Erwin, based out of New York.
4. Loud hipster patterns
If you’re starting out your suit closet, absolutely do not pick out anything with a loud pattern (like striped or checked). While loud and quirky-patterned button ups are very popular and might set you apart at a bar, avoid wearing them to work and interviews.
Stick with colors that you can get a lot of wear out of, and that’ll be a navy blue or charcoal gray for jackets, and white and blue for your dress shirts.
Strive for the sharpness of Don Draper on Mad Men. Have you noticed he only wears white dress shirts to the office? If your job requires dress shirts, you should own at least 5 white and 5 light blue to choose from, and you should only rotate out of that color scheme when you absolutely get bored of wearing white and blue – but even then, try to hold out.
There's a new crop of brands that are now offering more accessible custom dress shirts online including Proper Cloth and Shirt Cycle, although my personal favorite is Blank Label for the simplicity, quality and customer service.
5. Statement jackets are making the wrong statement
"Nice vintage Adidas track jacket!" Said no boss ever. Statement jackets, sweatshirts, and other casual jackets should do not have a place in a work environment.
When it comes to buying a jacket, choose single breasted and two-button, that’s been the style for the last two decades and is unlikely to change anytime soon. Remember to go by the color scheme above.
If you’re buying off-the-rack, the most important thing to look for is how it fits your shoulder because a good tailor can usually take care of the rest.
Also, if you can afford it, see if you can get a jacket that’s either fully canvassed, or at least half-canvassed. Not to get too technical, but this is because a lot of low-end suits are stuck together with glue, which will melt with dry cleaning and start bubbling up, whereas a canvassed jacket uses a natural material like horsehair and floats between the outside wool and interior lining.
Following fashion trends, you might lean toward ripped, torn, acid washed, bleached, or distressed styles of denim, but don’t waste your time and your money. Chances are that your boss could care less that you took the time to acid wash your jeans over the weekend, or that you spent $200 on jeans with holes in them.
If you are allowed to wear denim, go dark, without any fading or rips.
Denim has infiltrated business casual in a big way, and they’re incredibly versatile. Wear it with a fitted tee-shirt for a casual look, and you can also use the same pair with a dress shirt and jacket for work or a nice dinner.
Denim-heads will tell you to buy raw denim or selvedge – they’re very in at the moment although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for work. Those types haven’t been washed at all so they’ll be very stiff and you’ll have indigo dye rubbing off on your other clothes.
Instead, choose a weight you really like, and always focus on fit. Most denim will stretch quickly as it’s cotton, so it probably makes sense to buy a size down rather than ending up with a baggier pair of jeans.
7. Athletic socks – a rookie mistake
Athletic socks with dress shoes are a clear sign of a rookie not being ready for the big leagues, and yet those little Nike symbols have been making an appearances in work environments all too often.
As a solution, some young professionals might suggest a no sock look, but I wouldn't recommend it. The look is tremendously hard to pull off, and you'll likely chafe your heels, not to mention at some point other cohorts will have to deal with your stinky feet.
The point is, no one should be drawn to your ankle area unless you are Louis XIV and constantly trying to maximize ankle sexiness.
Instead, when wearing your new Wingtip Oxfords or Bluchers, make sure you get dress socks that match your trousers. Most people think that the socks are supposed to match the shoe, and although this can work, it's stronger to pick a color similar to your pants. For example, if you’re going to wear a pair of lighter colored chinos, you should wear a pair of tan socks with your brown shoes.
8. Exposed Heavage
Whereya goin’ there Tarzan? If your boss or coworkers find themselves drifting off about your rugged chest hair, you're probably showing too much heavage. In fact, even an inch of exposed chest is one inch too much.
Tee shirts, in general, are a rare occasion in the office. Save them for off-site work and retreats, or if you work in a casual office space, by all means go for it--although I would still ditch the V.
The plunging neckline also applies to open-collared shirts. Have no more than 2 buttons, including the top collar button, undone. Hide your heavage, and save your boss the time of having to tell you to go back to the frat house.
9. Bro-ing out when it's still not appropriate
You're feeling pumped. Your boss has just invited you over for dinner, and inwardly you're a little kid on Christmas morning. All your hard work is showing and your boss is acknowledging that you've been a good little boy. So for the love of Yeezus, don't show up in shorts and a tee shirt.
When in doubt, overdress. Even if your boss dresses casual, maintaining a professional look will go a long way. It shows your boss that this occasion is important to you.
The same logic goes for work event functions. Always check with your coworkers about the dress code so you don't do something bonkers like show up to a black tie event in a grey suit.
10. Quantity over quality
The most common Freshman move is to try and optimize their wardrobe for a short-term budget. Especially if you are new to the working world, it seems like the best thing to do would be to buy 10 mediocre options of everything.
Strive for quality over quantity. I can't stress it enough that it is better to have 3 great outfits over 10 moderate ones. Luckily for men, the expectation is to stick to basics, so you really don't need a super versatile collection of work clothes. You may have to do laundry a little more often, but it will pay off, and over time you will be able to grow your professional wardrobe.
Moreover, while millennials might get a lot of slack (even this article is humorously poking fun at you guys), it's true that this is the generation tasked with creating a more sustainable and livable world for future generations. And as millennials, you guys are pretty good at doing it.
The cost of cheap, fast-produced fashions has been well documented. In the important documentary about the garment industry titled The True Cost, one factory worker states, "I believe these clothes are produced by our blood."
In other words, you should care where your clothes are coming from.
Brands like Everlane are working toward making where we get our clothes a more transparent process, while brands like Patagonia and People Tree are stepping out and calling for customers to consume only what you need.
Quality over quantity. As a generation of millennials and young professionals, vote with your wallet.