Dressed For The Occasion

By Mark McKee

The etiquette that is in place for menswear is a minefield, but it is a minefield where the enemy keeps digging the mines up and moving them around. As soon as you figure it out, the world of men’s fashion changes, and leaves you ready to step on an explosive fashion mine. It is so confusing, that most guys have decided to stop trying to keep up, resolving to just being behind the curve. Most of us guys, just need a rule book. Tell me what I can and can’t do and I will stick to it. Tell me how to wear my favorite jeans every day, tell me how to buy just one pair of comfortable shoes and make them work every day. With that in mind, I will give a few scenarios and some guidelines to follow. As long as the jeans look good, and the shoes aren’t sneakers, anything is possible.

 

Scenario one:

 

You’re meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the 1st time at a casual restaurant… you’ve been dating only a short period of time ( less than 3 months) and although you really like her and could see her as the one, you’re not the least bit excited to be meeting her parents who are both corporate executive and very accomplished baby boomers… who are also overprotective of their only child.

The dreaded first meeting of the parents . . .who has ever loved this moment? Sure, hopefully, they are great people. I mean, the girl is great, and they probably taught her that, but there is always the chance the apple didn’t fall from the tree, but packed a bag and moved to another orchard. So, safe is the tactic. Simple, easy, and classic.

If they are successful, corporate, baby boomers, then they are, most likely, a little old fashioned. They are going to have an image of the type of man that they envisioned for their daughter since the moment their heart was broken and they found out, she was going to grow up. In all likelihood, the image of that man will look remarkably like the father.

It is a stressful time, with all kinds of things to worry about. Are you funny enough? Are you smart enough? Motivated enough? Do you make enough money? On that note, are you paying for your meal? Are you paying for her meal? If you offer to pay for her meal (as you would every other time you have gone out hopefully) then are you subconsciously telling them that she doesn’t need them any longer? On that note, if you don’t offer to pay, will you be seen as a freeloader?

Are you tired yet? I am. Luckily, one part of this can be a little more simple. What to wear . . .let’s tackle that first, the rest . . .you’re on your own buddy.

The shirt, a simple button down sport shirt. It doesn’t matter if it is solid or if it has a pattern. However, if there is a pattern, keep it simple. If you pull out a shirt with bright colors and crazy, optical illusion type patterns, you’re screaming . . .please look at me . . .remember, this is about her. Not you. Simple. This shirt should be tucked in, just like Mom used to make you. The top button should be unbuttoned, but that is it. Don’t open it up and show off the chest. You are not John Travolta in 1976, no one wants to see the chest hair hanging out.

The pants. You can have a little variety here. You can go with a simple cotton chino, or a dark, dress denim. Now, notice that I said a SIMPLE cotton chino, keep those bright colored pants on the golf course. Tan, Taupe, Navy, etc. Also notice, if you elect denim, I said dark, DRESS denim. Leave those light wash, shredded jeans by the lawn mower where you use them.

The shoes. These don’t need to be expensive, just look like you care. You know what the difference between a $75.00 pair of Steve Madden shoes and a $350.00 pair of Allen Edmonds is? The effect it has on the groceries this month. Don’t get crazy, Keep it simple with a nice, clean, leather dress shoe.

Finishing touch. Like I said earlier, they are probably a little on the old fashioned side. Which means, they like a man who takes pride in everything they do. So, complete the look with a sport coat. If you are wearing tan or taupe pants, make it a traditional navy blazer. If you elected to go with navy pants, avoid the navy blazer and go for a brown or grey. There are all kinds of sport coats to choose from, but that is for a later conversation. For this specific time, you can even use your suit coat and double it as a sport coat, dress it down as shown below. The key though, you guessed it, KEEP IT SIMPLE!!!

The last thing to keep in mind, all of these things need to FIT. Make it look like you took the time to think about this, that you took care in your appearance. When parents see the care and attention to detail you put into that, they may think that you do the same with everything in your life, including their daughter.

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Scenario 2:

 

You are one of the lucky few. You have made it passed the resume stage of the job hunt, and are ready to come in for your first interview at Google.

Job interviews . . .the most notorious time where people do the exact thing that we are taught not to do from the time we are old enough to communicate. Judge a book by it’s cover. I have spent a lot of time interviewing as a member of management and team developer for numerous companies. One thing I can tell you, their mind is mostly made up in the first three minutes. Everything you say after that, either reinforces their decision, or tries desperately to change it.

When I was an interviewer, I had a system, every person was either rated a ten, or a negative ten based on the first three minutes. If I rate you a ten, then my mind is made up, and all you say is proving me right. If you are a negative ten, everything you say is just trying to crawl back to zero. Trust me, you don’t want to be the latter. So, with first impressions in mind, let’s look at the scenario of a job interview with a progressive and laid back company like Google.

The first thing that you should do, before you choose your outfit, is do your research. Find out the kind of company it is, and what they are looking for. For instance, a high powered law firm in the middle of New York, will probably be stuffy, which means a suit and tie is a must. A company like Google, is more open, progressive, and innovative. So, dress accordingly.

Starting with a shirt, this should still be a dress shirt. Just because you know they are laid back, doesn’t mean you should assume and take liberties. Where my usual advice is skip the button down for a more dressy look in the collar, in this scenario, dress it down with a button down collar and textured tie. Skip the dressy silk ties and go for a cotton or knit.

Your pants should never be denim. Denim is for home, unless your boss tells you differently. Since they aren’t your boss yet, don’t assume, wear a cotton chino or khaki pant. Make sure they are the appropriate fit for your body. If you aren’t sure whether you should wear slim fit, then you probably shouldn’t. Too baggy of a pant makes you look like you borrowed your Dad’s, or even worse, too tight makes it look like you borrowed your sister’s.

Shoes. There is a lot more leeway these days with the footwear that has become appropriate to be worn with a suit. Even Converse have been worn with tuxedos at prom. However, this isn’t prom, and you are no longer in high school. Invest in a pair of shoes that would be appropriately dressed up in a suit, or dressed down with chinos and jeans. Bright tan or two toned work extremely well and are very versatile.

Finishing touch. I have never been on an interview where I wasn’t in a suit, or coat and tie at least. Then again, I have never been on an interview with a progressive company like Google. They want something innovative, something out of the ordinary in their team. And, if I went in there wearing a suit, I would resemble everything they fight against, that stuffy, follow the rules mentality. So, throw a slider. Be creative with the finishing touch. Put a cardigan over the shirt and tie instead of a jacket. Or, a quarter zip sweater. There are more colors you can choose from to represent your personality.

Warning!!! While they do want creativity, don’t overdo it. Remember that you want the attention on you, who you are, what you have done, and what you can bring to the table. You don’t want to be remembered as “that one guy with the Scooby-Do tie.”

The biggest thing to remember for any interview is also the most important. Despite the rules, guidelines, and suggestions you will find, you need to wear something that you can feel confident with. Something you are comfortable with. Make sure that when you get dressed, look in the mirror, and prepare to walk out the door, you can’t help but say, “I am about to rock this.”

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