Business Casual – Men’s Clothing as a Young Professional
One of our Facebook page fans requested an article on Gen Y fashion so this is the men’s installment, Jennifer wrote the female guide to Gen Y office fashion. While most of us want to feel comfortable at work, it doesn’t mean we sacrifice fashion. While suits for most jobs have gone by the wayside, looking good at work is something a lot of young professionals take pride in. As younger workers we want to be taken seriously and realize that it’s sometimes hard with a wrinkled shirt and jeans.
After graduating college and starting to work at a Fortune 5 company, I noticed that my shopping habits changed almost immediately. I felt strangely out of place at Abercrombie and found myself gravitating more and more to department stores and Banana Republic/J Crew. I needed work clothes, and having a moose or seagull on my shirt at work, just doesn’t look right.
I like to think I dress decently so I’d like to share some fashion tips for you young professional males out there that are struggling with a fashion identity crisis similar to the one I experienced. To best address each part of the male outfit, I’ll be breaking the article up into pieces. First up: shoes and pants…
Shoes: This is a critical part, and often overlooked part of the Gen Y outfit. What you wear on your feet says a lot about you as a person. I spend over two hours a day on the Tube in London, I’ve seen a lot of shoes while staring at the floor avoiding eye contact.
So tell me something… are you still wearing the same shoes you wore for your first job interview? A good way to tell if you need new shoes: if you’re wearing stub nose toes, it’s time to get new shoes. That style is sooo 2001.. today’s styles are more of a rounded toe. Don’t trust me? Go look at a pair of Hugo Boss shoes in your local department store, see what I mean? The US is pretty slow on adopting footwear styles, but trust me, if you’re spending a lot on shoes, get the rounded toe. It looks a little feminine at first, but you’ll get used to it.
Every man needs at least two pairs of shoes for work. One brown and one black. Plan on spending at least $100 (each) for a decent pair. An easy way to tell nice shoes is to look at the bottom. If you can see stitching around the sole, they can usually be re-soled. Also, look to see where they are made. If they’re made in China, put them down. Look inside the shoe, both the upper and lower should be made of leather. A good pair of shoes can last you years, don’t skimp out! Don’t be afraid to shop around either! Your best bet is a good department store or a men’s shoe store that’s not inside a mall. I see you! Yeah you! You were going to go to Aldo or Steve Madden, don’t even think about it..
Now that you have a nice pair of shoes, take care of them! There is a certain bit of pride in a nicely shined pair of shoes. It only takes a few minutes a week to keep your shoes in good shape and it’s something that people will notice. The cool thing about nice shoes is that once they start to get old, the shoes are still good. Replace them with a newer pair and demote your old shoes to ‘club / bar wear’. That way you’ll be sure to look good in the club and you won’t feel so bad when someone dumps their beer on your foot.
Read on for tips on pants…
Pants: Pants are cool. They’re easy as hell to iron, and don’t really go out of style. It’s hard to mess them up, but people do. Mostly by wearing ill-fitting pants. It’s so cheap to get pants hemmed, so make sure they fit damn it! Unless you’re stuck in the 90s, baggy is definitely out of style.
Despite these caveats, thankfully it’s pretty easy to shop for pants (or ‘trousers’ as I’ve learned to call them). Unless you’re a freak of nature like me and require a size 30×29, pant shopping should be pretty easy for you. A lot of Gen-Yers are into khaki but that’s not really my thing. While khaki is more relaxed, it just isn’t super professional in the corporate world. They tell you to dress for the job one step above you, and unless you’re a ball washer at the local country club or work for a small business, not too many managers I know are wearing khaki, especially in London. Even if you work for a small company or Google, Microsoft or some other ‘wear what makes you comfortable’ company, no one is going to tease you about looking nice.
More Quick Tips
- NO PLEATS. Flat front only. Again, go to a department store for these. Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein, and any other similar designer is a good bet. I wouldn’t spend more than $45 on a pair unless they’re really, really cool (or wool)
- Make sure your pants FIT. While most people can find a waist size no problem (or apparently not, since I see a lot of belts that cinch the pants, yuck) the length is also important. Try the pants on in the store wearing shoes. The pants should break (or fold slightly) above the ankle. They should not bunch up.
- No CUFFS.
Every man needs:
- Brown (can be dark or more of an olivey-green brown)
- Black or gray pinstripe
- Dark blue (not my favorite)
- Gray wool
Taking care of your pants should be easy. If you don’t live in a Midwest salty winterland like Milwaukee, you can probably get away with wearing your pants more than once. As long as they remain clean and you don’t sweat in them, you should be able to wear them two to three times before washing them. If you’re lazy like me you can even wash them at home. I usually wash my pants on the gentle/handwash cycle and hang them to dry. Of course I have to iron often, but I’m used to it. When ironing, be careful around the pockets, it’s easy to burn your pants (especially cotton/polyester blends) on seams. If you’re worried, try turning them inside out when ironing.
There you have it, some tips from fashionista Grant. While I probably have average dress sense in London, clothing for work is simple and I feel qualified to hand out tips (especially since we dress so poorly in the States). I’m sure people have different opinions on this, so let’s start the battle royale in the comment section, especially you stub toe shoe or khaky pant lover…
Next up: Shirts, sweaters and belts
- Get the Basics Right: Shoes and Pants for Young Professional Men : Brazen Careerist
- How Young Professionals Get Ahead | Twenty Set