Submitted by tplummer on
There have been quite a few netcasts (following TWiT guidelines for what these are called!) on looking neat and good. A few months ago I abandoned ironing my own shirts and instead going to the dry cleaner. This had 2 advantages, 1) they press a shirt a lot better than I do. 2) I can now buy 100% cotton shirts which of much higher quality. So, from the waist up I look much better. But, pants! I am mostly wearing "dress twills" which are washable. Moving to wool dress pants is a huge investment. We don't wear suits where I work except the VPs which is several levels up from me and I'm not there yet :). So, buying alone is a huge cost commitment. But then dry cleaning dress pants is insanely expensive. My dry cleaner charges $4.50. My bill will balloon from $9/week to $30+. Any suggestions? Is there a middle road? Or is this all just the cost of management?
The way to save money on dry cleaning is to buy a Jiffy Steamer with a metal head. Or ask for one for Christmas. Don't get the cheaper one with the plastic head.
You can steam the wrinkles out of dress slacks, refresh the creases and wear them several times before you need them pressed again.
The automatic trouser presses are slow, don't work well, and don't do anything for all those wrinkles in the crotch of the trousers.
They heat up in a couple of minutes and are worth every penny.
Good quality dress shirts can be laundered, save the dry cleaning for the suites (jacket and pants). They'll be pressed in the process...I ask for extra starch so they're nice and crisp.
The Cost of Doing Business
skinny one, I will take a different approach, by telling you that I think you answered your own question. Looking good IS the cost of management. If you want to stand out from the crowd, be prepared to invest some money in your threads, and in their proper maintenance.
Since I changed careers about 6 months ago, I've invested fairly heavily in my clothing. It gets noticed, believe me. And while that might seem like a small thing, it might one day turn out to be the deciding factor in a decision affecting your future.
I would tell you that one way to save on dry cleaning bills, ironically, is by investing in a lot of clothes. The more slacks you have, the more you can rotate your wardrobe. This is advantageous, anyway, because you want to display a bit of variety. Since you can wear these slacks a few times without a trip to the dry cleaners (assuming that you keep them free of coffee spills, and so forth), you can go for quite awhile without having to incur a major expense in that particular department.
Dress well...dare to stand out from your peers. You won't regret it.
We have some casts in the queue about how to dress as a manager.
I generally think a lot of folks don't like the unwritten rules... but not liking them is not the same thing as them not being there.
From a cost perspective, I totally understand - and your VPs generally do as well - if you choose dress twills versus wool trousers. No, they don't look as good at 5 pm (and this, folks, is the test), but again, we understand.
Dress shirts and trousers you wash and then press yourself are fine. Get 1-2 pairs of dress slacks for special days.
The steamer is an EXCELLENT idea - have had one for years, and they work beautifully.
When it comes to shirts, I urge you to consider either Lands End or Brooks Brothers no-iron shirts. While I have mine laundered, they are wonderfully professional, highly durable, and in my unscientific tests, I found them to come out of my own ironing looking very sharp.
Careful on the starch. The look does say "crisp"... and it ruins the shirt over time.
Were I shopping with most beginning managers and cost were an issue(and yes, I do this for clients) I would buy you Lands End pinpoint oxford no-iron shirts and Dockers no-iron trousers. Until I got you promoted, and then we'd double down our bet and spend all the raise on new trousers.
Primer on fabric choices?
Can anyone give a quick primer on fabric choices for shirts and slacks, and the pros & cons?
I'm clueless on this, and I never look at the fabric when I buy.
low-down on dress shirt fabrics
When talking about a fabric there are some things to remember. If it has a number in front of the fabric, that is the number of yarns per inch. The larger the number, the smaller the yarns and therefore, the nicer the fabric. For example 80s pinpoint vs. 120s pinpoint. To the naked eye there isn't much difference (except in price). But when you touch it, you can feel the silkiness of the 120s vs. the 80s. The next thing to keep in mind is what material the yarns are made of. Oftentimes, your "performance" shirts or "easy care shirts" have polyester yarns mixed with the cotton. This will make the shirt significantly warmer and less soft to the touch. However, if a shirt says something like "no-Iron", it is referring to a finish that is added to the shirt after it is made. This does not change the content of the fabric at all. In fact, most "No-Iron" shirts are 100% cotton.
On to the actual shirts...
The most common fabric you will find is Pinpoint Oxford. This is a simple basket weave and usually made in 100% cotton. It is affordable and looks and feels great. Broadcloth would be the next most common dress shirt and is considered more dressy than Pinpoint. This is mostly because the yarn is finer. Broadcloth also does very well in alternative collars to button-down like the straight point collar, and the spread collar. There are other miscellaneous fabrics that are used. Most of the time, the name refers to the weave. Twill is woven with a diagonal grain where as herringbone is a twill but with alternating diagonal grain. Any of these can be woven using any fiber content (cotton, polyester, etc). You may also hear about things like Supima or Pima cotton. This refers to the grade of cotton being used. Supima is the most common "nicer grade" available on the market today. Sea Island or Egyptian cotton refers to the place where it was grown. These are also grades of cotton so be careful when you're shopping. True Egyptian and Sea Island cotton have silky hands (they feel nice against your skin).
The styling of the shirt is the last, and most important, thing to consider. If you like a close fit, you want slim, trim or tailored. If you like your shirts roomier, you will want a traditional fit. Athletic fit is for the guy with broad shoulders and a narrow waist. Make sure you get measured accurately as well. Stay away from neck and average sleeve sizing (17 34/35) because there is a good chance the sleeves won't fit you right. Get the shirt that fits your measurements - get it tailored if you have to. You also want to consider the collar. If you where ties regularly, spread and straight point collars work best. Button-down also works but not for more formal occasions. If you don't wear ties, you should steer clear of spread collars and consider straight point and button-down.
I hope this helps. I'm sorry I don't know as much about pants. But there are always some imple guidelines you can follow. Make sure you know your size. Ill-fitting pants are easy to spot. Light weight wool, like merino, usually works all year long and it is fairly easy to care for. If you prefer cotton, No-Iron fabrics work best as they require less care and tend to look good nearly all the time. I also agree that you should invest in a steamer. It is really handy to have around - especially if you want to avoid dry-cleaning costs.
Thank you all so much. I spent most of Sunday night looking stuff up on the internet. It's amazing that there are no real resources on how to dress for business. I pieced together a lot over several hours. One, I had no idea that you dry clean suits/slacks 1-2 times per year. That seems so counter intuitive to me. So, that's a huge help. 2nd, I find that while I need to buy 2 suits and probably another couple pair of slacks, for the most part polyester no-iron Dockers/Slates are dressy enough for my line of work. I always think of poly as tacky 70s suits but actually much of the "dress" pants are poly (Slates, Perry Ellis, etc.) I even asked around today and most people that I thought were well dressed with wool pants were actually poly. They've done quite a nice job these days.
On shirts, I mostly buy from Lands End. I prefer their no iron, no button down 100% cotton broadcloth. Broadcloth is smoother and dresser over oxfords. When properly pressed without starch (yes even no irons need to be ironed) they look absolutely fabulous and crisp for a whole day. I also want to say that their old wool pants are garbage but they recently upgraded them for the same price ($60) so I'll try again. Now super 100s with half lining to the knee. Prior they were 80s, no lining and felt like sandpaper.
Finally, I'll probably get a steamer at some point to help refresh my clothes. First, I need some better clothes to refresh. Thanks for all the advise. It was great!
Do you have any recomendations for pants and shoe brands (just as you have listed lands end or brooks brothers for shirts)? I think Mark posted a message saying that he would buy lands end and dockers no-irons for the budget minded manager. What would be a step above that?
Thanks and keep up the good work!
Lands End is a GREAT place to buy trousers as well. They have year round wool trousers that are exceptionally durable, priced quite reasonably, and look sharp. While it may put some off about buying online for clothes that need to fit, I have found their instructions great, and THEY WILL TAKE ANY RETURN AT ANY TIME. They have the best customer service in the world there.
I also like Dockers. They're sharp and well priced too, and generally selection is good at major department stores.
The wool trousers you can get from either are clearly the dressiest thing you need below suit trousers (which I would never wear without a suit jacket, and I detest this trend of mixing and matching that fashionistas seem to be interested in lately).
Shoes are more difficult, but I personally recommend loafers from any number of major brands: Allen Edmonds, Cole Haan, Johnston & Murphy, and for a long time my favorite, Lands End, believe it or not. Loafers - I think - help relax your look, and they DEFINITELY keep you from wearing Oxfords, which are lovely with a suit but formal overkill when you have on slacks.
I recommend you steer clear of the styles that seem to be popular now, particularly the ones with seams that trace the top outline of the vamp of the shoe, and that have wider soles than the shoe itself. They will go out of style in a few years, while classics such as loafers, cap toe oxfords, and plain toes all will be fashionable and professional for years to come, as they always have been. They are the equivalent of ladies black pumps.
Hope this helps!