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Hi all,

I was recently promoted to management from a programmer position. In our organization, a university, the employees usually wear polos and khakis, but the managers wear dress shirts, slacks, and nice shoes….and always a tie and jacket at the ready. (Faculty can get away with whatever, of course.)

I’ve never worked in position in which one had to dress “like a manager” and I need help.

I’ve spent several hundred dollars at J.C. Penney’s to get the requisite clothes, but I look like Harry Homeowner who only wears a dress shirt and tie when he is on his way to a wedding or a funeral.

I want to dress nicely, but not overdress for my environment. Wearing Armani would be overdressing. :D I want to buy good quality shirts, pants, and a few ties that will last for two years or so before I have to replace them.

Here in Texas, I’ve got the usual gamut of J.C. Penney’s, Macy’s, Dillard’s, and The Men’s Wearhouse.

Does anyone have any suggestions for quality stores/brands for/of clothes? Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

--Michael

stewartlogan's picture

Jos. A. Bank has great dress shirts that are well-priced (and they have wrinkle-free shirts!) and look good. Same with pants that are "dress-down formal."

If you catch them at the right time, you'll get a good sale. And they'll always negotiate in store if you are looking to spend enough.

pmoriarty's picture

Most importantly, what do the other sw engineering managers wear, especially those that you respect?

It's going to be very different if you work for a top financial firm where a well-tailored suit is expected versus a startup where the rule seems to be "you must wear clothes". :) Can you be more specific about your situation?

Personally, I strongly prefer natural fibers (cotton, wool, silk) over synthetics. Getting your clothes professionally cleaned and pressed will make a big difference in how long creases stay neat and wrinkles stay away.

MattJBeckwith's picture

Hello Michael. I've never gone wrong with Lands End. Great quality and perfect sizes.

jhack's picture

Lands End shirts are very consistent in the fit, year after year.

Finding slacks that fit might require some experimentation at local outlets.

For ties, keep your eyes open. Good ones (and bad ones) are everywhere, online and instore. The key is to get comfortable with the knot, so you feel comfortable wearing it. That shows.

Yes, natural fibers and professional cleaning are good bets.

Finally, is there someone you know that could go to a Macy's or Men's Wearhouse with you to give you some thumbs up/down?

John

pmoriarty's picture

[quote="jhack"]

For ties, keep your eyes open. Good ones (and bad ones) are everywhere, online and instore. The key is to get comfortable with the knot, so you feel comfortable wearing it. That shows.

John[/quote]

The mistake that most people make when starting to wear ties is to buy shirts with a neck size that's too small. The shirt should feel comfortable buttoned all the way up without the tie. If it feels at all tight or restrictive, go up another 1/2 size on the neck.

TomW's picture

I'm a pretty dedicated Men's Wearhouse person. I have several suits, shirts, shoes, and ties from them.

Their guys have much better color sense than I do, helping me pick shirt/tie combos for day-to-day wear.

If you watch for sales and get their membership card (good for $50 gift cert for every $500 you spend), you can save some money on them too.

madamos's picture

Michael,
Congratuations on your promotion!

I highly recommend going to a store like Men's Warehouse or Jos A. Bank and talking to a salesperson. Simply tell them you are looking for a new wardrobe, what your requirements are and your budget. I have found the sales staff at these stores to be more than helpful in giving you many options.

As someone who is color blind, I always go straigt to the salesperson. They help me coordinate pants, socks, shirts and ties giving me several options to choose from. As they get a sense of my personal style they adjust the selections they bring to me.

A friend of mine had a great experiance using the Macy's personal shopper (from the main store in NY). You might want to see if there is a store that has this service available to you.

Just remember, you are the customer and you should feel comfortable telling the salesperson what you do and don't like. Don't be pressured to purchase something just because the picked it out for you.

You should also take the opportunity to talk to the salesperson on the proper care for you new clothes and ask for tips to keep them in top shape.

Good luck
MadAmos

skwanch's picture

Men's Wearhouse has taken great care of me over the years.

Don't forget tailoring / alterations - 'off the rack' only works for racks.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="jhack"]For ties, keep your eyes open. Good ones (and bad ones) are everywhere, online and instore. The key is to get comfortable with the knot, so you feel comfortable wearing it. That shows.[/quote]

Something that's often forgotten with ties is that you should get enough not only that each shirt has at least 2 ties that goes with it (colour and pattern wise) but also that you never have to wear the same tie two days in a row and ideally a tie should be given a couple of days to 'rest' on a proper tie hanger after being worn. It really helps the look and longevity of a tie.

Consider investing in some tie clips. They can really help improve the look of an outfit.

Finally, something that seems to vary from workplace to workplace. Looks at people's cuffs, are they buttoned or held by cuff links? It varies but at some workplaces (especially ones where many people have to wear a suit and/or shirt and tie) I've noticed there seems to be a demarcation between management and non-management in that non-managers will button their shirt cuffs but managers will wear cuff links. There might be some other subtle demarcation at your workplace (between senior and junior managers if not between management and non-management) so keep a look out, but cuff links is the most common one I've noticed. Cuff links also provide a subtle way of personalizing and enhancing an outfit, obviously you do need to make sure that your shirts are the sort that can take them though.

Stephen

terrih's picture

Stephen beat me to it... I was going to say, look around you! It wasn't that long ago, the Wall Street Journal had an article about different "dress codes" between NY and LA. You also have differences from one company to another.

I work at a VERY casual office. We can wear jeans every day. Our CEO is a retired admiral and apparently he got his fill of dress whites... he said, he wants to wear jeans, and if he gets to, everyone else gets to also. It's a good thing, because I wasn't able to instantly revamp my wardrobe just because I got a promotion & raise.

That having been said, I think it's better to err on the side of being overdressed than TOO casual. I try to wear really nice tops with my jeans, and classy shoes.

I also think it's trickier for women. Maybe it's just my perception, but it just seems like we have so many more options to sort through. I bought 3 polo shirts last spring and they've been great... but after wearing polo shirts 3 days a week all summer I started wanting something more girly. :)

Is there someone at your company who seems to have just the right wardrobe for your company's culture? Might you be able to ask him for pointers?

James Gutherson's picture

[quote="terrih"]
I also think it's trickier for women. Maybe it's just my perception, but it just seems like we have so many more options to sort through.
[/quote]

I wish there were more options
"Hmm (Open cupboard), what to wear - dark suit, white shirt and....Red tie - No, blue tie - No, ooh feeling daring and creative YELLOW tie....Repeat tomorrow"

dhkramer's picture

Men's Wearhouse makes good suits for the price, and have helpful salespeople, but (no offense TomW), don't buy your ties there.

You'll see them everywhere.

Look for all wool pants with lining. They are much nicer looking than cotton trousers, and will stay neat and be comfortable. Nothing wrong with going to discount houses like Burlington Coat Factory or Filene's Basement once you get an idea of what you need from a place like Men's Wearhouse or Nordstrom's.

3 pair of pants, 5 or 6 shirts, and a decent blazer will get you going for the first year or so.

asteriskrntt1's picture

I have a few friends that have just scored some incredible deals on "experienced" clothing. Got some essentially new suits that retailed for $700 for $100 plus tailoring. I guess you have to be into that method of shopping and be familiar with retail value and brands.

*RNTT

tomas's picture

Michael,
[quote="mdrapp"]
I’ve spent several hundred dollars at J.C. Penney’s to get the requisite clothes, but I look like Harry Homeowner who only wears a dress shirt and tie when he is on his way to a wedding or a funeral.
[/quote]

Can't recommend any stores as I am not even in the same hemisphere as you are. However, that feeling of being uncomfortable may in part be a function of dressing differently and will reduce over time. It is partly a question of attitude - you have to become accustomed to your new role as much as to your new wardrobe that goes with it.

Or maybe its just the clothes. Care to post some pics? :)

Good luck.

jhack's picture

A good tailor can make a huge difference to how "off the rack" clothes fit you.

John

bflynn's picture

Congratulations on becoming "Them".

As far as companies to go to - I prefer a store specializing in men's clothing. I also like professional sales people, who make it their job to keep up to date with style and with you. It really is useful when you come in and the sales person knows what you already have and is on the lookout for new items to keep you up to date.

Your goal is to arrive at a point where your clothes are seen as superior without being distracting.

In my opinion, JcPenney's and Sears do not cut it. In fact, I believe the only department stores that might make the grade are Nordstrom's and maybe Macy's. However, these are still borderline.

My choice is Brooks Brothers. Yes, they're expensive and you get what you pay for. In the case of Brooks Brothers, you're paying for and getting more than clothing. When I walk into a store, I start from a position of trusting the sales person, even if I have never been in that store before. And, with Brooks Brothers being an international chain, I know that if I'm traveling and have any kind of clothing situation come up, I believe I can trust them to help.

I know that others can tell because I get compliments on my clothing from time to time. I think even when they don't say so, people sense it unconsciously.

Brian

Mark's picture

Lands End, Jos A Bank, Men's Wearhouse are all fine. Get wool slacks, and no-iron pinpoint oxford shirts that you send to the dry cleaner for laundering and no starch. (It's more expensive than washing them, but they don't look as good when you wash them at home.)

Other than that, your "look" is really related to style choices, and that's a much harder thing.

Mark

sarah_9's picture

Hello,

 

 

Dress code at corporate office is usually neither too formal nor too casual , manager should wear some good semi formals, men`s dress shirts are perfect dress style for professionals if you want complete formal look wear it with tie and jacket.

 

 

Regards,

sarah_9

thaGUma's picture

I would echo what has gone before on shirt size and extend it into the suit. Make sure whatever you chose that the size is right - do not force yourself into a 34" trouser if you are a 36". You should be able to button up your suit and not strain the buttons! And [UK] please do the buttons up.

Stephen had a good point on cuff-links. In the UK it sends a strong but subtle signal.

I note Mark's comment on laundering shirts and hope that the US is much cheaper than the UK for laundry. I could not justify sending shirts out on a regular basis when I can iron them myself while listening to some good music or even a podcast or two.

Chris

markn's picture

It's always good to get an opinion from the sales person or a trusted friend (who dresses well). Typically women have a better eye for this than men.. but make sure you purchase in your comfort zone... "too fashionable" is rarely a good idea.

When buying ties etc, consider how it will fit with your suits and shirts that you already have. You may want to consider buying an outfit or two in one shopping trip that can be combined in different ways. Don't go nuts, but give your self a few permutations.

You may find certain colours work for you due to eye, skin and hair colour.. so it's good to compliment them at first before thinking of contrasting or clashing bold fashion statements.

It's also a good idea to watch when to "retire" clothes. When I was much younger I used to happily wear shirts, shoes and ties well past their used by date. Once they start looking slightly tired.. throw em out. If you wait till you have fraying or even worse slight yellowing of white shirts you look one step closer to a hobo.