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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm a newly minted deputy director serving US Government clients here in Washington, DC.

I was hit by the one-two punch of both Mad Men and "Jack Taylor of Beverly Hills" and decided to take this seriously.

I am trying to work out a style that says, "I have arrived," but will have to do so on a piece by piece basis.

My wardrobe now consists primarily of:

  • Joseph A Banks blazers and suits. Very standard and versatile low-end DC store. Blue 2bt Blazer, charcoal 2bt blazer, black 3bt wool suit, brown pinstripe 2bt suit. One reason I bought $200 suits was that both my kids have thrown up on my suits as I was taking them to preschool.
  • Monogrammed Banks shirts, lets say 12 monogrammed in whites and stripes, 6 in various blues.
  • 8 Ralph Lauren Polo Oxford cloth shirts.
  • nondescript slacks from Banks down to dockers and some hipper DKNY type slacks
  • Due to a large amount of walking between client sites I tend to wear heavier shoes and am wearing quasi-boots right now. This is one of my killer issues- I prefer shoes with enough sole to keep me out of the water and that precludes the really nice shoes.
  • 2-3 dozen ties at your Nautica, Polo, Harve Bernard level
My clients tend to wear plain dress shirts without ties. They have commented negatively in the past about how I dress such as, "We do casual fridays here." I probably want to wear three different suits/jackets per week.

I once gave a presentation to a room of CEOs and every one, to a tee, was wearing a Greg Norman Golf Shirt and they hassled me about my suit. I don't want to get hassled, nor do I want to look like them.

My reports are all PhD scientists, mostly from Asia, Eastern Europe and India. The Indians of course, think I dress fantastically because of the British angle. Almost no one who reports to me dresses well. Our directors dress pretty poorly as well, but that's often reflective of their guts. There are two C-level managers who dress from the Mulberry St / Miami, FL playbook down to the pinky rings. I don't really want to go that extreme.

When I think about what I want to project:
Man in the Grey Flannel Suit and not Great Gatsby
American or Italian and not British
High tech and not banker
Probably not country club, but I wear a striped oxford under the blue blazer w/o a tie enough that I can't deny it.
My wife loves the Italian-cuts

I did sit-ups lost my gut and am under 200lbs, but still a basic 6 ft 46R, 40 yrs old but want to dress more like I'm 30 than "born in the 30s." I say this because I do not think I want to dress "trad" or as my parents would call it "Joe College" or "Collegiate."

The only brands I know well are Ralph Lauren and the aforementioned Banks. I also know a lot of the Downtown NYC brands like DKNY. I ended up buying some hipper dress shirts with odd stripes from Perry Ellis last month- great under a sweater. I'm not afraid of that, but need to translate it for the office.

Around here some people who are losing their jobs started dropping off Armani, Oxxford and other suits at a high end resale shop. The tailor in my building has a set of Super 120 suits he brought back from China for a blistering $89. I've got options for discount purchases right now, which is why I want to talk about it.

I'm looking at finding houses or labels that cater to a more American-style cut (but Italian is ok). I've gone through dozens of links here in the last week, but so much is Trad/Saville that my head is spinning.
 

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A couple quick thoughts because the forums are being wonky for me right now.

A lot of users here will push Brooks Brothers. It is certainly a step or two up from Mr Jos Banks, but extremely "American" as far as their design sensibilities. I think someone mentioned they are running a sale right now, 2 suits for $799 or so? I would stick to 2btn jackets.

You mention that you are 6ft, 46R, so I'll assume that you don't require extremely slim-cut clothing (or vice-versa). For me, I am 6'2" and 40L, so I have a tough time getting dress shirts that don't look like tents. For your shirts, you could consider Harvie&Hudson, TM Lewin, and Charles Tyrwhitt. They are all UK-based shirting companies that make good mid-range shirts.

As far as shoes - I recommend going to the Nordstrom at Tyson's and trying on a lot of shoes. Users here will push Allen Edmonds, and they are great shoes, but certainly not the only brand. There are some Eccos that might fit the bill for you. Despite being over 6ft, I often wear as small as size 10 shoes, so I tend to prefer Italian-type, narrower cut shoes as opposed to the rounder, wider American/English style (I love AE park avenues but can't stand them on my body).

Being a fellow beltway bandit, I tend to stick with fairly conservative shirts - lots of solid whites, blues, and pinks, and keeping any stripes or patterns on the muted side. I can empathize with your dilemma about being overdressed. I deal with a lot of government clients who wear short-sleeve button up shirts and jeans to work 5 days a week. I like to believe that I have overcome any negative stereotypes - a lot of that has to do with attitude. If you only wear suits to look like the boss, you're not going to be entirely comfortable in your own clothes. If you wear them because you are serious about your work and want to reflect a put-together, organized internal demeanor, you will have more luck. Make sure that whatever you wear, you don't feel like you are playing dress-up or wearing someone else's costume.
 

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My stockbroker made friends with a Joseph Banks salesman many years ago and he provides a serivics to him of getting the right fit and advises him of sales etc. The stockbroker swears by Banks. In my opinion avoid the fancy names and stick to what looks good on you. Don't try to look years younger than you are. I always wore a suit and tie and when people would kid me about being over dressed my reply was "I have to much respect for you and your position to not be properly attired". That usually stopped them dead. Most of my clothes were custom made but I never never told anyone.
 

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I'm totally digging the original poster's style, although I'm greatly inclined to insist he buy shirts that are colors other than white and blue.

You'd be surprised about what you can tastefully do with some unusual colors and a level head.
 

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I'm a beltway bandit. I's 26 and wear a suit almost everyday, certainly to see clients. If its not a suit its a blazer and charcoal gabs. I've never once had anybody tell me that they thought I dressed over my pay grade.

The line about Brooks was right - you can get everything you need there, much of it reasonably if you play the sales. Get 5 or 6 suits in conservative colors like charcoal, navy and variants of each (if you don't get 5 or 6 you'll wear them out quickly and be back to square one with nothing). You should also have a blazer and maybe 1 sports coat, perhaps a gray herringbone tweed. Stick with two-button jackets since they always stay in style. You'll need a couple of odd slacks to go with the odd jackets as well.

BB can help you out with shirts too if you need more (sounds like you're OK on that front now). They also have nice ties - stay conservative with your ties and go for subtle muted patterns and repp stripes. No abstract patterns or swirly designs b/c they always look cheap.

As for shoes - you are way past wear anything with a rubber sole. Shoes like that won't make you look young, they'll make you look like a clown. Get a couple of pairs of AEs (Park Aves, 5th Aves, Strands) and take good care of them. Walk around puddles.

Try to avoid any thing "trendy" like DKNY, Nautica, etc. b/c most of it is poorly made, over-priced, and looks like its meant for 20 year olds. You're dilema should be a simple one to solve.
 

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A lot of people here disagree with the no rubber soles advice, but the only person I can vividly remember seeing wear rubber soles with a suit also tried to wear a navy blazer with navy trousers.

And, no, it wasn't Cruiser! :p

I am 40 and have heard the same comments my entire career. I've learned that all clients notice what you wear. There is a silent majority that appreciate the respect of you looking professional.

I'm frequently dealing with a CFO who is in his golf shirt like the CEO. I can't tell you how many times I am on-site for two or three days and the second day I'm there the CFO wears a button-down instead of his polo like everyone else. I've even had their people say stuff to me like "we know when you are coming in, it's the only time he dresses up." Every CEO, CFO, etc. was once in your position and appreciates that you are serving clients and keeping a professional attitude and demeanor. In my experience, most of the people that make comments are known as the office dufus and have very little influence with the CEO.

I have incidents where I am working and stick my head in a CFOs office and he is talking to the CEO and the CFO waves him quiet to ask what I need. Now sure I've built a solid reputation, I don't go in there unless I need something important, but I'm sure the CFOs I know wouldn't do that unless they were equally confident in my perception by the CEO. A lot has to do with the bill rate, credentials, my other clients, but I believe some part of it is due to how I dress.

Sometimes I have worn a polo, but I only wear the really nice golf polos with hemmed sleeves from private country clubs where I play. And I only wear them on travel days. This is part of the code too and it's not unimportant. Yes, they notice. And, yes, they read the logo. It's a subtle way to demonstrate you are not dressing up from a lack of confidence, but out of your professional competence. And that when circumstances warrant you wear your golf polo too. It just looks nicer. No skin-tight, 2-button, banded-sleeve, faded horses or alligators, please.
 

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As for shoes - you are way past wear anything with a rubber sole. Shoes like that won't make you look young, they'll make you look like a clown. Get a couple of pairs of AEs (Park Aves, 5th Aves, Strands) and take good care of them. Walk around puddles.
+1 for the shoe rec

AE Park Avenue is a must. I recommend the Park Avenue in merlot, which is arguably my favorite shoe, period. It's the most versatile wardrobe item that I own. Some might say that the black Park Avenue is more traditional or formal, but frankly, the merlot just looks so damned slick. It's been the recipient of more compliments from girls and co-workers than probably any other item I've ever worn (outside of suits). The shoes also age beautifully, but they must be cared for. Definitely not your trouncing-through-puddles type of shoe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Perhaps the water comment was a bit over the top, but I've been on 3 or 4 runways, taxiways, etc in the last month observing snow removal before returning to meetings. It's winter and I'm in IT related to aviation, a good portion of my stakeholders are also in construction- It's more a matter of industry than age when everyone on the tarmac is in Tony Lamas. But certainly I can trot out the heavier shoes only on those days. I'm going to try to make it to the AE sale this weekend, but possibly will be looking at a lesser brand to start with.
 

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My first bit of advice: take all advice here with a grain of salt. The people on the style forums are knowledgable, but they're also idealist and you're dealing with the real world.

For example - my job requires a lot of walking, so I wear rubber-soled dress shoes - anathema on the forum, in real life they look fine - to the point I've gotten compliments on them from numerous ladies at the office. (They're Rockports, bought from Zappo a while back). An they don't kill my feet after 8 hours like my AEs used to.

Re the comments on attire: my office went completely casual 10 years ago - jeans, sneakers, the whole nine yards. I stuck with full professional garb, though on Friday I'll do "dress casual"; today I wore blue OCBD, gray sweater vest, gray/blue fannel dress slacks, black captoes. I did this because wearing jeans and sneakers to work isn't my style - I've got 2 pairs of black Levis and I wear those for working on my cars because the dirt doesn't show.

I get the occasional "you know we're casual, right?" but 90% of the comments are favorable, especially from female co-workers. The chief concern of most people was that because I looked so nice, management would re-think the casual policy, but
10 years on it's clear I'm not going to wreck things for them. It's become accepted that this is my style.

Lastly, that's my final recommendation. Get a feel for who you are and how you want to project that, and dress appropriately. Everyone else will come around. In US culture, individualism is usually expressed by being a slob - looking sharp, professional, and competent is a refreshing change of pace to most people.
 

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Congratulations bbcrock, on your new position and responsibilities. I am presently retired but have walked in your shoes and in your bosses shoes. The best advice I can offer is, don't worry so much about labels. Just be sure the suits, jackets, trousers, etc. that you are wearing are tailored to fit perfectly and, in government service, you can never have too high a shine on your shoes. While there may be nothing intrinsically wrong with rubber soled shoes in your work situation, depend on a pair of Tingley overshoes to keep your feet and foot gear dry, rather that a pair of over sized rubber soles to keep your feet out of water.

As you may find with the execution of your new job responsibilities, you will also find true as you build your wardrobe and create public perceptions of your personal style..."the devil will be in the details!" Please accept my best wishes that you may enjoy great success in your new job.
 

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I agree with what others have said here - dress how you want. My office is "business casual" but most people dress like slobs. I wear dress pants and nice dress shirts (no tie), and I occasionally get comments about how much I am 'dressed up'. But when clients come in, they are impressed with my attire and compliment me on it. I dress for me and my career, not for the people I work with; I could care less what they think.

I also second what epb said - take things here with a grain of salt. Weigh the opinions posted and come to your own conclusions.

By the way, congrats on the new job.
 
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