Today, I was visiting a prestigious place of business where nearly everyman was dressed in a suit. It was an impressive sight, but quite an interesting observation, since several of the men I saw, professional and obviously successful, were not properly suited up.
On one hand, it was not a surprise, since most guys aren't as fashion savvy as we all are, but at the same time it was disturbing because these men seemed oblivious to an aspect of their career that holds more importance than I think they realize. There weren't any major fashion faux pas, but the evidence of the lack of knowledge and awareness in the building made my head spin! Maybe they just happened to be having an off day, or they were rushing to get to work and didn't use their best style judgment. Regardless, what I saw inspired me to write this article – an article about how not to dress when dressed in a suit for work.
It doesn't matter where a suit is worn.
Proper suit etiquette is a must, especially in a competitive environment like work, where so much is riding on image. There are many do's and don'ts regarding suit wearing, but this article will discuss my top "business suit" pet peeves. Most of these fashion violations were walking around the office today, but not all. Regardless, I'll list them all... with hopes these well-intentioned, but fashion-lost men will read.
Top Alpha "business suit" pet peeves
- Black Suit – A black suit is considered to be a formal suit that is reserved for formal occasions: weddings, funerals, etc. Leave this one in your closet and opt to wear "business" colors: gray, dark blue, charcoal, brown, or tan.
- Pre-folded Pocket Squares – NO! Seriously, it's better to shine your shoes with this pre-folded accessory than to wear it. A pre-folded pocket square is the equivalent to the clip-on bow tie. It's tacky and lacks sophistication, while undermining your best efforts to look chic. Promise me you'll resist the pre-fold!
- X Stitch – This is the thread or string that keeps suit vents closed. Its purpose is to protect the suit jacket's integrity while being subjected to countless men trying it on at the store. It's a very important and valuable X until you get the suit home, so don't forget to remove it. Often, pockets are loosely stitched closed for the same reason, so unleash the pockets by carefully removing the stitching.
- Seersucker – Put this suit away after Labor Day, or by the end of summer. Lighter fabrics and colors deem this a warm weather suit.
- Socks – Matching socks are a definite must! We all know white or uncoordinated colored socks will kill an image in a heartbeat, so make sure socks and suits match. Sock thickness is another issue. Thick, heavy wool socks are never acceptable with suits. Only dress socks should be worn with suits. Keep the theme: dressy with dressy. Save the casual, bulky socks for later.
- Metals – Mismatched accessory metals of belts and jewelry rob the professionalism of a suit as fast as white socks. I realize accessories can be expensive, and we may not have all we would like to own. So, I would rather they not be worn (if possible) than to have the pieces not match. Gold watch and ring? Make sure your belt buckle, shoe buckles, etc., are gold colored, also. Apply this rule to all metals.
- Backpacks/Canvas Messenger Bags – These comfortable, yet casual bags are great... but not with suits. Carrying one of these bags contradicts the "message" of a suit, and really does diminish the wearer's clout. Instead, carry a classy briefcase, which will only enhance your image. Matching briefcase leathers with shoe and belt colors is really tasteful, and says volumes about your attention to detail, style, and presentation. So, if it's in the budget, own both a black and brown briefcase.
- Novelty Ties – They definitely get you noticed! Unfortunately, it's not always in a good way. If you can't resist wearing a tie with hearts on it for Valentine's Day, go ahead. Just keep these fun ties for fun times, as long as humor has a place at work. For all other days of the year, wear a current and fashionable complimentary necktie with suits.
- Pens – That's not a pen in your suit jacket's top pocket... is it? If so, take it out ASAP! Not only is it out of place, but a pen puts a suit at risk of being damaged. It can puncture the pocket, and worst yet, leak and bleed onto the pocket fabric. Ever tried getting ink out of fine fabric? Nothing I ever care to do! Keep pens in portfolios and briefcases, and out of suit pockets.
- Wrinkles – This may just be my #1, all-time, suit pet peeve, whether the suit is worn at work or not. Wrinkles, and let me add spots and stains, make a suit look bad and the wearer even worse. Suits that are unkempt and disheveled should not be worn. It's that simple! Looking messy totally destroys the polished and professional image you want to portray. This is a major disservice to your mission, so I strongly suggest you maintain all your suits by dropping them off at the dry cleaners when necessary. It's smart to have suits ready and waiting, since you never know when you'll have to wear one. Having your suits professionally cleaned after several wears, regardless of how fresh they may appear, is the best, safest option. And keep your shirts and ties in clean, wrinkle-free condition, too.
Gentlemen, there you have it – my office suit pet peeves. Dressing for work in a suit everyday can't be easy, but if you have to – make the most of it. These little blunders, as small as they seem, have the ability to steal the recognition, respect, and power you deserve. Now, seriously, put that pen away!
by Aaron Marino