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Engineering office attire?

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
Soon-to-be graduate here. I'll be starting work this summer at an engineering and manufacturing form in New York state, and I'm trying to figure out what kind of work wardrobe to put together. The dress code is business casual, which I understand. The issue is that I will inevitably be spending time going out into the shop to inspect parts, build prototypes, and that kind of thing, and I don't want to be constantly getting grease/soot/etc. on nice clothes.

For all you engineers on SF, what do you do about this? Do you wear (relatively) inexpensive clothes to work?
post #2 of 37
This is a tough problem and one with no easy solution. I'm a grad student who works in a lab and there is often very little you can do to reconcile dressing for the lab (or field in your case) and dressing well. You'll no doubt find that to the vast majority of working engineers, business casual means khakis and a cheap button up at best. You may well have to settle for dressing poorly at work and making up for it when you're about town depending on how messy your job might be.
post #3 of 37
From one engineer to another - very few in the field spend time thinking about office attire. Of those, a fair number pick out crazy garb to keep jokes about our collective sense of style grounded in reality, so I wouldn't worry too much. If you are going to spend a fair bit of time doing hands on work (important during internships and a requirement in grad school ) I would dress presentably of course, however, don't wear anything into a lab/machine room/facility in the field that you are worried about damaging. Murphy's law has a funny way of cropping up otherwise. If you will have meetings with a company executive or support work with outside clients I would a) leave a nice set of clothes at the office or b) wear nice clothes coming into work and leave a pair of boots, jeans, and a comfortable shirt tucked away in the office, and take 2 minutes to change before heading into the shop.
post #4 of 37
$50 shoes. $30 Khakis. $25 dress shirts. $15 belt. That's all a new grad really needs to wear. Start investing.
post #5 of 37
I am an engineer and this is what I wear everyday: OCBD shirts, cotton khakis/ cotton twill/wool flannels/wool twills per season and proper dress shoes. I very rarely wear a tie or jacket to work. I work in a lab all the time and cannot imagine wearing a jacket at work at all. Sweaters/cardigans for the cooler weather and that's about it. In summer months I wear chambray and linen shirts very often. I don't wear full sleeved shirts all the time either. BB Black Fleece had a bunch of short sleeved oxford cloth shirts and I got them on sale and wear them all the time. I do have suits and sportscoats that I wear when need be - esp if I travel.

Make sure that your clothes fit you - that is the most important thing in my eyes. You don't have to wear a jacket or a suit to be spiffy - you can be very presentable with the above stuff I mentioned but at the same not worry about replacing shirts of some accidents happen (which always does). Shoes are something I splurge on and can afford to, since my work area is not too messy. You might not be able to do this, depending on your nature of work - you might have to go for cheaper and/or safer shoes (rubber soled, steel toed) etc. Never compromise safety for style.
post #6 of 37
Used to be an engineer and work with many still. Many engineers wear jeans and they have desk jobs. Honestly, if you are going to be a hands-on engineer who spends time on the shop floor, get comfortable shoes. Make sure you have shoes you can walk in all day long. I'd also avoid leather outsoles, as they may wear out quickly and may not give enough traction on the shop floor and be a slipping risk in a dangerous environment. As a presumably poor college grad, I wouldn't drop a lot of shoes - maybe look for a pair or two of rubber sole Cole Haans at a factory store for 80-90 bucks a piece.

As for pants/shirts, etc I usually wore black pants even when I spent a lot of time on the floor and button down style collar shirts. You'd probably be fine wearing polos as well. I see no reason for high quality dry clean only wool pants in your setting...
post #7 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patek14 View Post
As a presumably poor college grad, I wouldn't drop a lot of shoes - maybe look for a pair or two of rubber sole Cole Haans at a factory store for 80-90 bucks a piece.

Bleh. Cole Haans fall apart so damn fast. I'd say grab rubber soled Bostonians and Johnston & Murphys for $40-60 at Marshalls and TJ Maxx stores.
post #8 of 37
I have lots of my clients who ar engineers...the advice on here seems to reflectmy experience. Youwill not be out of place if you follow this.
post #9 of 37
You also have to consider the opposite. Even if you "dress down" to accommodate the dirt/oil/etc. of the factory, would you still be comfortable wearing those clothes to the office? Or would you fell like a sanitation worker dolled up in his Sunday best?
post #10 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by binge View Post
You also have to consider the opposite. Even if you "dress down" to accommodate the dirt/oil/etc. of the factory, would you still be comfortable wearing those clothes to the office? Or would you fell like a sanitation worker dolled up in his Sunday best?

What's the alternative? You can't reasonably expect that he would wear something nice that could get soiled or otherwise damaged.
post #11 of 37
All sides of the pentagon have now been illuminated:
1. dress up, soil it at the factory
2. dress up, don't soil it at the factory
3. dress down, soil it at the factory
4. dress down, don't soil it at the factory
5. change between the office and factory.
post #12 of 37
I agree with all of above.
Perhaps check to see if steel toes are required for your shop or field work.
If so, invest accordingly but also have at least a pair of loafers for the office.
(keep those in your bottom desk drawer when not in use.)
In most engineering offices I've been in, only the company owner and top partners wear ties; and not even on a daily basis.
You could wear a sport jacket sans tie. I don't think anyone would oppose that.
Or perhaps a tie one day a week just for fun. Any more than that would possibly be over-doing it.
You could start the job with a tie to get them used to the fact that you enjoy wearing them when in the office as they are almost never practical in a factory, plant or field site.
post #13 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by srivats View Post
I am an engineer and this is what I wear everyday: OCBD shirts, cotton khakis/ cotton twill/wool flannels/wool twills per season and proper dress shoes. I very rarely wear a tie or jacket to work. I work in a lab all the time and cannot imagine wearing a jacket at work at all. Sweaters/cardigans for the cooler weather and that's about it. In summer months I wear chambray and linen shirts very often. I don't wear full sleeved shirts all the time either. BB Black Fleece had a bunch of short sleeved oxford cloth shirts and I got them on sale and wear them all the time. I do have suits and sportscoats that I wear when need be - esp if I travel.

Make sure that your clothes fit you - that is the most important thing in my eyes. You don't have to wear a jacket or a suit to be spiffy - you can be very presentable with the above stuff I mentioned but at the same not worry about replacing shirts of some accidents happen (which always does). Shoes are something I splurge on and can afford to, since my work area is not too messy. You might not be able to do this, depending on your nature of work - you might have to go for cheaper and/or safer shoes (rubber soled, steel toed) etc. Never compromise safety for style.

Quote:
Originally Posted by binge View Post
You also have to consider the opposite. Even if you "dress down" to accommodate the dirt/oil/etc. of the factory, would you still be comfortable wearing those clothes to the office? Or would you fell like a sanitation worker dolled up in his Sunday best?

I'm an engineer in a very large aerospace company in Seattle.

Most engineers here do not get on an airplane or work in a lab. Even those that do, are not exposed to dirt or damage -- the mechanics and technicians build the airplanes.

Modern manufacturing and labs are cleaner and safer then the popular image.

Here, most people are very poorly dressed. By that I mean they wear jeans, t-shirts, canvas shoes. Management dresses one step up - dress shirt and chinos, dockers, etc. At the executive level, people add a sport coat (but no ties.) The fit of clothes ranges from OK to disaster.

I would second Srivats, the fit of the clothes is more important then the type of clothes.

I'm seen as an eccentric because I wear a tie, wool pants, and, sometimes a jacket. However, there is an odd duality about this. At the same time, I know that these clothes evoke from others a penumbra of unconcious attributes -- intelligence, leadership, attention to details, etc. My career has benefited from my choice of clothes.

From a utilitarian point of view, that is what you want. If you are uncomfortable 'standing out', then chinos (no jeans) and open collar button down (only a button down looks good without a tie) is a safe look and leather shoes with a shine. But, to make an impact, the fit should be very good.

Regards
Coburn
post #14 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic raccoon View Post
Bleh. Cole Haans fall apart so damn fast. I'd say grab rubber soled Bostonians and Johnston & Murphys for $40-60 at Marshalls and TJ Maxx stores.

All my bostonians hurt my feet

Never seen J&M at Maxx or for that matter mens shoes at a TJMaxx but seen more J&M at Marshalls than I care to remember. Most were cheap, 60-70 dollar range
post #15 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Coburn View Post
I'm an engineer in a very large aerospace company in Seattle.

Most engineers here do not get on an airplane or work in a lab. Even those that do, are not exposed to dirt or damage -- the mechanics and technicians build the airplanes.

Modern manufacturing and labs are cleaner and safer then the popular image.

Here, most people are very poorly dressed. By that I mean they wear jeans, t-shirts, canvas shoes. Management dresses one step up - dress shirt and chinos, dockers, etc. At the executive level, people add a sport coat (but no ties.) The fit of clothes ranges from OK to disaster.

I would second Srivats, the fit of the clothes is more important then the type of clothes.

I'm seen as an eccentric because I wear a tie, wool pants, and, sometimes a jacket. However, there is an odd duality about this. At the same time, I know that these clothes evoke from others a penumbra of unconcious attributes -- intelligence, leadership, attention to details, etc. My career has benefited from my choice of clothes.

From a utilitarian point of view, that is what you want. If you are uncomfortable 'standing out', then chinos (no jeans) and open collar button down (only a button down looks good without a tie) is a safe look and leather shoes with a shine. But, to make an impact, the fit should be very good.

Regards
Coburn

Coburn speaks the truth.
The only time I ever go out to the factory is because that's where the espresso stand is.
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