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Government work attire

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I'll be graduating soon, and re-entering the workforce. Likely it will be government work. If any of you have worked with the big G before, I'm sure you know the office environment... old cheap suits, khakis and polos, jeans, and for the under 30 crowd... stripey shirts and square toed shoes. Usually only the top brass wear ties, and even then it looks awkward and awful in most cases.

So what is proper dress attire for this office environment? As much as I'd love to rock a nice slim fitting suit, and tie... I can't help but wonder if it's a faux pas. I wouldn't want to make those dressed more casually feel uncomfortable, or give the impression I'm an arrogant prick (I know dressing up doesn't make you a prick... but others may not see it the same way). I'm in my mid-20s, and I've worked before with the government, so I know how uncommon it is for individuals, especially my age, to dress up on a regular basis. The job would likely be an entry level job... nothing impressive, but not undergrad paper-pushing either.

So what do you think would be an appropriate dress wardrobe in this situation? I'm kind of tired of the slacks 'n shirts combo I did in the past.
post #2 of 26
I say set your own precedent. No one at this new job knows you (?). You will become known as a guy who dresses nicely. Your personality will win people over so that you will not be considered a snob. You have a great opportunity to dress how you wish.


If you're than uncomfortable with that, how about picking up some odd jackets and wearing them with a tie and trousers? Sort of a mid-point.

I say go for it, though. It amazes me that nicely dressed people are ill-perceived in our society, while we are forced to look at all kinds of tattoos, flip-flops and piercings.

Peace-out, g-man.
post #3 of 26
All too familiar I'm afraid...

But, things are different depending on location. When detailed at the Pentagon or ONR it's the norm for those from my lab to wear a suit and tie or, at least, an odd jacket. But, in more typical settings, it is as you've described.

I've found that a button-up shirt and slacks with a sweater or shirt jacket is really about as far as one can push the envelope at more typical locations (the above mentioned excepted) unless one is the top SES official at the installation or the equivalent. As a result I've been looking for more distinctive odd trousers (Incotex cotton twills, Armani velveted cords, etc.) and rounding out my casual shoes (suede full-brogue boots, tan chisel-toe derbies, etc.). I still get comments, but my dressing is not perceived as presumptuous.

On those opportunities where better dress is expected (conferences, outside evaluations, etc.) I find I have a great deal of latitude to depart from normal business wear and can manage to wear things that would be frowned upon in, e.g., a law firm or on Wall Street.
post #4 of 26
keep it under control. You can wear very nice shirts and very nice trousers, but suits and ties are a bad move.

yeah, i work for the government as well.
post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NoVaguy
keep it under control. You can wear very nice shirts and very nice trousers, but suits and ties are a bad move.

yeah, i work for the government as well.

Any examples of a nice shirt and trouser combo working? Most shirts that I would wear with a suit would tend to be quite toned down... light colours and muted shades, little detail. When paired with just pants, it looks very underwhemling and strange. Do you think a more bolder shirt would be effective? God knows I have too many bold striped shirts already that need to be purged
post #6 of 26
I like tattersalls and checks. Interesting pants colors are okay too (think Italians with their pants in shades of yellow, lighter blues, orange, rust...)
post #7 of 26
I think you should wear the old G-Man uniform of a dark, fairly slim suit with thin tie and a pair of brow-line glasses.

That's as unobtrusive as they come without sacrificing style.
post #8 of 26
I work at a government office in FL with a dress code requiring ties. Here that mostly means short sleeve button downs with fishing ties. Being the youngest salaried employee by almost fifteen years, I have gradually gotten more bold with my dress and usually wear conservative suits now. People joked at first but, conversely, it has let me be taken a lot more seriously and I have almost doubled my pay in a little over four years (which without promotion, is damn-near unheard of in government).

My advice is to slowly push the envelope. Many federal and state employees are hitting retirement age and the ranks must be filled from somewhere. Job apathy is so rampant in government that anything you can do to distinguish yourself helps. You'd be wise to already be thought of as professional when opportunities present themselves.
post #9 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by LabelKing
I think you should wear the old G-Man uniform of a dark, fairly slim suit with thin tie and a pair of brow-line glasses.

That's as unobtrusive as they come without sacrificing style.

I was thinking along the same lines. Here's a NASA pic from the 1960s.
LL
post #10 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by alflauren
I was thinking along the same lines. Here's a NASA pic from the 1960s.
It's funny, change a couple of things and that could be a Thom Browne ad.
post #11 of 26
wear whatever you like its the government, its not like they'll fire you for dressing up too much.
post #12 of 26
If you're worried that a suit or even a tie will be overdressing, but you can't bear to dress like your coworkers, aim to improve fit and quality rather than formality. You'll still be the best-dressed man there but people won't be able to put their finger on exactly why, which is an important step in not letting your clothes wear you.
post #13 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by NoVaguy
keep it under control. You can wear very nice shirts and very nice trousers, but suits and ties are a bad move.

yeah, i work for the government as well.

I couldn't disagree more. As a former SEC enforcement lawyer, of 10 years' service, I say always dress for where you're going, not where you are. That way everyone becomes accustomed to seeing you as ahead of the crowd; as the first among equals.

I never once, for even one day, dumbed myself down sartorially for the sake of not showing up the flock. Remember, eagles and lions travel solo; gulls and sheep flock. Which are you?

Just be sure to be damn good at what you do, otherwise you'll be dismissed as an empty suit -- and nothing is more fatal to a career than that.

Be bold, young man. Don't shrink from being who you are; and watch how others gradually come to emulate and admire you.
post #14 of 26
I work for government and my wardrobe consists of dress shirts and wool pants. I will also make a point of putting on a tie and jacket for meeting with other departments, management and vendors.
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by LARon
I couldn't disagree more. As a former SEC enforcement lawyer, of 10 years' service, I say always dress for where you're going, not where you are. That way everyone becomes accustomed to seeing you as ahead of the crowd; as the first among equals.

I never once, for even one day, dumbed myself down sartorially for the sake of not showing up the flock. Remember, eagles and lions travel solo; gulls and sheep flock. Which are you?

Just be sure to be damn good at what you do, otherwise you'll be dismissed as an empty suit -- and nothing is more fatal to a career than that.

Be bold, young man. Don't shrink from being who you are; and watch how others gradually come to emulate and admire you.


Nice sell

Anyway I work for the government too, and I dress up and so do a few others, you dont gain anything by following others. Dress however you feel.
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