Originally Posted by AFarnsworth
I am a 26 year old IT professional who is for the first time starting to get into the professional field that requires me to dress business casual and at times business professional. I have never before worn this type of clothing and am at a loss with how to really dress.
I have bought a few shirts from Jos A Bank as well as some pants but really think I am not getting the best bang for my buck or buying something that will last long term.
For someone new to dressing business casual, does anyone have any tips or pointers? Best places to shop? Best fabric to pick for a suit?
Thanks in advance!
I'm not sure I completely understand. I get that at 26 you have a new job that mixes professional and business casual. Are you unfamiliar with BOTH modes of dress - i.e. new to the business world in general? New to just business casual?
The company I work for went business casual about 10-12 years ago (about 2500 employees and about 250 IT employees). Where things stand now for men is a bit of a mix. The more fashion conscious men wear wool pants and button down dress shirts with no tie. The less fashion conscious wear dockers and a variety of polo style (but not brand) shirts in summer and casual button down shirts in winter. Shoes are all over the place, as you might expect as well. When we went business casual I was one of the people that went for total casual. About 6 years ago I started coming back around to trying to dress fashionable again.
I tried a number of different places for shirts/pants/shoes. Here's what I've learned that can hopefully help you:
I am going to assume, based on your "mix of professional and business casual" comment that business casual at your place is a bit more fashion forward rather than toward the casual end. But, it's important to understand you don't want to shift too far to any extreme. If your office is indeed wearing dockers and polo shirts, you will create issues for yourself if you start wearing MTM shirts and wool suit-style trousers.
Don't go hog wild and purchase a whole lot at once - build your wardrobe. Try pants from a couple different providers. The key is to find something that fits you well off-the-rack. Spending $200 on each pair of pants doesn't make a lot of sense when you're just starting out. You'll also find that you may prefer a certain fit and certain rise from one place over another. That is completely different from person to person. The important part is the clothes should fit YOU. You don't want dress pants that are baggy - so make sure they fit your butt well. After a couple months you can add more when you decide which you like. You can shop at BB, Jcrew, Jos A. Bank etc. I would stay away from online only at this point. Stick to a place where you can try pants on. I happen to wear BB now - their Gaberdines - sadly in most fits you have to buy them already hemmed. But they routinely sell them for 2x$228 and it's a nice pair of pants.
Shirts: I bought from Banana Republic, JCrew, Polo, Brooks Brothers, Charles Tyrwit (online UK supplier). My particular experience is I prefer a slim fit shirt but not ultra slim. I prefer a shirt with specific collar/sleeve size vs. "Large" - I really like some of the styles available in S-M-L-XL shirts but the sleeves are often a bit too long. Again, you'll find shirts from different places fit you different. The key is to find shirts that fit YOU well. The key here is to have a shirt that isn't too baggy - that's probably the biggest issue I see with men in the workplace regarding shirts - they're either baggy or busting at the seems because they're too tight. If you gain weight, either lose the weight or buy new clothes that fit. Same if you lose weight. Again, when you have a shirt from several different places after a few weeks, you'll form opinions on which brands fit better and which don't.
Shoes: This is an important area to me. When I went business casual I started buying the cheap shoes to wear with my dockers. Then I went back to Johnston and Murphy (which 25 years ago made a nice shoe). I found out that their $100-200 shoes really sucked. They looked very nice and were comfortable but the quality sucked big time. They would last a year and need replaced. I've replaced my shoes with Allen Edmonds and Alden. Alden are top notch but very pricey. AE is a nice balance between a still quality made shoe and reasonable. Here's the thing though - if you're going to buy $350-400 shoes you need to know what color/style you like and want to stick to it. If you'll get bored of a shoe and want to change it in a year, this route isn't a good idea. Also, these types of shoes are made on different molds or lasts - basically shoes of slightly different shapes. They have higher grade leather that is a bit more firm. SO, it's much more critical to try the shoes on in person. There are certain AE lasts which fit my feet well and others that don't. I wear different size shoes depending on the last. My Alden's are a 9D, in AE I'm either 9.5D or 9.5E depending on last. Other people have even more variation. Don't buy shoes like that on line until you know how they fit. If you're not in a position to spend that kind of money, don't sweat it. Buy J&M, Nunn Bush, etc. You'll have to replace them in a year but they'll look nice and get you started. Buy shoes that work with both dress and business casual: Burgundy is a very flexible shoe for navy/grey/black suits and pants. Black (despite the bias on this forum) works for the above as well. Brown shoes work with Navy, khaki and greens. Buy two pairs of shoes - If you have black pants or suit you need black shoes, otherwise a mid-to-dark brown and burgundy are the most versatile shades.
Belts: Look, buying a good belt is TOUGH. That's a whole separate discussion. Let me just say that when your belt starts to look like crud, replace it.