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Dressing well in law enforcement?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by narco110, Apr 16, 2019.

  1. narco110

    narco110 Member

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    I‘ve been browsing this forum for a little while now and some of the threads about the pitfalls of dressing well in a supercasual workplace kinda resonated with me.

    Recently my wife was asked to be the godmother of our friend‘s baby daughter and she requested that I get a new suit or at least a nice jacket for the christening party. So I reluctantly went shopping and returned with a navy blazer, khaki pants, a matching shirt and a pair of brown derbys… and to my still-lasting surprise realized that I actually quite enjoy classic menswear (after having worn sportswear and technical outdoors gear almost exclusively for most of my life).

    I guess suddenly waking up to the fact that you‘ve got a wife, three kids, a mortgage, drive a family van, will be hitting forty in no time and are for all intents and purposes a grown-up can do that to you...

    So I‘ve been thinking how I could inject a little more style into my daily attire. I work in law enforcement in an investigative capacity and my department (except for senior leadership positions) dresses extremely informal. It‘s mostly hooded sweaters, t-shirts, denim and cargo pants with the occasional (untucked) shirt thrown in. A few of the older guys wear „dressy“ jeans with tucked-in shirts and one of us shows up in a sports coat every once on a while. Since I don‘t want to stand out too much I‘d rather err on the side of caution and keep it pretty casual (and slowly ease into it instead of diving in head first).

    My job is mostly office work with some field work here and there. Occasionally I may have to hit the street at a moment‘s notice but most tactical operations such as search warrants and arrests are planned in advance so I‘ll be able to show up in something more suitable than a tailored jacket. So I‘m looking at some not-too-fragile pants (chinos or denim), button-down shirt or polo, a sport coat on the casual side with a sufficiently loose fit to disguise any belt-worn duty gear and comfortable shoes nice enough to fit the attire while inexpensive enough not to make me cry if I step in something nasty or wreck them while chasing someone down a back alley. No sneakers, thank you very much.

    Any suggestions for the creation of the somewhat-sartorial gentleman cop are greatly appreciated :)
     

  2. pasadena man

    pasadena man Well-Known Member

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    Interesting question. I got a similar yen to go a little more tailored in an aggressively casual digital marketing/consulting environment. I wanted to get comfortable, good fitting; attractive clothing that would not call attention to itself (so I could have plausible deniability, if necessary, about taking an undue interest in clothing).

    My choices: Incotex cotton tailored slacks (very high quality, many options, a flattering fit for most people). Pricey, but quite available through secondary channels, and strong value at that price point.
    -Sunspel t shirts-very comfortable, lightweight, drapes well for athletic fit.
    -A mix of BB non-iron and Kamakura OCBD’s.
    -A lot of older, high quality derbies and long wing brogues, particularly in cordovan. The one “flashy” part of my wardrobe, but muted by the fact that these are clearly vintage shoes (albeit non vintage when I bought them new 20-30 years ago).

    There is a certain viewpoint, to which I subscribe, that with a very casual wardrobe, shoes and watches are the places to stand out and differentiate.

    I imagine I am older than you, but for a long time the big city” in “watch models for law enforcement seemed to be the Rolex Sub and Omega Speedmaster.

    Amazon streaming detective Harry Bosch takes that approach with a laidback t and jeans LA wardrobe plussed by a Rolex Sub, and a Gitman vintage chambray OCBD shirts when he has to go to court.

    It would be interesting to see what style works for you, once you find it.
     

  3. duff406

    duff406 Distinguished Member

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    All the plainclothes guys in my agency dress like they just came in from mowing their lawn. I guess if we ever needed an undercover groundskeeping crew we would be all set. I've started to go more the chore jacket and chinos route. I like the Epaulet Doyle jacket, which is a pretty common shape. I just picked up the Wallace and Barnes sport coat/ chore coat hybrid on a good deal and I think it will work real nice. All are long enough to cover everything, look nice, but draw less attention that a regular sport coat. And they aren't cheap, but Alden makes some great shoes that are pretty durable. Their Indy boots are great.

    I was in an surveillance course once, and after the last practical exercise the instructor said everyone stuck out like a sore thumb except me. "He looks like a lawyer, and no one ever gives them a second look!"
     

  4. narco110

    narco110 Member

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    Thanks for your reply! Though I haven't worn a watch since my teens... I get an allergic reaction from the watchband in warmer weather. But I'll keep in mind your advice about shoes.
     

  5. ter1413

    ter1413 Stylish Dinosaur

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    Jeans > chinos.

    I would skip chinos.
     

  6. narco110

    narco110 Member

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    Ha. Isn't it amazing how many of us actually have that look that just screams "cop"? :) I'm probably just as guilty of the rest of them. Back when I worked in Patrol I also was a part-time firearms and DT instructor. And like many of those tac types I eventually gravitated towards wearing "tactical" cargo pants, fleece hoodies and technical shell jackets all the time... Arc'teryx LEAF, Helikon-Tex and 5.11 Tactical head to toe.

    I think I might have outdone myself regarding not dressing for the occasion today. I went to an event which I assumed was some sort of regional burglary investigator's meeting (in my usual work attire of course). Turned out it was a pretty large conference with an international audience and everyone except me and a few other worker bees showed up in suit and tie. Well, at least I wasn't one of the speakers...

    Anyway, this chore blazer thing sounds pretty interesting. Looks a bit like one of those safari jackets / field coats (which I always liked for their rugged outdoorsy look... guess some things just stay with you even if you experiment with your style). I like the idea... it'll stick out a lot less in the sea of sportswear and workwear that my agency seems to be and it's actually somewhat congruent with the basic idea behind my previous dressing habits.

    So... I'll start with some small changes. Spring is upon us and I'll simply exchange my usual t-shirts for some nice polo shirts. Later I'll sneak in some chinos to replace the cargo pants, get some decent shoes and wrap things up with a nice cover garment such as the abovementioned options. Over time I'll introduce some not-too-formal shirts and maybe add a sport coat every now and then.
     

  7. JustinW

    JustinW Distinguished Member

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    Welcome! My story isn't that different. I work in Emergency Management - where everyone shops at the 5.11 store. I also carry a concealed firearm most days - so have to tailor around that. You can build up a wardrobe of well fitting basics that look good on you without being too 'fancy' or 'dandy'. Start with chinos, polos and oxford shirts. Then add a couple of sports coats (summer and winter - depending where you live. Maybe a hopsack navy, brown tweed and a cotton-linen blend). Footwear is pretty easy - there are a few options for dressier boots that every bit as tough and full of traction as any service boot. I've started wearing a tie on Mondays (meeting with senior leadership), so people are used to that. Sorry, when I get a chance I'll come back to this thread with a little more coherence and some brand suggestions.
     

  8. narco110

    narco110 Member

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    I guess I just like khaki-colored pants :) But there are some nice-looking jeans, too... so yeah, I'll be getting both.
     

  9. ter1413

    ter1413 Stylish Dinosaur

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    I just feel that so many men do chinos like they did in high school/college. The "too baggy, too long, wear with boat shoes/brown belt" look. They don't press them. The length & cuff(if there is one) is way too long. Just sloppy.

    Chinos can be done right. But they should be the proper size/fit and not be a substitute for when the occasion calls for not wearing jeans...or a step up from jeans.

    So many men grab their chinos when they are going "out" and feel that they are dressing well. Nope. Get proper slacks/jeans and if you must, 2 pairs of proper fit/tailored chinos.
     

  10. JustinW

    JustinW Distinguished Member

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    Can't go wrong with cotton chinos (browns and greens), blue denim jeans and as well as colored denim. In winter you can go with rugged moleskin and corduroys (5 pocket 'jeans style' or in a chino cut). Eventually add a few dressier but still rugged trousers (linen for summer, wool flannel for winter) .
     

  11. narco110

    narco110 Member

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    Thanks! It's great to hear from folks who are in a situation similar to mine.

    BTW I nearly melted under my oh-so-tactical and way too warm Arc'teryx LEAF hoodie at that conference... I realized too late that I not only put on a t-shirt this morning but also one of my funny range t-shirts. The one that has an IPSC target on it and says "Cardboard Assassin." Which I elected not to show to the senior management of several state, federal and multinational agencies :embar:
     

  12. JustinW

    JustinW Distinguished Member

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    You could always wear this under a Shoot Ne First vest :))

    6318956C-2BC4-418F-9020-B81ABBA53B9D.jpeg
     

  13. narco110

    narco110 Member

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    Yeah... if I was 60 going on 70 :) That dude definitely got "the look" too. He could be working at my office.
     

  14. JustinW

    JustinW Distinguished Member

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    My suggestion: if you are starting with chinos, oxford shirts and polos then have a look at Spier and Mackay. You can definitely find better quality out there but not at that price point. Experiment and make mistakes with cheaper stuff like this.

    Jeans is a tougher one. Without knowing your build, I’m going to say go for a straight leg with a fairly high rise. The high waist is better if you ever plan to wear with a sports coat and, as you probably know, is better for holding your firearm up higher under an untucked shirt. Look for a dark denim (no silly fades and washes).

    There are other nice jackets you can wear with jeans aside from a sports coat (Harringtons and Barbours, for example), but for summer the lightweight cotton-linen sports coat might be best.
     

  15. narco110

    narco110 Member

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    Thanks for the advice! I'm in Europe though so Spier & Mackay is probably out. I hear they ship over here now as well but shipping and taxes would add quite a bit to the actual price. Under the CETA treaty we don't have to pay customs duties on imported Canadian goods anymore but there's still import VAT which amounts to 19%. But I think I might have found a suitable local source for decent MTM shirts that don't break the bank.

    I already ordered a couple polo shirts from several brands to check out the fit. Pants are next. The wife approves of me dressing up a bit :)
     

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