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Style challenged middle aged guy changing jobs and needs help...

Duder356

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Hi SF,

I started reading some post here recently while searching for dress shoe recommendations and have found that I am woefully ignorant and really need some basic help and recommendations.

Sorry to be so verbose....it's a character flaw I'm afraid...

Some back ground:

I've been a software developer and technical lead for a California based tech company for last 13 years and before that worked for IBM for 4 years...very different corp. cultures with my time at IBM being customer facing and requiring dockers/slacks, and a button down white shirt and tie and dress shoes (all purchased from JCP and the like-nothing fancy)...the current company role being completely non-customer facing and so dress code is nearly non-existant think very casual (shorts/jeans and t-shirts).

The dilemma:

I am changing jobs within the company will be directly in front of customer again frequently interviewing with them in the role of a high end consultant. On occasion I might be expected to accompany members of the sales team to do demonstrations for CEO's, CIO's and CTO's. This is an exciting change and I am really looking forward to the change...BUT...

Being a pretty extreme geek, I don't follow treands and unfortunately have no access to anybody to really dresses up regularly or anyone whom can offer any meaningful advise on such things. I quite literally have no idea how to dress for my new job role and the hiring manager has only given me some very vague ideas with little substance.

Like many things in my life, I try to research before making significant purchases. When given a choice, I prefer good quality over trendy new stylish items/clothing.

This new consulting role requires a higher level of sophistication in dress than I am comfortable with at the moment and rather than just showing up at the local MW or JAB tomorrow, wanted to see if you all might have some advice for me.

Companies I will be working with are all Fortune 500 but know they are getting a pretty hard core technical "geek" and I am told that they tend to not be very picking about the dress of the people, so long as they have the requisite skills...but these companies are paying dearly for our services and while I don't want to show up looking like a "overly slick" sales type...I want to project a competent, adequate-to-well dressed, no non-sense persona. I would prefer to look a couple steps above what one might expect from a JCP department store visit, but not like an extremely successful sales person or CEO.

The details of what I need:

Enough clothing for 4 professional work days in "business casual" attire.

Traveling usually Sunday night and returning on Thursday evenings.

4 pairs dress slacks (wool? cotton?)
4 long sleeve dress shirts - I prefer button down collars and am wondering about wrinkle free "tailored fit"
4 pairs dress socks - smartwool or similar perhaps?
1 nice sweater to be worn over the dress shirt?
1 sport coat - I may have to wait on this
1-2 pairs of shoes, cedar tress too
1-2 belts to match shoes

no ties needed usually
no suits needed usually

My budget is very tight at the moment ... approximately $1k or less.

I need help with decent (but not outrageously priced) brands and where to buy. Is it even possible to get what I need for my budget?

Shoes...I got the message pretty loud and clear...Allen-Edmonds, Alden or the like but am worried this will drive me above my budget...a cheaper options would be nice (but I know there just isn't much available below the $300 retail price point).

Anyway...if you're still awake after reading this...open to suggestions.

Thanks!
 

cptjeff

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You will need at least a sportcoat.
Tailored fit shirts are fine if you have the build. Button down collars are fine. No iron is probably fine as long as you stick with all cotton and don't have sensitive skin; that finish, is, after all, achieved with a cocktail of chemicals, unless you go fairly high end, where they tend to use teat treatments.

Ties would be good to have on hand, as with the sportcoat. If you're going to meet with CEOs, you could be aware enough to put one on for those occasions.

Slacks, depends on the definition of business casual. You certainly would need to have some wool slacks on hand, but chinos work with business casual as well. Just make sure they're nicely cut (read: trim) and fit well.

Socks- smartwool stuff is great, but on a budget, go with the cotton blend stuff from Gap or the like for basics and some classic patterns. If you really want to cheap out, Target's Merona brand makes decent socks if you have larger feet. They're stretchy, so if you have smaller feet like I do, they're a bit of a pain.

Sweater is a good idea if it's ever cold where you'll be. I don't think you'll need a whole lot of those in California. But v neck sweaters work really well for business casual on cooler days, so then again, you might want a variety if you're not going to be wearing the sportcoat much.

Shoes and belt? Call Allen-edmonds and see if they can't hook you up with seconds. One black pair in a cap or a punchcap is pretty much a necessity, but if you prefer brown use one of your old pairs for the occasions where those are necessary and get the new, nice shoes in stuff you'll wear often. Stick to classic styles for now, save the bicycle toes for later. Unlike many here, I think they can be nice. But I wouldn't advise them for an everyday shoe. Think 5th avenues instead.
 

Metlin

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I recently asked a similar question, and there were quite a bit of good answers. I like your list, and you could perhaps get a couple of chinos and a couple of gray slacks. I would say that 4 dress shirts is probably fine for starting out, but they are not going to be enough if you're traveling every week (what happens if you stain a shirt or if you don't get time to do laundry?). I'd look at Brooks Brother's wrinkle-free shirts (maybe get 3 light blue, 3 white?). Ditto for socks -- I'd get more than a handful. They are not that expensive, and are bare necessities. Limiting them is akin to limiting your underwear. Sweaters are a great idea, and I would buy plain ones (simply for versatility). A gray or a navy sweater can be very versatile, and be pretty color agnostic. I don't think you need two belts -- you can get two-sided belts that are convertible. Very useful, especially if you're traveling.
 

Duder356

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Thanks cptjeff!

To meet my budget needs...seconds might be a viable option. Called the local Allen Edmonds outlet, but they had no sales currently. Am going to head to Nordstrom's and try some Park Ave's on for sizing then look around for deals.

Just to clarify though...I'll be travelling from FL all over the east coast and possibly up into Canada. I hope to be able to have nothing other than a single carry-on bag while traveling...wrinkle free appeals for this reason only.

Can you offer any brand names of slacks to look for? What about where to buy? If I go with JAB or MW...what line should I look at?

Recently lost 35 lbs and hope to loose another 35, not sure the tailored shirts will work or not, I'll have to try some on but do have sensitive skin so it might not work out on both counts.
 

Duder356

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Originally Posted by Metlin
I recently asked a similar question, and there were quite a bit of good answers.

I like your list, and you could perhaps get a couple of chinos and a couple of gray slacks. I would say that 4 dress shirts is probably fine for starting out, but they are not going to be enough if you're traveling every week (what happens if you stain a shirt or if you don't get time to do laundry?). I'd look at Brooks Brother's wrinkle-free shirts (maybe get 3 light blue, 3 white?).

Ditto for socks -- I'd get more than a handful. They are not that expensive, and are bare necessities. Limiting them is akin to limiting your underwear.

Sweaters are a great idea, and I would buy plain ones (simply for versatility). A gray or a navy sweater can be very versatile, and be pretty color agnostic.

I don't think you need two belts -- you can get two-sided belts that are convertible. Very useful, especially if you're traveling.



Thanks Metlin! Very helpful ideas on colors.

I will go read your thread as well, but any suggestions on name brands and where to buy?
 

akatsuki

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Look, if you are budget constrained, here is what I would suggest.

First of all, go to one of the outlet places like Ross or Loehmann's or Filenes or whatever. Hell, go to JC Penney. Go super minimal and don't spend a lot yet - especially if you are anticipating dropping a lot of weight soon. I'd also buy them on the very slightly tight side so they will work as you lose weight, but it is entirely possible you will gain weight with so much travel and work - so be aware.

1. 4 shirts - white, light blue, maybe a mild stripe.
2. 2 cotton or light wool sweaters - light grey and navy
3. 1 wool charcoal suit
4. 1 wool pants - navy or light grey
5. 1 reversible belt
6. 1 pair of black oxfords
7. 2 ties
8. Undershirts will keep your shirts fresher longer.

Now you have a ton of interchangeable outfits and the reason I suggest a charcoal suit (over navy) is you can wear it to funerals or whatever in a pinch. Wool survives not being washed much better than cotton for extended periods. 1 pair of shoes is enough for a while (get black first, then eventually brown later).

Keep a little bit aside for emergencies (if you spill something on clothing, just go out and buy something right away versus sweating it since you will be so minimally stocked to begin with)

You will be putting high wear on these clothes, so they won't last forever. You will also have no choice but to launder regularly and get the pants cleaned. I would skip more casual wear until you have a better feel for what the job entails. But if you are meeting CEOs a lot, you may actually need another suit in the end.

Normally I'd say spend a little on the clothes, and a bit more on tailoring since fit matters more than fabric but with your anticipated weight changes, just try and buy stuff that looks like it fits properly (bring someone to tell you if you can't tell).

This will get you by for a while. Skip shoe trees - I know some people say that is heresy, but they are heavy as hell to travel with and stuffing socks into your shoes before you pack them is sufficient to keep them in shape.

Later, as stuff wears out and you need more stuff, I'd just say pick a store with style that you like and buy outfits that are on mannequins since they are already selected and should theoretically look smart - if you aren't fashion minded, it is the easiest way to go.
 

Mudhiker

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Originally Posted by Duder356
Thanks Metlin! Very helpful ideas on colors.

I will go read your thread as well, but any suggestions on name brands and where to buy?


Sent you a PM re: some brands. :)

Found some Allen Edmonds and Aldens on deep sale, if they have your size.
 

Metlin

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Originally Posted by Duder356
Thanks Metlin! Very helpful ideas on colors. I will go read your thread as well, but any suggestions on name brands and where to buy?
Personally, I'm a fan of BB non-iron shirts. I would use their 3 for $209 or whatever deal/clearance they've got going currently (there were some great holiday deals just 2 weeks ago, sadly). Just a pointer that their shirts have a relaxed fit to begin with. For instance, if you go with slim fit elsewhere, I go with extra slim fit with BB. They've good trousers as well, but for your budget, you could certainly try brands like J.Crew or Banana Republic -- while not extraordinary, their woolen pants and chinos are pretty decent for their price points. You could also try RL (not Lauren, perhaps Polo or other RL lines) for decent woolen or cotton pants. Nordstrom also has some good sales going on right now. I'd recommend that you go with wool or at the very least a wool blend, and perhaps cotton for your trousers. It just looks better made. I would go with 4 white/blue shirts (~$300), 3 trousers (~$200), 1 black/brown oxford (~$350), 1 belt ($50), socks, t-shirts ($50), tie and sweater ($100). I would also recommend the Anderson Little navy blazer, especially if you are traveling. It's only $159 with free shipping, and it holds up very well. I'm always on the road, and I'm a big fan of it. It's my just-in-case blazer, and it's pretty resilient. And since the navy blazer is pretty classic, it can easily "dress-up" and outfit when worn correctly. And besides, since you said that you were a tech guy with some leeway, this could work in your favor for those occasions when others may be wearing a suit. As long as you don't combine your navy blazer with navy slacks, you will look good.
 

Duder356

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Thanks akatsuki and all....


This has been very helpful! Unfortunately wearing "adult clothing" is such a foreign concept it has me kind of nervous and perhaps over-thinking things because I want to fit it into my new role but without being to needy with too many questions right off the bat. The new team all dresses this way (all adult like) and it seems they expect me to know what reasonable business attire means. But I clearly don't!

I am sure once I am working my first gig, I'll be getting together with other consultants on the team and they will clue me in...for now though, you guys have given me something to start with which I appreciate.

Tomorrow I'll check on BB and Nordstroms and JAB...maybe MW. Mostly for sizing and general ideas...and I like the idea of looking at the mannequins...I really am that style challenged that I couldn't put together a decent looking outfit...I will be at the mercy of the sale person and that might not always be good.

Will post back with further questions as i learn more.
 

Metlin

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Originally Posted by Duder356
Thanks akatsuki and all.... This has been very helpful! Unfortunately wearing "adult clothing" is such a foreign concept it has me kind of nervous and perhaps over-thinking things because I want to fit it into my new role but without being to needy with too many questions right off the bat. The new team all dresses this way (all adult like) and it seems they expect me to know what reasonable business attire means. But I clearly don't! I am sure once I am working my first gig, I'll be getting together with other consultants on the team and they will clue me in...for now though, you guys have given me something to start with which I appreciate. Tomorrow I'll check on BB and Nordstroms and JAB...maybe MW. Mostly for sizing and general ideas...and I like the idea of looking at the mannequins...I really am that style challenged that I couldn't put together a decent looking outfit...I will be at the mercy of the sale person and that might not always be good. Will post back with further questions as i learn more.
I would stay far, far away from JAB or MW. You can look at them for ideas, but little else. Even so, looking at BB's site will probably give you good ideas on what combination could work and what would not. Good luck. And get good shoes -- make sure they are comfortable and that they will last. As you lose weight, while the rest of your clothing may not fit well, your shoes still will. And you'll be spending a lot of time in airports, and that often entails walking. Keep this in mind when making a purchase.
 

michael_legeek

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Duder365, I'm a former NorCal software engineer like you, so I think I understand the milieu you're dealing with. My suggestions from my own years of consulting in that environment are:

- Colors: if you're doing this on a budget then stick to one set of tones that all go together without effort or any requirement for a practiced eye: grey & navy trousers, black belt, black shoes. Skip the browns, is what I'm saying. Don't worry about style points for cleverly mixing in brown and merlot and ivory and whatnot into your wardrobe, just get the simple basics nailed down well. You can fill the rest out later.

- Shirts: Macy's house brand "Club Room" is frequently on sale, and IMO they make a perfectly nice non-iron pinpoint oxford button-down shirt, one that's available in slim-fit. If you want four, I'd say a white, a blue (decide whether a light blue or a medium blue suits you better), and two blue-and-white striped. The latter are versatile and travel well in the sense of helping to hide whatever coffee stain or other travel mishap may occur, so I say double up on those. I do. If you are lucky and Club Room's on sale you can do all this for probably $160 of your budget.

- Trousers: get "dress" trousers or "slacks", probably in wool or perhaps a wool-poly blend if you see a very good one. If you are not normally wearing a tie or jacket, then the fact you're wearing slacks and a good belt is what will make you stand out as well-dressed among the business-casual khaki/chino wearers.

- Belt: good quality black one. Other colors are optional, especially if you're being represented as the technical talent. While Style Forum leans towards having a nicely outfit-matched belt wardrobe, for what you're trying to achieve I think you're better off getting one good black belt (say from BB or another fairly serious men's store, not Macy's) than a handful of cheaper ones.

- Sweater: merino wool v-neck or crew neck, not too thick. I have a couple of stretchy ones from BB that I think are great.

- Shoes: proper dress shoes. If you are not used to wearing proper dress shoes, then you may find it less jarring to transition to proper dress shoes with a rubber sole than to leather-soled shoes. Allen Edmonds makes some, and there are quite a few on sale right now. The Georgetown slip-on would probably be particularly airport-friendly for travel, and you could alternate that with a laced pair (the Townley perhaps) so you don't wear them out too fast.

- Jacket/Suit: one day you will wish you had a suit, and IMO suits are lots less tricky to work with than odd jackets. So I'd say start looking for a suit, though a good one -- and a bad one can be worse than none at all -- may not fit in your present budget. If you are not accustomed to wearing suits then I would suggest shopping with a friend who wears suits daily, and don't buy anything he wouldn't buy for himself. For what it's worth I think the Nordstrom house brand John W Nordstrom suits are pretty reliable.
 

Duder356

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Quick Off-topic Question for Metlin and Michael_LeGeek.

Do you guys travel with just a single carry-on? If so, what size are you using (was going order a travel pro crew 8 22" carry on)...the hiring manager was suggesting checking luggage but that seems like a hassle to deal with if it can be avoided.

Back on-topic.

I plan to get some Allen-Edmonds (assuming they fit well). The clearance link from Michael and the link Mudhiker gave will be very useful, but I want to try some on locally before ordering online.

Thinking I will try to bring 5 shirts with me...an extra seems like a REALLY good idea. Also, perhaps taking 4 pairs of pants might not be necessary right out off the bat...the only other consultant I know and have spoken with (although not very stylish - he suggested Kohl's to buy clothing) said he only ever traveled with 2 pairs and but had 4 shirts. This follows kind of with what Akatsuki suggested (although he suggested one pair be from a suit).

I'll try focus more on Nordstrom and BB but don't know how far the budget will go at either of these.
 

ns7

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I would hit up the Brooks Brothers (for dress shirts) or Nordstrom (for trousers) sales that are ongoing.

For your shirts, fit will be more important than brand as long as you get conservative colors/patterns--white, blue, blue stripe, maybe a micro-check. This probably means BB slim fit. Stay away from french cuffs, of course.

For shoes, AE is probably the way to go for you, but if you are tight on budget, you can pick up a pair of Cole Haan or Johnston-Murphy's that look good. I went the same route but quickly moved away from those shoes due to styling/comfort issues.

You'd probably be fine picking up a suit from JAB. The signature gold is high quality and occasionally comes on sale below $300. Stick to charcoal or navy and make sure the fit is right.
 

ktrp

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I think a suit would be more useful then you realize. Not only have you been working in a super casual environment, you've been working in california. On the east coast, a high end consultant shows up to talk to the CEO, a suit is by far the safest option. I work in a business casual environment, but we wear suits to meet clients. Flipped around, the guy who comes to make sure we're happy with our printer wears a suit. Listen to other opinions, but I just think you can easily use one.

If you're really unsure about formality, talk to your sales guys.

Then talk to us about brands/fit/where to buy.
 

globetrotter

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I'd also look at a lands end inlet, if there is one by you. land's end wool pants aren't bad, and their khakis aren't bad. their shirts are fine for what you are looking for, and half the price of BB, maybe less. I'd invest in one off the rack dark suit, one blazer, one good pair of shoes and then try to get the pants, sweater and shirts at lands end.

oh, if you are getting ties, get the simplest dark ties, a gray and a blue grenadine, for instance. people who don't wear a lot of business clothing often go overboard with their colorful ties. simple ties are very serious looking.

good luck
 

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