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T-shirt "dress code" at work, how to spruce it up?


New Member
Oct 5, 2015
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Hi all,

TL;DR what can I wear a t-shirt+jeans with so it looks a bit more formal and less casual, without overdoing it?

New member here, been lurking for a while but thought I'd finally register. I have been racking my brains over this for the last few weeks and would really like your help!

Apologies for the wall of text, please skip to the next --- if you don't care about the context :).

I work as a programmer on the west coast, and most people at work dress in a t-shirt and jeans. Even at press events most of our vice presidents will end up wearing very casual clothes (a t-shirt, maybe a fancy one, and nice jeans). Another really popular thing that people do (subconsciously or not) is wear t-shirts that were given out for product releases and it effectively demonstrates their seniority/tenure (we have pretty big growth, almost doubling in staff in one year).

This never really worked for me because I was more of a chinos/dress shirt kind of person, but I've been mistaken for a product manager (read: doesn't do the programming) by other programmers before and that's not the impression I want to keep making.

I have to give a 30min presentation in a few weeks to around 30-40 other programmers (at my job), most of whom I've never met before. First impressions are crucial, so I am trying to restyle my outfit to be based around t-shirt and jeans, they need to feel like I'm one of them but just the more experienced version.
The challenge is that I would like to incorporate an branded t-shirt I have around a new outfit. The logo must absolutely be visible enough that people can make out at least 1/2 of it (so think the outerwear would have a large open V, or the outerwear would be unbuttoned), otherwise there is no point.

In essence I'm trying to go for something more 'smart casual' vs 'casual' but with the t-shirt/logo as a centerpiece. It looks a lot like this one (color-wise) except with a different logo.

I was thinking "formal-esque" dark denim jeans (unbleached/unripped/unwrinkled), the kind you could substitute formal pants. Nicer shoes like wingtips or monk straps.

What am at a loss for is the upper body part. I have to wear these clothes indoors, and especially next week the temperature is 60-80F so trying to put on sweaters or jackets just doesn't seem like it would work (at least people would think I'm being funny wearing so many clothes indoors, plus I would probably get too hot as well).

The ideas I've had:

* Sports jacket/blazer on top of the t-shirt.
--- Worried about this being overly dressy (but maybe there's some casual looking ones I haven't found?) and also about it getting too hot.
* Vest (waistcoat) on top of the t-shirt
--- If it's buttoned, V needs to be really large (like 3 buttons or less), hard to find. If it's unbuttoned, less of a problem but I have no idea about how to properly fit an unbuttoned vest.
* T-shirt on top of a dress shirt
--- Would work in theory, but the t-shirt I have in mind is probably too ugly to be used as the outer layer.
* T-shirt under a dress shirt
--- Not sure how to keep the dress shirt open enough to actually see the t-shirt logo, and it's pointless if you can't see the logo.
* Suspenders over a t-shirt
--- Now we're getting into some esoteric stuff. But I still think the t-shirt is too ugly to actually be the main visible thing.

(with anything long sleeve I was thinking about rolling the sleeves up to give it a more casual look).

Another thing is, I'd like to divert attention away from my neck/shoulders if at all possible, I don't have a great build and my upper trapezius on one side are smaller than the next. It's usually not too noticeable but there's no need to have yet another item of clothing to be self-conscious about.

(and obviously planning on going to the tailor with this to get the best fit)

Does anyone have tips on what I can do here?

Thanks so much for replying, I really appreciate your feedback!


Sep 9, 2015
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Hey, Maybe you could work around that cool printed Tshirt. Try a casual blazer, maybe with some leather elbow patches to make it more urban but still keep that classy look. You can also go for a fancy leather jacket, but that won't be too elegant either. No, Tshirts under shirts or vice versa. A blazer will do just fine, just pick the right one


Senior Member
May 13, 2013
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First rule of first impressions: know your audience. Your audience has a pretty consistent norm for dress code and you don't want to follow it. You want to overdress. My advice - do NOT ware a sports coat or blazer - they'll think your a tool.

Wear a decent fitting, but not skin tight, t-shirt. Basic colors are nice - black or grey. They're safe and conservative option when you don't have your own style for t-shirts.

Wear nice fitting, but not skinny, jeans.

Done. Simple and neat without looking like a "pretentious douche " to your audience. Again, this isn't global advice - it's advice for your specific scenario.

Oh, and skip wearing $400 dress shoes

Let your presentation make the impression. Given your audience and their "norms" around dress - your wardrobe should not be something that calls attention to you as it will have a high likelihood of drawing the WRONG type of attention.


New Member
Oct 5, 2015
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Thanks so much johng.

"Know your audience" was brilliant advice. I went ahead and put on some tshirts, jeans, and non-dress shoes like you suggested and the presentation went fine.

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