Unspoken Dress Code

How you dress for an interview or presentation is a signal for important predictive characteristics. You either have to be observant of how people who seem to know how to dress, dress or having someone tell you; I'm not observant but I had some mentors that clued me. Here are just a few tips that will simplify the mystifying question of how to dress in an interview.

  • Your suit should fit your shoulders and be tailored in the sleeves and legs. Your suit jacket fits it it hugs your shoulders but lays flat across your chest. You can get the sleeves adjusted later.

  • The tie you wear should be about as wide as your lapels.

    • The tie should be tied long enough to touch your belt buckle--otherwise, you look like a middle-school prom date.

  • Your belt should match (be the same color as) your shoes.

    • In general, black suits are for the Mafia and the CIA; charcoal, navy, and brown are standard. Pin stripes make you look like a salesman or a tycoon, but I still like them.

  • Your pants should be firm around your waist, and should be about an inch or two lower than the highest they could go. If you wear them too low, the crease doesn't fall straight.

  • Your tie should be darker than your shirt.

  • In general, don't mix plaids with other plaids, stripes with other stripes, or plaids with stripes. The new fashion is to bend this rule, using small patterns that blend. Be a bit careful.

  • Pocket squares shouldn't be the same fabric or color as your tie or vest unless it's a tux.

  • No matter how many buttons are on your sweater, vest, or suit jacket, never button the bottom button. You look like an idiot with your bottom button done. Don't ask me why it's there, I'm not sure. This is the code--I'm just letting you in.

    • I really like the Windsor knots, full or half. The full is symmetric and sturdy. The half is a bit higher fashion, in my view, because it's a bit asymmetric. In general, if your head is on the bigger side, the full looks better. Smaller heads will find the half flattering.

    • Ties done improperly say something about how often you are invited to important events. The knot should be tight--not tight around your neck--but the knot itself should be tight. If it gives way when you poke it, you're doing it wrong. Dimples are overrated. Don't bend over backwards for a dimple.

  • Your shirt sleeves should extend about a half inch beyond your suit sleeves.

  • Your socks should be long enough that your leg doesn't show when you sit down.

  • The suit jacket should be long enough to cover your bum.

    • Suit fit is hard for the uninitiated. Ask the older people in the store if it fits.

  • I tend to think that colors and patterns that call attention to themselves demonstrate an unseriousness. Pink is for ice-cream.

  • Finally, the edge of your shirt, belt buckle, and zipper, should form a straight line, called a gig-line.

Johnston: Guide to Suits