"Project success but don't be flashy"

I got a bunch of meetings coming up, some in a casual setting and some in a more formal setting. I was told to "dress and accessorize appropriately" and when I asked what the fork is that supposed to mean, the response was "project success but don't be flashy". So let me pose this question to the community - what does that mean in your opinion?

Find Your Mentor

  • Increase your chance of landing a job by matching with one of our 200+ mentors.
  • Our mentors are top employees at the most selective firms.
  • Proven process with over 1,100 clients over 10 years.

Comments (43)

Dec 12, 2018

navy suit, black shoes(oxfords), black belt, white shirt semi-spread collar with french placket, Ferragamo tie

Dec 12, 2018

And all of it should fit.

Most Helpful
Dec 12, 2018

Wear something that looks high quality only to people who know what high quality is supposed to look like. Basically dress nice but do not wear a patterned Ferragamo tie and Gucci loafers with a red and green strip going across the shoe.

    • 7
Funniest
Dec 12, 2018

Don a 50mm Michael Kors watch and lizard skin drivers

    • 17
Dec 12, 2018

Dress more formal for the formal occasion, and slightly less formal for the casual occasion. Without more context on the meeting type, who it's with, etc., it's hard to help.

This should go without saying, but you can buy nice items that are well made, and people who know/care will know.

Depending on the circumstance I'd just wear the same outfit type for each meeting, and if it's more formal, lose the tie. Keep everything else.

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Dec 12, 2018

Start with the basics of "project success":

Fit: successful people are aware of how things should fit, and make the effort to find the right items.

Not like this
Sean Spicer projects bad fitQuality fabrics/construction: even if it fits, people can spot a cheap suit with fused lining, or a shirt with thin fabric.

Fits the setting: here's where it's gotten more complicated. Back in the '80s, you could show up in a navy/charcoal suit, white shirt, conservative tie and be just fine. Dress like that at for a meeting with Peter Thiel and you will definitely leave without the deal.

My rule of thumb is to be "client + 1:" if their business casual means khakis and a buttoned-down, match that but throw on a jacket (which you can always take off.) It's on you to find out how the clients will be dressed.

Flashy: you paid top dollar for the item because your officemates would admire the size of your.... budget. Leave this stuff at home for your upcoming meetings.

Dec 12, 2018

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/4f/28/ec/4f28ec611c4e0c2481953c51419db0dc.jpg

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

    • 13
Dec 12, 2018

Apparently, there are clothing consultants for aspiring hedgies :I I'd say it's funny if it was not so ridiculous.

Dec 18, 2018

I have a friend who utilizes one, they charge an hourly rate sometimes in excess of $300/hr...absolutely ridiculous.

Dec 18, 2018

A better answer: an open marketplace that provides free guidance to Buyers, in search of Sellers who best fit their individual needs.

Dec 18, 2018

I think there are a few things that we can all agree on:

  1. Get rid of the backpacks and get a briefcase instead. I know some MDs like to wear it at the office but you shouldn't do that.
  2. Get rid of tactical watches (like G-shock), and go for a clean formal dress watch with black leather straps. Don't need to be expensive but keep it formal.
  3. Get rid of sneakers even in your casual wears; instead of sneakers you can get loafer, monkstrap, espadrilles, boat shoes as your casual wear.
  4. Get rid of bulky belts with huge logos; keep it simple and clean.
  5. Get rid of hoodies and get either gray or dark brown houndstooth-patterned blazers.
  6. Get rid of torn jeans, and instead get chinos, corduory or khaki pants in neutral colors.
    • 3
    • 3
Dec 18, 2018
  1. Get rid of your personality.
  2. Get rid of your sense of self.
    • 15
Dec 18, 2018

If changing your clothing style to suit your age - that alone - you can get rid of your personality then - there is no personality to begin with at all.

Personality, self worth and sense of self is all spiritual and internal matter, which has nothing to do with your physical and outward self.

Hope that helps.

    • 3
Dec 18, 2018

Teams like Facebook and Google don't give a damn about the color of your outfit: you're judged on the content of your code.

Large, conservative, hierarchies tend to have different norms and expect compliance as an outward sign of being a committed member of the team. If your sense of personality/self can't accommodate these expectations, you may be happier in a more free-wheeling, less conformist industry.

If that's the case, make a move, the sooner the better.

Dec 18, 2018

Although I understand where you are coming from, in my personal opinion, there are four points that I would like to bring up:

  1. The question was how to project success without looking flash. Growing up in a country side, in a third world country, at least for me, a full dressed man in formal attire look and project more success than someone with a supreme hoodie and an expensive jean. At least for a poor commoner like me.
  2. Your point about teams like Facebook. I hope that you understand that tech companies make up a very small percentage of global work force. Even in the big cities, majority of people work in rather conservative and boring industries like government, financial services and general corporates.
  3. I wish one day we can have a bar code or a QR code where we can scan people to immediately quantify how awesome the content of their coding abilities. And I truly hope one day, major institution investors are all in their early 20s wearing hoodies managing billions of dollars - perhaps when that day come - I am sure casual outfit can justify in business setting.
  4. I also feel that tech bro culture itself is pretty toxic. Being independent and expressive should be within the limit of caring for other needs. Of course, within a sub-culture, people can wear casual clothes and being judged appropriately. But in a larger context, I think the society in general has pretty fixed social norms - if someone asked to borrow money to random strangers, a random person is most likely to give it to someone wearing formal attire compared to someone wearing hoodies.
    • 5
Dec 19, 2018

Good point about the global workforce, but I'm assuming the membership here is primarily based in the US (could be wrong). My point isn't that any particular dress code is universally good or soul-crushingly evil, but that it's a highly-visible form of social signaling that's noticed in all organizations, and is extremely important in some.

If you chose to listen to the advice of Steve Jobs to "Think Different," you should be situationally aware enough to make thoughtful decisions vs. assuming a single outfit will be perceived the same way in every setting.

To take this from theoretical to factual, I did a Google Survey of men 18-34 earlier this year and asked: Which of the following best describes the kind of clothes you wear to work most days?

The overall perspective: the majority of men now work in casual settings, with Suit & Tie now a very small minority (probably understated given the sampling method, I'm guessing the total is ~10%.) Business casual is ~20%, so "conservative and boring" is actually now in the minority across the US, and particularly on the West Coast. BTW, uniform includes not only military/police/fire but also UPS, guys in blue shirts at Best Buy, etc.

While you're probably right that a guy in a suit will do better panhandling than a guy in rags, there are settings where the opposite is true:

Peter Thiel Says He Never Invests In A CEO Who Wears A Suit

Dec 19, 2018

Although I can understand where you are coming from and the google survey might be a good indicator even for US, there is a sample bias. Assuming working age group is 16-69 and you can breakdown into three groups: 16-34, 34-50 and 50-69. According to popularation survey 16-34 only account for 35.9% out of 220.6 Million population group. This means that you are leaving out the other two age group's who may weight more since they are more likely to be 16-34 age group's manager or even C-Suite levels.

    • 1
Dec 19, 2018

I thought it would have been too pedantic to add,"btw, my survey results were roughly in line with a Gallup survey taken Aug 5-9 2015", but apparently not.

Gallup results.
Which of the following best describes the kind of clothes you wear to work most days (Based on men employed full or part time who are not self-employed)
14% Suit
19% Casual business
40% Casual street clothes
24% Uniform
2% Other/Mixed/No opinion

https://news.gallup.com/poll/1720/work-work-place....

Dec 20, 2018

double post

    • 2
Dec 20, 2018

Dear WardrobeEssentialist,

Thank you for sharing your notes. Though not trying to be difficult, there are a few problems I find this survey.

  1. It took survey of what people actually wear rather than ask for an opinion of what people think based on what others wear? The right way to phase the question would be:

1.1. Based on the list of following style of clothing, which style would you think project success?

  1. Is this were a random survey with significant population count, would it be fair to assume that 15% of people who answered wearing suits might actually be in senior positions?
  2. Also in term of preference, this survey didn't make a good point either. It says what they actually wear to work, not what they prefer. A better way to have asked this question would have been;

3.1. If money wasn't an issue and your company didn't have a strict dress code, which of the following styles of clothings you would prefer to choose to get promoted?

Once again, thank you for taking your time in answering my silly questions. Much appreciated.

Warmest Regards,
NH

Just a quick summary of my main points:

    • 2
Dec 20, 2018

Interesting line of inquiry. Turns out my survey wasn't structured to answer the OP's question about "Project Success," but to get an updated perspective on what early-career guys actually wear, as part of an addressable market assessment for a cloud-based wardrobe recommendation service.

I also wanted to understand preference and motivation, so I asked the following question to guys who work in Business Casual or Suit & Tie offices: "When planning your work wardrobe, is your primary thought:"
1) I want to be comfortable
2) I want to dress like I belong on the team
3) I want to win "best dressed" award
4) I want to express my unique personal style

Here's how they responded:

In both settings, "belong on the team" got more responses than "best dressed" award. This leads me to conclude that team norms are an important factor and that "formal attire" always projects success. In some settings, it may project "cultural cluelessness."

Dec 20, 2018

So would this will be correct to say that since traditional banking model is endangered (for example pure investment bank like Goldman Sachs is even going after consumer retail banking business like launching Marcus). And also you are seeing tech firms going into financial services - a great example would be Alibaba's Ant Financial - on the contrary, we are not seeing enough financial service firms going to tech (other than perhaps Softbank); other than a few bank backed VC, bank sponsored incubators, and also using big data to sell more personalized financial services.

In a way, would it be fair to say that big bank cultures is pivoting into tech bro culture because they need to come up with better business model - which is big data backed personalized financial services - and in order to do that - they need large amount of tech people - who are more comfortable with dressing down and casually - which is mainly influenced by Silicon Valley tech-culture?

Net net, due to shift in business model, the big banks are changing their corporate culture including their dress code (down to casual) to remain relevant in the near coming future?

Would that be a valid explanation?

    • 2
Dec 20, 2018

The OP wrote,"I got a bunch of meetings coming up, some in a casual setting and some in a more formal setting." I assumed this meant client meetings vs. meetings all within the confines of "traditional banking model." I've been trying to provide a helpful response to his question, which is basically to show situational awareness and EQ. This approached worked for me when I was the head of the Audit Committee at a PE-backed company:
1) wear suit & tie to Board Meetings
2) dress like a member of the team when working at the portfolio company office (business casual)

Will let others comment about Traditional Banking vs. Fin Tech corporate cultures: not an area of expertise.

Dec 18, 2018

I'd also include ditching any leather pieces you were rocking as an intern and are a few years old. That belt and shoes from Banana Republic had a good run, but a simple way to upgrade your look is by adding some quality leather shoe/belt combos.

Dec 19, 2018

I still got my USD 100 Aldo pointy shoes from 10 years ago.

Dec 18, 2018

High quality sneakers >>> monk straps and boat shoes for casual wear. Monk straps shouldn't be worn on the weekday, nevermind the weekend... And as for boat shoes, they belong on a boat. That's about it.

Dec 18, 2018

Naoki likes to meditate in his monkstraps while reading Eckhart Tolle, let him be.

    • 1
Dec 18, 2018

I am actually trying to book an appointment to get my first ever John Lobb's Marldon. Such a beautiful shoe. T.T

https://www.johnlobb.com/en_us/models/538030l

Dec 18, 2018
10xleveraged.sellout:

High quality sneakers >>> monk straps and boat shoes for casual wear. Monk straps shouldn't be worn on the weekday, nevermind the weekend... And as for boat shoes, they belong on a boat. That's about it.

'high-quality sneakers' on the weekend are for guys like aziz ansari

Dec 18, 2018

I meant for casual wear - not for office wear. And as an alternative to sneakers - rather than wearing a monkstrap in the place of an oxford shoe for daily office wear.

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Dec 18, 2018

Don't wear anything that stands out too much. Keep it pragmatic, safe, and elegant. If you are not within a "luxury" rank or price range, it's often good advice to splurge on one or two items and keep the rest at your price range. The splurges, when worn, will automatically boost the rest of your clothes' value, without standing out like a sore thumb. Wearing professional clothes you can project confidence (and comfort) in without over-compensating with the flash is the way to go.

    • 3
Dec 18, 2018

Very good advice. On fit, your tailor's job becomes much easier if you're starting with an off-the-rack item that was designed with you in mind and needs minimal alterations.

Brands have to make informed guesses about how to cut their designs, so an individual dress shirt may be too tight/loose in the chest/waist, even it's just right in the neck and sleeve. Unless you're on the long tail of the size distribution, there's probably something that can fit you well, so don't settle for "just ok."

Dec 19, 2018

It's almost like you read this from a few years ago... https://www.businessinsider.com/the-goldman-sachs-...

Dec 18, 2018

Agree with most of the above. Of course, a lot of it has to do with fit.

Do the opposite of what finmeme accounts fetishize on Instagram...

Two quick things that you probably know, but for the sake of some who don't (see these jacket faux pas all the time):

  • leave the bottom button open
  • unbutton when you sit down
  • if you get a new one, make sure to cut the thread holding the vent

How are the meetings going, by the way?

Dec 18, 2018
Edifice:

How are the meetings going, by the way?

Had the first one which went well, people liked my ideas and we have a follow-up dinner coming up. However, my choice of clothes was an undiluted fail - I wore a suit sans a tie when everyone else was wearing jeans.

Dec 18, 2018
Mostly Random Dude:
Edifice:

How are the meetings going, by the way?

Had the first one which went well, people liked my ideas and we have a follow-up dinner coming up. However, my choice of clothes was an undiluted fail - I wore a suit sans a tie when everyone else was wearing jeans.

yeah because these ridiculous tryhards think that any time you grab a beer with someone you are sitting down at the Union Club with the duke of York

Dec 18, 2018

I think you probably looked great. I'm definitely in the "dress a little better than the other people there" camp. No one will fault you for looking put together, and it'll help you remain sticky in their minds. "@Mostly Random Dude ? Oh yeah, always looks sharp, and great ideas too. You can take him anywhere." Good luck with the rest of them!

Dec 18, 2018
Mostly Random Dude:

I got a bunch of meetings coming up, some in a casual setting and some in a more formal setting. I was told to "dress and accessorize appropriately" and when I asked what the fork is that supposed to mean, the response was "project success but don't be flashy". So let me pose this question to the community - what does that mean in your opinion?

I assume this is his way of telling you that your normal attire is kind of shitty. What are you currently wearing that's making him say this?

    • 1
Jan 12, 2019
DickFuld:

I assume this is his way of telling you that your normal attire is kind of shitty. What are you currently wearing that's making him say this?

Usually jeans and a sweater/T depending on the season - my workplace is very casual to say the least. I try not to go down to the trashy engineer attire (hiking boots and all), but I have not worn a suit in years.

Dec 20, 2018

I have no idea if anyone on here is in the market for these since I know they're discontinued, but I'm selling mine in NYC, 8.5 (so 9-9.5 regular shoe). Worn them 5-6 times and just don't like them.
https://www.neimanmarcus.com/p/gucci-classic-leath...

Dec 21, 2018
    • 2
Jan 5, 2019