What to Buy For Your First Wardrobe

Otter.'s picture
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I took this off of a posting by JohnnyCrockett on Style Forum. It's a great site, and everyone should check it out. Thought the post was a really good round-up of what to buy for your first out-of-college wardrobe. Take all of it with a grain of salt considering it is posted on, well, a forum about men's style. I disagree on a few points (below), but otherwise it is a really good round-up of what to wear:

-I don't wear undershirts ever. Don't like how they look, but also I don't sweat that much so I never feel the need for them.

-Although I wear cuffed pants, I think it's fine not to wear cuffs. More of a personal preference and an American vs. European style thing.

-I think this guy is making too big of a deal out of the center-vented vs. side-vented jackets question. Don't think it matters at all, as people wear both. Same as above - American vs. European style.

-Bit loafers and French cuffs I think just depend on the office culture - some places it's OK, elsewhere you would feel uncomfortable.

I'm going to do another post on this, but another thing I cannot emphasize enough is - BUY A LOT OF SOCKS in navy and grey. You don't need any other colors unless you are wearing suits of other colors, which you probably shouldn't be as a first year.

The original link is below:

http://www.styleforum.net/showthread.php?t=124996&...
"As a fresh-out-of-college analyst in NYC at an investment bank or top-tier consulting firm, you want to be as well turned out as possible while also being as discreetly turned out as possible.

Brooks Brothers should be your go-to place for most everything work-attire-related in your first 1-2 years in this professional environment, whether your firm is business formal or business casual.

Anything lower quality than Brooks Brothers is likely to make you look like a young kid who doesn't yet quite know how to dress (I'm thinking of the cheap shirts and suits I see some wearing) while most anything better quality than BB will make you look too put together, not traditional enough, and will inspire resentment/disdain in your superiors.

You should (must, actually) have the following:

Shirts
2-3 white pinpoint shirts, mix of button downs and point/Ainsley collars
2-3 solid light blue shirts (NO French blue) in a mix of pinpoint, end-on-end, and broadcloth, same mix of collars as white shirts
2-3 conservatively striped shirts (ones you could wear with a tie if need be, with white grounds and blue stripes
2-3 other shirts -- can be a bit sportier, e.g., simple checks and tattersals, maybe a pink or ecru shirt

Shoes
2 pairs of Allen Edmonds Park Avenues (or similar style) shoes. The point is to wear captoe Oxfords (NOT derbies) in black
1-ish pairs of non-black shoes. Burgundy (calf or shell cordovan) is better than brown since it is more versatile, more formal, and more traditional

Socks
10-20 pairs of OVER THE CALF socks, solid, finely ribbed. NO patterns on the socks. NO loudly-colored socks. Over the calf is essential (it was actually once part of the dress code at many firms). Probably 20% of your socks should be cotton and 80% should be wool. Wool will hold up much better after washings while cotton fades quickly. NO brown or tan socks. Only navy and dark grey.

Pants
Maybe the most flexible piece of the wardrobe in terms of where to buy -- nobody ever really looks at your pants so long as they're solid, dark, and not too ill-fitting. So you could easily do a cheap JAB sale for pants. Pleated is more common, plain front is fine too. Just make sure whatever pants you wear are CUFFED (1.5 or 1.75"). Make sure they're not too long (minimal break). Make sure they are worsted or tropical wool (maybe one pair of flannel is fine). If they're not part of a suit they should probably be grey (more pairs on the darker side, fewer on the medium-to-lighter side). NO black pants. Try to avoid navy pants -- you can't wear navy pants with a blue blazer.

You don't need that many pairs of pants (many get by an entire week in no more than 1 pair)...the reason to have a few pairs is because they wear out fast. The pockets fray, the seats get shiny, you slip in the winter and tear the knee. So have a few pairs. But while I would say 10 shirts minimum is necessary, I would say 5 pairs of pants is almost more than enough, especially if you mix suits in (in addition to your 5 pairs of pants). Another reason to have several pairs is for seasonality -- tropicals in the summer, flannels in the cooler seasons, worsteds most of the year.

Undershirts
WEAR undershirts. You will be working long hours, often under stressful situations. You will sweat. You will smell. And make them crew-neck or v-neck undershirts, never athletic (wife-beaters). Crew-neck is best if you're wearing a tie (the V will show through when you're buttoned all the way up if you wear a v-neck and your shirt is light-colored). V-necks are fine so long as you can't see the V through your shirt (a look which is nearly as bad as wearing a beater)

Underwear
Whatever you please.

Suits
If your firm is business casual, you still need minimum 2 suits as you will certainly be in suit when you are client-facing. If your firm is business formal, you need 3-5 suits in your first year. Start off with 3 and increase from there.

If you only have 2-3 suits, they should all be solid, non-shiny worsteds, charcoal or navy. Charcoal is worn more than navy, probably. Only go to stripes once you're past 3 suits, and then stripes should be as discreet and invisible as possible. No one should ever remember you for your striped suit.

Suits should be 2-button, notch lapels with belt loops. Center vent is best. No vent is a no-go. Side vents might be acceptable but are pushing in the cutaway collar direction -- potentially a bit too Anglophile (and thus fashion-oriented). But there are other places where you could do much much worse.

The two pairs of pants advice is spot-on. Definitely get two pairs per jacket if you can (usually tough, but see if possible).

Ties
As a general rule, if J. Press sells it (in their year-round, non-seasonal collection), you can wear it (with the exception of their embroidered motif "critter" ties). http://jpressonline.com/neckwear.php
BB is also safe.

Stripes and "neat" patterns are the name of your game. Brightly-colored animal ties (e.g., Hermes, Ferragamo, and Vineyard Vines) should be avoided. VV you can start wearing maybe in your second year (but it is SO overdone). Hermes is de rigueur for the higher-ups, and is taboo for analysts to wear at some banks. Hermes is also a bit taboo in consulting. Don't wear Ferragamo. Patterns are less interesting and ties are uglier than Hermes. It's like drinking Pepsi instead of Coke. Don't be one of those people.

WHAT NOT TO WEAR EVER in your first two years
- Suspenders (affected and considered an only-for-MD item)
- Bit loafers (affected, douchey, a more senior banker item, and generally in poor taste, IMO)
- French cuffs (sad but true...you can start wearing them post-MBA, though)
- Contrast collar shirts (see suspenders)
- Loudly-striped suits (in poor taste -- people will actually make fun of you)
- Brown shoes with a suit (everyone will notice, and not in a good way, no matter what people say on SF)

Items you can wear in your 2nd year if you perform well (people don't like poor performers, especially those who look like they focus on clothes rather than work)
- Spread- or cutaway-collar shirts
- "More interesting" shirts (e.g., Thomas Pink or the better British brands)
- Brogued shoes (still need to be black though)
- Loafers (but probably not in great taste to wear them with business formal in any case)

The main point is that you want your clothes to be completely forgettable while at the same time always being in good taste.
You never want someone to say behind your back (or to your face) "we can't take him to the meeting because he is dressed like a poor college kid". So that means dress a little bit above your budget if BB is above your budget -- it's what everyone wears, from analysts to MBAs to MDs to CEOs. It is the common language of the white collar working man. Completely safe. Your peers will wear cheaper stuff, louder stuff, more fashionable stuff...and it will never serve them well."

Comments (37)

Apr 14, 2011
    • 1
Apr 14, 2011

I see a slight discrepancy with your post, and the one over at the site:

"Underwear
Whatever you please. MDs freeball. jk."

    • 1
Apr 14, 2011

Thank for posting, sir.

"Major in economics; use your economics degree to get an analyst job on Wall Street; use your analyst job to get into Harvard or Stanford Business School; and worry about the rest of your life later"

Apr 14, 2011

May I assume, correctly, that all of these wardrobe threads are directed towards working in NYC or are they applicable to other markets as well? I can see London and maybe SF as being NYC caliber but how about places like Boston, Chicago, LA, etc.? Are they one more small step in the casual direction?

Very detailed post. Thank you.

Apr 14, 2011

I don't understand what's wrong with Ferragamo ties, i own a bunch and have seen many analysts/associates rock them

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Apr 14, 2011
choiand1:

I don't understand what's wrong with Ferragamo ties, i own a bunch and have seen many analysts/associates rock them

I think the guy was being a bit over-cautious when it comes to stuff like that, but it's probably better to err on the side of caution when first starting out. Once you see what people are wearing, then you can adjust what ties you wear.

Ferragamo/Hermes are fine some places, but a friend of mine told me that analysts get made fun of for wearing them in his office, whereas elsewhere it's fine.

Apr 14, 2011

I don't know about the cuffed pants; personally I think it looks awful and out of style. I also think it just looks sloppy.

I also think pleated pants are out of style, especially for younger guys.

I see alot of junior guys with horse-bit loafers (at work and even just casually). Obviously the horse-bit is not like gold or some crazy loud color.

(this is all for junior guys in IB)

    • 1
Apr 14, 2011

Pleated pants are typically far more appropriate if you're on the heftier side. If you're remotely fit, flat front is an infinitely better look.

Great post though, thanks for sharing. I never ever have time to be on SF like I wish I could.

    • 1
Apr 14, 2011

Definitely disagree on the no brown shoes point.

I know Brits reserve brown shoes for tweed-y suits, but it's not so verboten in the US.

I think the reposted article and SF in general sometime miss the forest for the trees and sometimes ignore the lowhanging fruit.

Nothing here about tie knots or belts or overcoats or color/pattern matching.

SF also has a borderline obsession with using terminology that your average person doesn't know when writing articles for the average person...

My one bit of advice if you don't wear undershirts is to only use a deodorant instead of an anti-perspirant. The aluminum in the antiperspirant combines with moisture to create pitstains that don't come out of shirts.

Apr 14, 2011
Tracer:

Nothing here about tie knots or belts or overcoats or color/pattern matching..

Wasn't necessarily a totally comprehensive article about how to dress but just more what you need to buy as a minimum, which I think is why he didn't address those things. Agree with SF being a bit obscure with some of their terms, but I think it's useful for someone who has no idea what they're doing to figure out some easy ways to dress themselves better. It has certainly helped me.

Apr 14, 2011
Otter.:

If they're not part of a suit they should probably be grey (more pairs on the darker side, fewer on the medium-to-lighter side). NO black pants. Try to avoid navy pants -- you can't wear navy pants with a blue blazer.

This doesn't have anything to do with office attire, but in general is it ok to wear any shade of grey with a navy blazer? I was always confused about this. It only seems to look right when wearing beige/cream/tan or jeans.

    • 1
Apr 16, 2011

why do you people mix blazers and pants? it's not at all formal to wear them in a different colour, its actually rather casual. I havent seen one banker or intern in London wearing something like that... If its a suit its a suit.. sure you have more pants but always made from the same material as the suit and same colour

May 4, 2011
thor1000:

why do you people mix blazers and pants? it's not at all formal to wear them in a different colour, its actually rather casual. I havent seen one banker or intern in London wearing something like that... If its a suit its a suit.. sure you have more pants but always made from the same material as the suit and same colour

The blazer over pants look is one that is challenging. The old Navy Blazer over Khaki pants does scream frat boy, and quite frankly should be avoided. Sites such as Mr Porter and Esquire are wholeheartedly embracing the trend of jacket over complimentary pants, although with different colors giving a more modern and put together look. The result is far better than Navy over Khaki, however you were right to say that the look is more casual. You will not go wrong with a good suit.

Apr 16, 2011

Half the people in this thread are talking about getting a second pair of pants to match the suit, i.e. your pants will probably wear out more quickly than the jacket so why have to shelve an entire suit when only half of it is worn out.

The other half are probably talking about clothing for a business casual group, most groups on the street aren't even full business formal anymore anyway.

And besides, it's a completely different story between the US and UK, so why would you come and start a flame way with "you people" when things are clearly going to be different culturally.

Apr 16, 2011

lol, i see how you could interpret "you people" as a cultural thing, I should have said you guys, here, on this thread. But I just wanted to know if you guys consider non-matching pants casual, as you've pointed out

Apr 16, 2011

Disagree with the brown shoes point.

    • 1
Apr 16, 2011

Disagree with the brown shoes point.

Apr 16, 2011

Me too, the right tint of brown against a charcoal suit is not out of place.

    • 1
Apr 16, 2011

I disagree with a lot of what is noted in this post. You can get away with a lot more than the author offers up here. Definitely disagree regarding ties, suits, collar styles for shirts, cuffs on pants, etc... The bottom line is that if you start conservative, your group culture will dictate what is reasonable.

Apr 18, 2011
rufiolove:

I disagree with a lot of what is noted in this post. You can get away with a lot more than the author offers up here. Definitely disagree regarding ties, suits, collar styles for shirts, cuffs on pants, etc... The bottom line is that if you start conservative, your group culture will dictate what is reasonable.

I definitely think this list is more restrictive than you need to be in reality, but on the other hand if you follow all of this there is very little chance you will wear anything inappropriate. Best to start with the most conservative wardrobe possible and then build off of it, especially if you're building your first professional wardrobe.

Apr 18, 2011

.

Apr 18, 2011

Dark brown oxfords and a gray suit is a sharp combination. There are a lot of brown shoes that wouldn't look good with gray or navy suits but if you stick to the classic look and darker brown then you are fine.

Apr 27, 2011

disagree with the bits shoe point...gucci is the majority on my floor

its one way or the other: hate me or admire.

May 4, 2011

This list will give you a wardrobe to match George Clooney's in Up in the Air. It is a fine look and good starting point, but it's predictable. As a beginning list if you prefer the more American/ traditional style (think JFK) its a good start.

May 7, 2011

Are spread collars really considered too flashy? I only own spread collar shirts, but don't mind purchasing pinpoint if that's more conservative.

Edit: I will be a summer at a bank in San Francisco if that helps.

May 7, 2011

I think they look more modern and smart... althought I don't always wear cutaways, prefer to mix

May 7, 2011

Spread collars are not a problem. Personally, I hate point collars and prefer a medium spread. English spread or the full cutaway is a bit too much for me, but spread is good in my book.

May 9, 2011
A Posse Ad Esse:

Spread collars are not a problem. Personally, I hate point collars and prefer a medium spread. English spread or the full cutaway is a bit too much for me, but spread is good in my book.

Yeah, again this is advice for how to build a basic, conservative wardrobe. I actually prefer spread collars as well, but to someone just starting out, they may mistake a spread collar for a cutaway collar, which is definitely flashy and, at least in my opinion, tough to pull off unless you really know what you're doing. I definitely don't/can't get away with wearing cutaway collars, and don't really know anyone that wears them regularly to work.

May 9, 2011

I like this Otter, I think you are pretty much on the money. Naturally I think you are being a bit restrictive, but you are just writing a recommendation so if you were to suggest a huge array of things to wear the post would have been worthless.

Funny you should say "if J Press sells it, you can wear it" though. The first thing I see when following your link (http://jpressonline.com/neckwear.php) are some obnoxious plaid ties that are something I would never dream of wearing. I'd just say to stick with conservative stripes and minimalist patterns, and don't wear anything pastel... ever.

Also- On the "spread collar" issue... I've seen definitely a lot of VP-to-Partners wearing that classic european spread, but almost never anyone any lower than that. Judging by that, Id have to agree to keep it point when possible, but a medium spread isn't too much of an issue.

"You've got to belong to it."

Aug 13, 2011

Just dug this up, solid post.

"Know thyself"

Sep 9, 2013

Thanks for posting.

Best Response
May 9, 2014

I think the "mid vent is better than side vents" argument completely destroyed any credibility the author was trying to impute.

    • 3
Jun 12, 2015

you can definitely wear brown shoes as long as its not wingtip or monk straps

Jul 22, 2017

black weston shoes

Aug 2, 2017

I am a very big fan of french fashion and style. My first wardrobe was a french dress and designer handbag. Parish is known for it fashion and there are so many boutiques throughout the city.

Aug 5, 2017
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Aug 5, 2017
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