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:

"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:

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

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

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.

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.

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)

Whatever you please.

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).

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."