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Male business dress code for USA

(38 Posts)
KristinaM Tue 16-Oct-12 15:22:02

DH is travelling to NYC, Florida and Texas on a business trip in November. Apart from " a dark suit" I can't find much advice on the net about what he should wear. It's a pretty traditional sector ( think attorneys) and he will be at meetings and conferences in the day and dinners etc in the evenings. He needs to make a very good impression but he naturally tends towards a slightly scruffy /eccentric /academic look,which I'm not sure is quite right for the Us market IYSWIM

So it's the details I'm looking for please.Is the dress code similar to the Uk or different in subtle ways?

Does the shirt have to be white or light coloured? Do ties need to be very consevative? What does he wear in the evenings? How cold will it be in NYC and what does he wear over his suit? Casual jacket or a woollen coat? Will it snow and if so, what footwear is suitable?

He normally carries all his paperwork, laptop etc in a rucksack-is that ok or will it be seen as too casual /scruffy?

HerRoyalNotness Tue 16-Oct-12 15:27:37

Our offices in the US tend to be more formal and are suit and tie type places. Their casual Friday is don't wear a tie, whereas ours is wear whatever you want incl jeans. They tend to the conservative tie and either white or that pale blue business shirt. Evenings out, our smarter dressed friends wear dress pants with nice shirt and jumper wih smart shoes, normally monochrome.

Does your DH have all this smart wear? I'm not sure I'd go out specifically and buy it all for a trip unless its leading to a job or further business. He may get away with being the English eccentric in his dress style

CMOTDibbler Tue 16-Oct-12 15:28:59

For very formal (which attorneys would be) its suits (dark), button down collar shirts (blue pin point is very common, but white is normal), subtle silk ties, black socks and shoes.
A step down is smart chinos, button down shirt, tie and navy sports jacket.

November in NY is cold - woolen coat over suit, prob won't snow, and anyway they cab everywhere if business.

None of my US colleagues would use a rucksac - its shoulder bags or wheelie cases - plain, black.

HazleNutt Tue 16-Oct-12 15:36:13

Our US offices (lawyers) - very formal. Suit, tie, very conservative. Coloured shirts ok, but no funny patterns. No rucksacks, briefcase or wheelie case. Woolen coat as outerwear.

If in doubt, I always go for more formal than casual.

KristinaM Tue 16-Oct-12 16:10:29

Her royal nuttiness-he has dark suits already butHe needs new shirts and ties anyway so that's not a problem. This trip is to sign off a very big ( for us) business deal so he needs to look like hes worth it IYSWIM

Are cut away collars ok rather than button down?

His work shoes are black slip ons-will that be ok or does he needs brogues?

He has plenty small wheelie cases so can use these as he carries far too much stuff for a briefcase

For dinners out, can he wear his suit , button down shirt and a smart sweater?

He wears a very cheap watch -not plastic but think timex rather than Cartier. ( Mostly because he loses or breaks them all the time) Does this matter?

KristinaM Tue 16-Oct-12 16:13:57

And I KNOW he's a grown man who should be working this out for himself but he won't. Because he doesn't care about clothes he doesn't understand that other people do, in the sense that they make subtle judgements about your competence /seniority based on your appearance. Because he's on the technical rather than business side, he's got away ( so far) with being the slightly scruffy techie. But he's moving in different circles now IYSWIM

EldritchCleavage Tue 16-Oct-12 16:16:25

Button down shirts are an abomination, IMO. NO need for that sort of thing. Cut-away is fine.

Good shoes, well polished and not down at heel are important.

mirpuppet Tue 16-Oct-12 16:38:43

Is he an attorney?

If dealing with top notch firms the way the men distinguish themselves are with their very expensive ties.

mirpuppet Tue 16-Oct-12 16:40:52

Some pictures to guide you:

blogs.wsj.com/runway/2012/04/04/work-wear-office-style-at-law-firm-proskauer/tab/interactive/

KristinaM Tue 16-Oct-12 17:02:24

No he's not an attorney, his specific job is quite specialised , so obviously I don't want to identify him. But he will be meeting with attorneys and other senior business people and speaking at a conference . Thanks for the link mirpuppet

mirpuppet Tue 16-Oct-12 17:13:16

If you check above the article for the law firm -- the WSJ has people from many different companies/ industries featured.

mathanxiety Tue 16-Oct-12 18:03:37

'he naturally tends towards a slightly scruffy /eccentric /academic look,which I'm not sure is quite right for the Us market IYSWIM'

You are absolutely right here. However, it might be mistaken for 'eccentric British genius' and he might actually impress some people. But all in all, it is a mistake to look more down at heel/dothery than you actually are with lawyers.

You should always put your best foot forward, appearance wise, with lawyers. They size you up when they first meet you and are pretty good at estimating the total value of your clothes and from that deducing how good you are at whatever it is that you do for a living. From that they move on to deciding whether to respect your opinion or not/hire you, etc.

Lawyers wear dark suits. The prosperous ones wear very nicely cut suits. They all tend to wear wing tip shoes, never brogues (the men anyway) with no scuffs and not down at heel. Very lawyery shoes here. Black socks goes without saying, and not chunky black socks either. Fine knit, but not men's pop socks.

He will need a very good quality black belt with preferably a subdued finish and not huge buckle to wear with his suit trousers.

He will also need a nice wallet, in leather, and not looking as if it has been his since he was 18.

A decent pen wouldn't go amiss.

The waistcoats from the WSJ might be a little ott but otherwise that is a good guide.

Ties need to be expensive looking and not necessarily conservative. Splashy is ok (depending on the sort of law practice -- commercial litigators and entertainment lawyers can be quite out there) but they have to be expensive looking. Look at the details of where the ties are from in the WSJ page, and check out the prices. A good British tie from some decent menswear place would be very acceptable. Not M&S. The tie really needs to be silk.

No button down shirts. They are not in any more and haven't been for several years. Good quality fine cotton is acceptable and in a light colour or white. Nothing that looks faddy like the current really wide set collars. Under the shirt he needs to wear a white undershirt that has short sleeves. (like a vest but with no hint of skin showing through the shirt even if jackets are taken off at meetings or dinner.) The undershirt should not show at the collar.

A good wool coat in a dark colour, very plainly tailored, with lapels, would suit NYC in November. NO casual jacket.

A scarf in a sombre colour would look good too. Gloves should be leather. He should have a smart briefcase, nothing blingy. Lawyers carry around massive leather document holders for the most part.

He needs to get a very sharp haircut, and it wouldn't hurt if he has razor burn or any other neck skin issue to get that seen to. Nails should be manicured before he leaves if he really wants to put the icing on the cake.

Excellent anti-perspirant/deodorant goes without saying.

NO NO NO to the sweater for dinners out. A business dinner out with lawyers would be dinner at a place where suit and tie would be de rigeur. There is really no such thing as a smart sweater for business dinner wear.

NO NO NO again to the cheap watch. There is a middle ground between Cartier and Timex and he needs to find it. Fossil doesn't look too bad. There are some fancy Citizen watches between £100 and £200.

mathanxiety Tue 16-Oct-12 18:06:34

Ties -- he needs ties, not just one tie. He needs a fresh tie for each day.

KristinaM Tue 16-Oct-12 19:16:20

Thanks for all that math

Just so you know what I'm up against .....I just told Dh he needed some new ties

" Great " he replied " NY is just the place for ties. You can get three for $20 from the guys who sell them in the street "

CunningPlan Tue 16-Oct-12 19:42:17

To be honest I think that mathanxiety is going a little far. Remember that he needs to be and feel confident in what he's wearing. Smart, certainly, but a new pen? He's not being interviewed for a job, they just need to get the impression from what he's wearing that he's not a total doofus who doesn't know what he's talking about.

They will forgive (and find charming) a certain amount of British eccentricity.

Themilkybarisonme Tue 16-Oct-12 20:24:43

mathanxiety thank you - I'm going to copy and paste and make a note of all that in case of future need (subject to era/fashion reviews!)
Some people don't care about clothes. Most people want you to look smart. But some people really care and you only need one of your clients to be in that box to sink you. I remember coming out of a meeting with the head of a university. "Did you see his shoes?" she said, "Prada." I hadn't looked, wouldn't have known... But people who care, judge.

OP, I understand entirely. My techie DH recently became technical director of an IT firm. I have had to fight every step from Primark to TM Lewin and there's further to go. He goes to a leaders thing run by Ernst and Young and I'm sure people would take him more seriously there if he were better dressed - IT guys don't believe you. I think he'd still be in £13 primark trousers if I'd let him!

KristinaM Tue 16-Oct-12 20:43:30

Cunning plan -He's not remotely a doofus and they will know that the minute he opens his mouth. If they haven't worked it out from his cv. But if they think he's a brilliant man who dresses from M&s they might not take him as seriously as he deserves , given that dressing smartly is a sign of status in their world .

I'm hopeful that you are right, they will find British eccentricity charming smile

EldritchCleavage Wed 17-Oct-12 00:04:08

Charles Tyrwhit and Lewins do good shirts and ties and are good at multi-buy offers.

Better to ditch the watch and just use his 'phone for the time if he doesn't want to splash out on that. And the suits need to be brushed and not crumpled.

mathanxiety Wed 17-Oct-12 00:40:01

Status is so important with lawyers. They can be a shallow bunch. Many care and their designer suit trousers are in fact judgey pants.

He wouldn't need a new pen, just not a bic biro. Paper Mate do decent looking ones that don't look like school pens.

Your DH sounds lovely and I hope his trip will be fun for him and a success.

Lawyers are often convivial and cogenial sorts (as well as being on the judgey by appearance side). The good ones are 'people people'. One of the best and most brilliant I ever knew used to ride his bike to work through freezing midwestern winters. I heard from his wife that he kept the bike in their bedroom and she knew he would save that before returning for her if there was ever a fire. He was also one of the most successful lawyers I ever knew. He had one glass eye and talked out the side of his mouth, had a shock of reddish hair. He had biked across the US alone when he was 17.

mathanxiety Wed 17-Oct-12 00:41:56

The US has its share of eccentric geniuses too...

monsterchild Wed 17-Oct-12 00:53:16

I would say it will be different in each state, too. Texas is going to have a different attitude than NYC. He could (not that you will be buying this, of course!) wear a bolo tie and boots with a nice, western cut coat. It would make the NYC guys all barf, but in Dallas or Houston, it would be ok, if he felt confident wearing that.

however, you can't really go wrong being in a dark suit with a tie. It's not likely that anyone will be too worried about his watch, and if the deal is broke due to his watch, then it wasn't a strong bid anyway.

Where I am, the JUDGES routinely wear boots and some don't wear ties at all. One judge here wears a blue robe, as he likes it better.

As to the rucksack, again, he can pull that off if he's really more comfortable with it. Many attorneys have weathered and battered bags they have been using for donkey's years.

And him being BOTH British and an IT guy will give him huge leeway in how he dresses.

I do not live in NYC (used to live in Jersey but left for wider skies) so I'm probably not the best person to be telling you any of this!

monsterchild Wed 17-Oct-12 00:55:14

Op, I wrongly thought that was you saying your DH was IT, sorry!

however, I don't know any fashonista lawyers (again, I'm not on the east coast!) so I wouldn't worry about the pen, but I also don't get to charge their rates for my work!

KristinaM Wed 17-Oct-12 12:28:39

Hes not in IT but he's on the technical side rather than being a business person or an attorney.and the attorneys he's meeting willbe litigation specialists, not fashion /music/sports or other trendy fashionistas, thank goodness.

I have to admit to being shock at the outfits of some of the female staff at proskaur. We have a small office in the suburbs of a provincial city and one of the outfits there would not even be worn by our support staff. Even the partners in the cream skirt suit and the grey trouser suit only looked passable IYSWIM. Grey trouser suit lady needed different shoes , not open toed strappy bright blue Boden platforms! And cream suit lady looked crumpled and frumpy, high neck top and pearls a bit dated. I hate to have to say this but nearly all of the men looked much better < prepares to be shot down in flames>

So i am taking Dh shopping next week for new suit and shirts ( needed anyway as he only has one decent suit), non cheapo ties and a decent belt . Only major new purchase required is wool overcoat instead of regatta jacket hmm. Will ask around office to borrow a decent briefcase

Have decided against the cowboys boots for TA and FL wink. though liked the judges stories

ThAnks all for your help

mathanxiety Thu 18-Oct-12 04:58:36

Many female American lawyers go for an aggressive 'flaunting it' sexy look (or what they imagine to be sexy). For women, clothing has to be recognisably expensive -- it doesn't necessarily have to suit or flatter; in fact all the better if it looks as if you have lots of money to spend but not enough time to make sure you find something that looks good on you, and again, 'aggressive and not traditionally feminine' is the look women in law are looking for. A traditionally feminine woman would take care to look better.

If you look at the poses they are striking, none of them is flicking her hair or touching her face. The only one doing something resembling 'feminine' with her legs is the business development officer, who is possibly not a lawyer but someone with a business background. The others are standing legs apart or with their legs crossed, which is the equivalent of the hand in trouser pocket male pose. They wear really high heels because that is the 2012 equivalent of the 80s power suit. Shoes are also the women's equivalent of the male tie thing. The more noticeable the better (and noticeable for the wrong reasons is fine as that means you are not traditionally feminine).

Subtle style doesn't come into it. 'Mutton dressed as lamb' is a phrase too many have obviously never heard.

KristinaM Thu 18-Oct-12 09:18:33

It looks very odd to European eyes doesnt it? I expected dark coloured ( not nessarily black) very good quality tailoring, either dresses, skirts or trousres with/out jackets. And bright colours in shirts ,blouses or dresses. very good quality shoes -Leather with closed toe, not stripper heels . And expensive bags. Ad no obviously bare legs, certainly not with above knee skirts

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