ASK DAN: Polyester Trends, Senior Ball, Tech Interview

May 7th, 2015


Polyester Trend?

Q: When I first started learning about men’s fashion, everything I read told me to avoid polyester at all costs and stick to natural fibers. But lately I have been seeing more and more high-end garments in a poly-cotton blends. Some even $1000+ suits at Nordstrom. Did polyester become cool and I didn’t get the memo?

A: Sounds like someone is trying to pull a fast one on you. You know how eating organic vegetables is better for you than eating laboratory-grown vegetables, only it’s slightly more expensive? It’s kind of like that with natural versus synthetic fabrics, with one important difference. Rather than lowering the price of the end product, many luxury brands will chose to increase their profit margin and sell at a price that is more consistent with their luxury marketing and their costumer’s expectations. Often times in fashion high prices are associated more with luxury labels than luxury fabrics or expert craftsmanship. There are even case studies of brands who under-price themselves out of the market, because perceived value is so closely tied to MSRP… No matter how you slice it, though, a poly/cotton suit for more than $1,000 is straight highway robbery unless it was sewn by hand, in France, by Pablo Picasso. I would avoid polyester in any tailored garment.

Senior Ballin’

Q: Hi guys, I’m graduating from Georgetown in a couple of weeks and I was hoping you’d be able to give me some advice on what to wear to my Senior Ball.  The dress code is “red carpet ready”, so not black tie per se but most guys are renting tuxedos. Currently I’m planning on wearing my navy wool suit (I don’t have a tux) with a white shirt, white pocket square and black diamond tip bow tie. Everything has been well-tailored so it fits great, but I feel like the outfit is missing something to make it stand out. Do you guys have any ideas?  I’ve considered swapping my black leather oxfords for black velvet slippers, wearing a lapel flower, etc.

A: Firstly, congrats on graduating! You made it. Secondly, who’s in charge of naming the dress codes at Georgetown these days? Whenever I hear “Red Carpet” I think black tie (well, I usually I think a cheesy “flashy” take on black tie) but I think it was simply meant as traditional black tie. As we showed in our Tuxedo Rental Alternatives article, a navy suit can be used for formal occasions, just as you mentioned. I would suggest going with a shirt that has a hidden placket, to go with the formal-ness of the black bowtie. I’ve been an outspoken nay-sayer to the lapel flower, but I’m not mad at a miniature boutonnière (a real flower, pinned to the lapel). I also like the idea of velvet slippers – perhaps worn sockless since it will be warm, and you will be feeling frisky. Enjoy the night!

Tech Office Interview

Q: I work in tech. Web development, specifically. An industry notorious for its laid back dress code and constant attempts to seem young and hip. I am also at a point where I will be interviewing for a new job soon. Advice around the web about wearing a suit a developer interview range from “they won’t really care” to “they’ll laugh at you as soon as you’re out of the room”. I’ve heard that wearing a suit will make you seem out of touch/not a good “cultural fit”, and also possibly make you seem older (ageism is rampant in Silicon Valley). Despite all of this, I still want to wear a suit. I pride myself on my sense of fashion. It’s part of who I am. It also makes me feel more confident, which will help in the interview. Any tips on doing so, but not coming off as old and stuffy? Maybe throw in some bright colors and loud patterns? That kind of thing?

A: For the love of tailoring you are willing to defy the odds. I love it. I think it depends on what time of suit you’re planning to wear, and how you’re planning to wear it. If you’re thinking of walking up in the Google office wearing a Wall Street pinstripe power suit with a high-collar shirt and alligator briefcase, that might be a little much. I would also avoid bright colors or anything overly coordinated like bold pattern-mixing. A suit can feel casual and comfortable, it just needs to look simple and refined in a laidback, non-chalant, not-trying-too-hard kind of way. Ideally you’re working with a solid neutral color (medium or dark) that is softly constructed. Go with a shirt that is simple and lighter than the suit to create a contrast. Lose the tie and open a couple shirt buttons. Maybe try it with a casual loafer rather than a hard-bottom lace-up, or even a plain sneaker. Ultimately, when you leave the room you want them to say “that guy is sharp and well put-together”, not “that guy is obviously really into fashion“. If you keep it simple and carry yourself with a comfortable confidence, my prediction is that they’ll appreciate the adaptive take on a traditional interview appearance. Good luck, let us know how it goes.


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Thanks, as always, for reading.

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier

  • q

    As someone in the tech field, I’d advise dressing as similarly as possible to your target peers, or only a bit more formally. If you want to be a dandy, save it for the weekends, or perhaps ramp up slowly once your new co-workers get to know (and like) you.

    For example, I merely wore wool trousers and a dress shirt, leather belt and shoes to an interview in NYC several years ago, and was greeted with a look of disgust by the young owners of the company when I walked in. (Once we began talking their perception changed, but by that point I had learned I wasn’t interested in the job.)

    I understand that this is an enjoyable hobby for many people, but the world has moved beyond the now centuries-old, costumed look of the upper class. It’s simply reality.

  • Genuine Men’s Mag

    Do we think that maybe companies are trying to pass off part polyester as some sort of weather proof-ed fabric? If it serves us correctly doesn’t SS offer a some weather resistant fabric options? I forget where we saw the article, that states companies (new and old) are investing in tech fabrics and interesting technologies. Good stuff as always.

  • From Squalor to Baller

    Regarding tech interview attire: when I changed careers and started interviewing at tech companies, my uniform was a navy blazer, chinos, chukkas, and an OCBD. To me, I felt that it split the difference between looking presentable but not out of place or out of touch. Just my two cents, but it worked for me!

  • ChrisD

    As a tech interviewer, it doesn’t matter what you wear. If it does, then I’d consider the company/interviewer too biased to want to work for (this is tech, not customer service). That aside – good advice from Dan.

    Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable. If that’s suit and tie or tshirt and Birkenstocks, it really doesn’t matter (I’ve seen it all). Just don’t dress too warmly as you’ll heat up when stressed and start sweating. Don’t wear much scent as interview rooms are often close-quartered.

  • Joe

    Thanks Dan! I felt inclined to comment on this one, as my last job was as a web developer at a company with extremely casual dress, and I became involved in the process of hiring new web developers.

    Despite working on a team were shorts and sandals were acceptable in the summer, a job interview is a different game. Most candidates would show up in a nice shirt and pants. When candidates did wear a suit and tie, they made a markedly better impression. It showed their seriousness and made us take them more seriously as a candidate, every single time (even when they wrote that suit poorly!). Still, it is better not yo overdo it. Having been on the other side of the table, I think Dan’s advice is spot on!

  • JoeFromTexas

    Good advice for the interviewee (dressing for an interview is how I found this site in the first place several years ago). I’ve always thought it would be cool, when applying a tech job with an informal dress code, to go for the NASA engineer look. Slim fitting black chinos, a white short sleeve dress shirt that fits really well, a black tie (preferably a silk knit to keep it casual), and either black, plain toe bluchers (Doc Martens?) or black high top chucks. Then put a casual/unstructured medium grey blazer on top. Take the blazer off when you sit down for the interview and you’re still put together, but informal and making a nod toward geek culture (that bestbuy tries to appropriate with their geek squad).

  • Teeman

    Good tips. For the job interview, I’d like to add that it’s 100% acceptable, and preferable, to be dressed more formally than the person conducting the interview. Even in laid back companies, you never know who you’ll be sitting across from.

    If a suit, and gasp, a tie, gives you confidence, then suit up.

    • Don Draper

      I agree 100% with you on that you should look more formal than most people at most firms do on an average workday.

      In my experience a suit or a dressed down combination of chino’s/trousers and a formal blazer (i.e. light/dark grey and darker shades of blue) without pocket square (yes not even a presidential fold even though you will feel totally naked without it) together with an understated tie are your safest bet for sure. It makes you look put together, professional and not like you dress much better than the management team.

      It does depend however on the company and the actual job you are interviewing for. If you are looking to be hired as a top-level manager and/or director you can probably assuredly put on your power business suit.

      • AdamE

        I work in a casual end of business casual office (as in technically we’re business casual, but half of the people here don’t know what that means, and dress casual…), but for an interview, they don’t bat an eye if you wear a suit and tie. That said, know the employer and their culture, I certainly wouldn’t slum it, and I totally get the suit is your armor mentality and feel most confident wearing one of my suits (although most days at the office, i tend to wear separates, rather than matched trouser/blazer), but I would say dress the suit down… Consider separates (un-matched blazer and trousers, but that still work well together), consider having more fun with the shirt, and going with some pattern, and maybe a knit tie, rather than something too stiff and corporate.
        I find it preferable to be more formally dressed than an interviewer (better to be a professional among slobs than a slob among professionals), but by a notch, not by a mile… People like to be impressed, but they never like it when it’s rubbed in their faces…

        • Don Draper

          I agree! When more flamboyant/dandy style accents are frowned upon in your office or future office, you can still have fun with the shirt colours/patterns and ties without “peacocking”. And like da Vinci said: “The ultimate sophistication is simplicity”, dressing the part in an understated way is ofttimes much more impressive than the Pitti Uomo style.

  • Don Draper

    Great tip on the job interview question. Recently I had an interview at a big but more informal company and so I dressed down to a level where I looked put together and knowledgeable but not like I was interviewing for the position of CEO and I got the job.

    I did the latter once before because I wanted to impress the interviewers and the result was me sitting across two managers in tshirts and jeans (later I even met another manager in tshirt and shorts). Now naturally I did not get that job and they even told me I was overdressed, so make sure you do your due dilligence on the company culture and dress humbly so to speak.

    Once you are in you can slowly start to bring out the pocket squares, suspenders and tie clips. I did this during my internship and all my colleagues’ reactions were so positive.

    • Miguel

      I have to agree with you, you have to know what company you’ll be working for, do some research, even camp outside and see how everyone dresses.