Corporate Power Dressing (Interns Beware)

January 19th, 2016

We got an interesting reader question that got us talking about the unspoken rules of corporate attire. I was reminded of my brief days on Wall Street, and the psychological effect that menswear can have on big-business culture.

You see, I was the Wall Street summer intern wearing all the wrong items. Items that represent rank and experience. I was buying Gucci monkstraps and Italian spread collar shirts on eBay; with french cuffs, contrast collars, and all that. I was standing out in the wrong way. It would’ve been one thing if I could’ve backed it up with real industry knowledge and expertise, but I couldn’t. I was more into studying the menswear than the trading.

I learned many lessons that summer, including which menswear items and accessories are reserved for bosses. So, with that said, here are some items that are often considered earned in serious corporate environments (think big banks, formal law firms, etc) and thus should be avoided if you’re an intern or a rookie.

double-breasted-pinstripe-suit-contrast-collar-power-suiting

Pinstripes

The wider and more pronounced the stripe, the bolder the power statement. A wide chalkstripe, like this flannel, projects confidence, professionalism, and importantly, experience.

Double-Breasted Suits

A double-breasted suit is a mature look. Metaphorically, and psychologically, it puts another layer of cloth, and separation, between you and the next man. Most of the time a good double-breasted suit is custom-made, as well, so it can also be a sign that yes, your suit is bespoke. You could say something similar about 3-piece suits, although in my opinion they lean more toward professional than cocky.

Contrast Collar Shirts (Banker Collar)

The Gordon Gekko collar (all white, typically on a striped shirt) is a bold move. The original white collar was detachable; at the time it was seen as a sign of wealth that you could afford to wash and wear clean white collars every day. This hundred year old perception has not quite wore off.

navy-chalkstripe-double-breasted-suit-gold-watch-gold-cufflinks

Cufflinks & Collar Pins

Wearing unnecessary precious metals is in-your-face expensive, and could give off the wrong impression if you’re not in an in-your-face position.

A Gold Watch

Watch culture is a whole other beast. In some big-money offices there is a timepiece arms race happening out in the open that nobody is talking about. Chances are you’re not going to have the nicest watch in the office, so don’t even think about some faux-luxury stuff that is meant to “look expensive”. Keep it humble, or keep it 100.

Exotic Leathers

Nothing says “I got money” more than a pair of exotic leather shoes. As beautiful as they are, don’t go asking for a discount, or a tip, wearing a pair of alligator skins.

alligator-scarpe-di-bianco-shoes-chalkstripe-suit
  • Grey stripe contrast collar shirt by Ralph Lauren Black Label ·
  • Silk grenadine tie by Aklasu ·
  • Vintage gold cufflinks ·
  • “Gold” watch by Nixon ·
  • Crocodile captoe lace-ups by Scarpe di Bianco
  • · Navy Flannel Chalkstripe Suit

Navy Chalkstripe Flannel Suit

Thanks, as always, for reading. 

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier