I need to know the hard and fast "rules" for interview dress

Okay, so I have an important interview coming up and I need to know the hard and fast rules for what’s appropriate in the dress compartment. I’ve decided to invest in a new suit, and the favorite model that I’m currently considering is a Banana Republic dark charcoal grey with a normal light-grey pinstripe. Is this suit possible objectionable to even the most conservative old man?


Second, regarding shoes, what about boots? I have a pair of black leather seamless rounded-toe boots but the salesperson at the store was adamant that lace-ups and only lace ups were acceptable. I have a pair of square-toed lace ups that I could change to if necessary.

Finally, what about the shirt? Is an off-white shirt acceptable or is that, “flashy?” Should it only be a white or light blue shirt with a conservative tie?


A lot like this shirt in, “grey literature.” (Don’t sneer at me, I’m not the one that comes up with stupid color names)

I’m not going for looking hot, I’m going for unobjectionable in any sense. So, if you’re someone that knows about the men’s fashion “rules” I’d appreciate your input.

Google throws up lots of stuff, but I need someone I can trust on this matter.

The suit is certainly generic and unobjectionable. I don’t mean that it a bad way. It sounds like what you are aiming for. If you really want unobjectionable, you should get some black low-rise shoes in a conservative pattern. Square toe is good if done well.

It depends on the type of job you are going for. If this is for an early career generic off ice type job, then you should be all set. If it is for high finance or hard sales, then you way want a custom fitted Italian job.

Personally, I interview a lot of people and what they are wearing isn’t on my top 10 things to look at as long as it is within reason. I just say that to bring back the perspective that who you are and what you say are still what counts.

Hard and fast rules - nothing that shows off tattoos or belly button rings.

The suit looks fine. Off white would be fine. I’d go with shoes, not boots - but in Boulder, you could probably get by fine with boots.

No squared off shoes or boots. Light colored shirt on first and second interview. Dark suit but don’t try to look like you’re going to a funeral. Nice tie that goes with shirt and suit. Don’t wear the same suit for both interviews if they’re close together. Buy a cheap valise (that looks nice) and a good pen. Take notes, ask questions. Close the deal by asking when they will be making a decision (I didn’t and they took 2 1/2 months to make me an offer).

Off-white is generally considered better than white, in Spain… but in Spain, we also expect people to go to interviews with “real clothes” that they may use for other fancy occasions. The shirt should be light but preferably not white (light colors work better with most complexions than white does).

Never wear a black suit, black tie and white shirt unless the job is for the Blues Brothers Band.

Shoes, not boots. I’m a boot person myself, but I do wear shoes for interviews.

Is anyone else worried that a pinstripe, even as subtle of a pinstripe as the OP posted, might be too flashy? Whenever they have a dapper, smug, rich guy on Law and Order, they put him in a pinstripe. Maybe it’s okay if only the jacket is striped?

For me, it depends on the nature of the interview. Is it an interview for a job? An interview with the press? You are the press? Or what?

Assuming job, it depends on the level of job you’re seeking. Dress in the way that you would dress on an ordinary day for that job. Pinstripes are more for financial positions, I think. Things like broker, comptroller, Chief Financial Officer. If it’s a corporate officer level position, but not financial, I’d go with basic black, three button, white shirt, black shoes. If it’s a management position, I’d go with medium to dark gray, two button, pastel shirt. (But not pink.) If it’s a sales position, I’d go with blue or light gray, two button, bold shirt (including pink), bold tie. If it’s a clerical position, I wouldn’t wear a suit. Just a neat, conservative sports jacket, white shirt, blue tie. If it’s for grunt work (digging ditches, working in the warehouse, etc.), I’d wear a clean, sporty beige camel hair jacket, white shirt over white tee, no tie, and sturdy brown shoes.

In other words, dress for the job you’re seeking. It helps the interviewer to pigeon-hole you on first impression. “Yeah, he looks perfect for the new accounts manager.”

Cut your hair. Trim your nails. Trim your ear and nose hair and shave away that uno-eyebrow. Borrow your friend’s Rolex.

Make sure whatever you wear fits properly. Spend the extra $30 to $50 to have something fitted.

Test your suit on a friend…if they say you look nice without being prompted, then you probably do.


No, it’s good. Conservative, but not solid black which, as Nava said, makes you look like an undertaker or a fugitive from the Blues Brothers.

Second, regarding shoes, what about boots?

No to boots. They mess up the way the pants “break” over the shoe top, and they look weird when you sit down and your trouser leg rides up a bit (as it always does). IMO, you don’t need lace-up shoes if you generally wear some variety of slip-on – lace-ups are preferable, but I wouldn’t buy a new pair if I was never going to wear them again. But the shoes must be new or polished, not scuffed. And wear proper trouser socks in the same shade as the shoe – black in this case, I presume – not the little ankle kind that will show your shin when you sit down.

Off-white or cream is fine – looks better than stark white, IMO, which can be a little glaring. Light blue would also be fine. I might recommend a pin-striped shirt with a solid-colored suit, but with a pinn-striped suit I’d definitely wear a solid-colored shirt.

The tie: Suble pattern but not busy, no checks or stripes. (Diagonally-pinstriped ties are okay, but I probably wouldn’t pick one to go with a pinstripe suit.) I assume you know how to tie a proper knot. People who tell you the type of knot matters are sartorial wankers, but do make sure the thing is firmly knotted and centered. I would suggest you consider working a bit of color into outfit with the tie, just to brighten up the look a little and pull it together. “Completely unobjectionable” shouldn’t equal “totally forgettable dial-tone.” But subtle, subtle, subtle. No white on the tie if you’re going with cream/off-white for the shirt.

Jewelry should be a wedding ring (if applicable) and watch only. No stickpin, tie-clasp, nada. No handkerchief in the pocket. I wouldn’t worry about the watch, just wear your own, unless it’s, you know, a grape Swatch or something. You won’t be looking at it during the interview anyway.

Get a hair cut a couple days before the interview. Shave. (Duh.) Make sure your nails are clean and trimmed; do not manicure them.

I think you have to dress a lot better than you would on an ordinary day for the job. I think you should try to dress as you think the supervisor one level up from you would dress, and on his/her best day, at that. As a lawyer, my interview dress isn’t “here’s what I wear on an ordinary day,” it’s “here’s what I wear on my first day of an important trial.”

I’m guessing you’re not interviewing for a warehouse job. If you were, they’ed laugh you right out of the place with that suit. Most warehouse men prefer solids over stripes.

Seriously, you should tell us what kind of job you are interviewing for. It makes all the difference. Over-dressing can be just as bad as under-dressing. It gives the impression that you are unsure about how to fit into the culture of the job. You’ll look, and feel, uncomfortable. In my book, appearng uncomfortable is far more damaging than wearing a pinstriped suit could ever be.

If you’re not sure what to buy, I’d suggest going to a good men’s store instead of Banana Republic. I think there is a Nordstrom department store not far from Boulder. You might just go there and put yourself at the mercy of a salesperson. (The store is a little pricey, but the Banana Republic suit to which you linked costs $325.)

I am with Jodi. Dress for your immediate superior’s job, not for the job you want.

The suit is fine, but if you really want a good suit, go to a men’s store that will tailor a suit to you. BR clothes are very nice, but in my experience they wear out quickly.

Round toe, not square. Even in Boulder’s very permissive (even “liberal”) work environments, a square toe screams “hipster” or “fashion plate” to a conservative boss of a particular stripe. I’d avoid boots altogether and wear wingtips or loafers in black.

My gray suit has a light gray shirt to go with it. Ideally you’ll be purchasing the suit (jacket and pants) with three or four shirts (white, a matching gray, perhaps a matching blue) and three or four ties (at least one to match each shirt). Two no-no’s for an interview outfit are a shirt with a different colored collar, and buttons on the corners of the collars. The former can be regarded as too trendy, and the latter as (very mildly) unprofessional or childish.

Jos. A. Bank (and probably Amazon) carry a book called A Gentleman Gets Dressed Up which will tell you more than you ever needed to know about the rules of men’s fashion, and keep you from making some of the tackier mistakes. It also makes a great graduation gift.

The most important thing for a conservative suit is that it be dark blue or grey. Within those, you can actually have a little bit of pattern. I would be amazed if anyone considered a chalk stripe or a glen plaid too “flashy.”

For an interview I would stick with a white or light blue shirt, tho I seriously doubt anyone other than the most stuck-up firm would object to grey, ivory, etc. Could probably get away with a subtle stripe or check. Just so long as you don’t use your interview as an opportunity to trot out your pink or green shirt with white cuffs. (I tend towards white shirts, just so I can dress quickly in the morning without worrying whether I match!)

Wear a nice pair of black dress socks - consider over-the-calf if you think you might cross your legs or something. With the shoes, I’d be very surprised if any but the snobbiest objected to slip-ons, but I would recommend against boots or square toes for the interview. I’d probably avaind anyhting too “trendy” if possible.

Wearing a nice suit will be unlikely to get you the job. The main thing is you don’t want to give the interviewer any thing in your attire or grooming to latch on as a reason for disliking you. Once you get the job, you can most likely dispense with most of these rules.

You didn’t say how often you anticipated wearing a suit if you got the job. I agree with those who suggest you should buy quality clothes/shoes that fit you well.

(Above based on 20+ years of lawyering, tho now we go casual dress when not in court.)

Okay, since it seems to be important to the questions at hand, the interview is for a medical school, so it’s not actually a job per se.

The reason I was leaning towards the BR suit was price. Although it’s expensive on line, in the store it can be had for just north of $200 right now with the matching pants.

Also, I’ll go ahead and wear the shoes instead of the boots like it seems the majority have suggested and get the black socks to go with the lace up shoes.

One final question, should I bring a pen with me in the suit outside breast-pocket? I’m used to always having one there and I do have a nice one (Lamy Safari Vista fountain pen if anyone needs to know), but I don’t know if that’s okay or not.

So then, The Dope is one group of snappy dressers then, huh?

I don’t know about Boulder, but chalk-striped charcoal suits are part of the regular business uniform on the East Coast.

Yeah … If you’re interviewing to be a circus clown! :wink:

A valid criticism, and in fact partly what I meant to say. I should have inserted the word “doing” between “for” and “that”: so, “Dress in the way that you would dress on an ordinary day for [doing] that job”.

If you’re gonna be a lawyer, dress as you would for first day at trial. If you’re gonna be an accountant, dress as you would for a field audit. If you’re gonna be a waiter, dress as you would to meet the public.

I’m not sure about the dress like your supervisor advice, though. If you happen to get the sort of interviewer who admires your ambition, that’s great. But a lot of interviewers might mistake the signal as being a troublemaker. Or worse, the person who will supervise you is also the interviewer and feels threatened by ambition when your only ambition is to get the job in question rather than climb the ladder of success. So, I think it could go either way.

Sorry. Meant to add: be certain to shine your shoes. Don’t go in with them all scuffed up and battered.

I strongly, strongly recommend that you do not demonstrate, with beaming pride, how your Star Trek communicator lapel pin actually chirps when you tap it.

Yes, this happened once. No, we didn’t make a job offer.

But they tell me to be myself!