A Starter Kit for Starting Out
Guess what? You’re already talking even before you open your mouth when going in and meeting with a potential agency, and that’s because your wardrobe is speaking before you do. It only takes an instant to form an opinion, one that can last right up to agency rep closing the interview with, “We’ll be in touch if something comes up.” So, if you didn’t have the advantage of a prep-school education, learning the appropriate way to dress for the occasion, you’re going to need to learn business dress basics for crushing it on that first temp interview.
Style is everything, and the key to success for the Official Temp when walking into that agency or first assignment is to look like you don’t need the job. That’s right. Because of this egomaniacal and shallow society of ours, the one who looks like they have it has it! And in today’s business climate, enhanced by the nasty influence of reality television, it’s all about image and you’ll be a lot happier on this planet the sooner you realize it.
Don’t believe us? Check out this little fact: 65% of employers say that between two identical candidates with the exact same experience, they will always hire the better dresser. See?
We’re not expecting you to be an office fashionista, or pray at the style-alter of Carey Grant, as we do here at The Official Temp. But, we do expect you to be able to start selecting some killer basics for your business wardrobe that will carry you straight into lunch invitations with senior management.
You don’t have to break the bank, not entirely, but we are going to ask that you at least break a sweat in your search. And that means groundwork.
Our first starting point is always Nordstrom’s Rack. If there’s one in your area, you can find amazing deals on great labels at one-third the cost of major department stores. We ourselves have found white-hot Theory suits there for practically nothing. If they don’t have one in your neighborhood, a good runner up would be Banana Republic, that would be on-sale Banana Republic. Or, if you’re lucky enough to live in a city with an original Brooks Brothers – run to it like you’re on fire. Their staff knows exactly what they are doing when it comes to business attire. The most important thing here to remember when you’re beginning your pursuit is this — you’ve got to treat your search for a killer suit like you’ve just landed the date of your life, and you want that person to fall in love with you. There’s no difference. And don’t waste your time at TJ Maxx or Ross, they aren’t going to have what you need.
Buying the perfect interview suit requires some Official Temp guidance. And as an Official Temp, there is only two colors for you. Dark grey or Navy blue. Solid – no patterns or stripes! Period.
Look for a wool-blend gabardine (or all wool, of course), and two button straight cut. Don’t even stop at the double-breasted suits for one minute. They’re absurd unless you live in London. And ALWAYS make sure there’s button-hole stitching at the cuff. Nothing screams “cheap” louder than cuff buttons with no button-hole stitching.
Where ever you go, always bring a dress shirt with you, no t-shirt underneath. Slip the jacket on, button the first button, and place the palm of your hand against your chest. If it is too easy, the suit is too loose. You want it fitted, without being too tight. If there is a creased “X” where the suit is top buttoned, it’s too tight. There should never be buckles in the fabric or any creases near the shoulder. It should ultimately feel like an extension of your skin, flat, not something you’re swimming in, nor lacking for oxygen. Check for any rise below the collar on the back of the suit between the shoulders. The jacket arm length should fall right at the top of the wrist, keeping in mind that the shirt should poke out no more than ½” in length – max.
No Pleats! It’s not a golf course. Flat front always. Be sure when trying the pants on that they create an attractive line, not something akin to curtains with a belt, and be sure that they taper nicely down the leg, with the smallest break possible at the front of the pant where the material meets the shoe. You can buy the pants a little larger if you’re worried about any fluctuations in weight, as they can always be taken in. Never buy too snug, it’s virtually impossible letting out pants that are too tight. And please remember to wear underwear – not boxers when you’re trying on your suits (do we really need to explain why?)
Go back to Banana Republic for this one. They make some of the best fitted dress shirts for the buck. Yes, we will be discussing at a later point the differences between Poplin, Pinpoint, and Twill, but for now you need to think one word – Cotton! White. Straight point collar. Proper length, dropping ½ inch maximum from the sleeve of the suit. Not too loose, not too tight. Spend the time looking for the right shirt – do not rush it. This really sticks out with an interviewer, if he or she thinks for a minute you borrowed anyone’s clothes because they don’t fit right, and then you’ve just blown your morning getting ready for nothing. And no French cuffs – ever. And please use the collar stays!
Dark, preferably Navy, any particular pattern, as long is it isn’t distracting. Think sophisticated or Sunday Mass. And it really needs to be silk. It just does.
The Knot – Single Windsor. YouTube directions.
The Length – The bottom tip of the tie should just barely touch the top of the belt buckle.
For God’s sake, just invest in a decent black belt, 1 and a ½ inches in width, and one that fits properly – which means, never more then three holes past the buckle. Two is pushing it. One hole, and they may not validate your parking. And pass on anything matted or gold-plated, and certainly no screaming buckles by high-end designers, knock-off or otherwise. That’s just tacky.
Back to Nordstrom’s Rack you go. We have found jaw-dropping deals on men’s shoes, good men’s dress shoes that will last you a lifetime if you take proper care of them, including solid brands such as Gordon Rush, H by Hudson, Clarks, and Cole Haan. DSW, if you have one in your neighborhood, is also an excellent source for dress shoes at a reasonable rate. You need to be careful about buying shoes on-line, unless you’re a skilled shopper. Like suits, you need to see and feel them before making the purchase.
They should be black, lace-up, a good polish, and with no more than a 1” heel. Clean and simple.
Believe it or not – this is an important subject. We’ve actually seen people wearing white socks into interviews with really bad suits and even worse shoes. Not the Official Temp. You’ll be able to show off some of your flare later down the line with crazy socks, which we love with good suits. But until then, stick with black sheer socks, or in very rare instances, you can push it with some dark plaid socks, but they better be conservative. Not cotton, but wool. Wool actually absorbs moisture better and reeks less when you kick off your shoes at the end of the day, and is another way of caring for your new found purchase.
No. Period. Remove all rings but your wedding ring, that is if you’re locked in that institutional dungeon.
Nothing loud and obnoxious. It isn’t a club. If it’s smart and doesn’t distract, by all means. However, a real winner with us is any Swatch watch. Not the bright ones, but the darker colors. They are still completely cool and make a statement that you are practical, professional, and breezy all at the same time, such as you probably play volleyball on weekends right after you balance your checkbook. Employers eat up these watches for some reason. And if you should be fortunate enough to have a valuable timepiece, perhaps willed to you from a relative upon their death, leave it at home. You’ll just piss-off the interviewer and they’ll spend the entire time staring at it, wondering why they don’t have one. It’s human nature.
Coming up – haircuts and mannerisms. And don’t worry. We will get you up to the fashion big leagues, becoming the best dressed person in your organization, but baby steps. One at a time. Until then, get shopping. Remember, you’re an Official Temp now, and you have a uniform.
Oh, and picking up a copy of Italian GQ wouldn’t hurt.