Many of you may feel that what you wear for an interview is a secondary concern, but a couple of months ago, it was the top thought on my mind. I had been contacted by Kirby to meet following the news that I was going to the finals of the World Championship in Shoe Shining. Working in men’s clothing retail, I was typically one of the best-dressed guys most places I went and never gave it much thought past that. This occasion was different though. Knowing that Kirby was a man of both knowledge and taste on all things menswear I really had to think through what I would wear to our meeting. I thought about all the little details that he may notice; did I pick a good tie, did my jacket fit properly, were my pants to0 short(probably). I nervously put a couple looks together before deciding what I would wear.
While being prepared for all the questions in an interview about your work experience, product knowledge, and education are all extremely important, there is no denying that a strong visual impression is made when you meet someone for the first time, either conscious or subconscious. Whether you are someone like me who cares about clothes and the minutia of style, or just someone who wants to be presentable and respectful for your interview these guidelines will definitely point you in the right direction.
- A solid foundation
Every outfit must have a solid foundation, and for men that means shoes. If you are budgeting how much to spend on an outfit for an interview or just to have in your wardrobe, I highly recommend spending the most on your shoes. If you purchase a pair of high-quality shoes and maintain them well, they can last decades. I used to shine shoes for my tailor, and he had many pairs of beautiful Berluti whole cut shoes that he had been given as a gift. They were in immaculate condition and incredibly classic. He told me that the shoes were probably older than I am. Although he wore them gently, he also took proper care of them, something every young professional should learn how to do.
We recommend that for your footwear that you select a black or espresso leather cap toe oxford lace up. While these may seem like a boring and unexciting shoe to spend a significant amount of money on, remember this. An interview is not a time to show “self-expression” through your clothing. Wearing a well-polished pair of oxfords is a simple and elegant choice that shows professionalism.
- The Armor
It sounds clique at this point, but it is true, a suit really is a man’s modern armor. While your job may not require a suit, we wholeheartedly recommend having one. If you are only are going to have one suit in your wardrobe, it should be navy. The great thing about a navy suit in a year-round weight fabric is that it can act as three different outfits.
One, the full suit. You cannot go wrong wearing a suit to an interview. The worst thing that can happen is being slightly overdressed, which we believe to be much better than being underdressed.
Two, just the jacket. If you get a suit in a lightweight fresco or tropical wool, the suit jacket can double as an excellent blazer that would look very smart with grey or tan wool trousers.
Third, just trousers. The navy trouser is a staple of every man’s wardrobe and looks great with just a shirt and tie, or with an odd jacket (more on that later)
- Fit, fit, and fit!
Unlike many types of clothing that can fit well with no alterations, tailoring is not one of those things. Regardless of how much you spend on your suit or blazer, getting it tailored is key. It is always better to have a cheap suit that has been altered, vs an expensive one that does not fit. Finding a good alterations tailor can be very difficult and costly depending on where you are, but once you find one that is good, you will find yourself taking in old items to get the fit perfect.
We will cover proper etiquette for getting alterations in the future…
One important thing to remember when starting out with tailoring is that a good alterations tailor will know how to alter your clothes to fit your body type best. Your jacket should have a bit of shape without being tight. Having a ¼ inch of shirt cuff showing is the perfect amount.
The trousers should fit comfortably, while still having good lines. I would opt for a slight break in your trousers. If they are too long, they will look sloppy, too short and you might look like you are a bit too fashionable(me).
- Button Up
This will be the easiest part of your outfit to choose. Wear a white poplin dress shirt with a spread collar and button cuffs. The hardest part of finding a good dress shirt is finding the right collar that will compliment your tie as well as your suit. If your suit has a wider lapel, then picking a shirt with small collar point would look disproportional. You should aim to have your lapel width, collar point, and tie width all about the same width.
This is where many guys feel the need to go overboard, in an interview, wearing a tie bar, cufflinks, or other such items would not be appropriate. Remember that less is more, and subtlety is key. There are only two or three things you should be wearing, tie, pocket square, and maybe a watch.
For the tie, I would recommend a grenadine weave tie in either a solid dark color or with a stripe to add just a little something. A crisp white pocket square in a TV fold with just a small amount showing will do the trick.
This sums up the outfit I wore to my first meeting with Kirby almost exactly. I wore a Dark Blue Tropical Wool Jacket, Medium Grey Trousers, spread collar dress shirt, double monk strap shoes, a dark green grenadine tie, and a white pocket square.
I remember walking into my meeting with Kirby feeling confident, nothing was too showy, the fit was good, and I was ready. Hopefully, this article will help alleviate some of the stress of whatever interview you are preparing for and help you feel confident and ready.
If you have any questions about what we covered in this article or have any questions about menswear, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org