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Job Magician Guide to Men's Interview Attire  

Yes, I notice right away how someone is dressed when I meet them.  You know full well that that is the first thing you notice when you interview someone as well. 

Cheap suits and shoes with worn down heels will make you look worn outDress a notch better than you can afford to, and not only will you make a better impression, but you’ll feel more confident at the same time.  Spending some money to look fantastic during your job search is something that you must do if your closet is full of business casual and a couple of ill-fitting suits that you last wore six years ago.  You need to look like a $200,000 or $500,000 executive, not an Accountant, grade 2.  You will only need two suits, two pairs of shoes, plus a few shirts and ties to have enough variety for multiple interviews at the same company.

Think wool, leather, cotton and silk when you dress for an interview.  Stay away from anything with any plastic in it, and that includes your pen and your portfolio.

Here are some of the basics on the types of clothes to choose:

Suits.  All wool, and no polyester.  This should go without saying, but you should pass on any suit that even has a small amount of polyester, such as a 3% blend.  They never look as good as solid wool, and the wool blend suits are never made with top grade wool.

There are basically three types of suits: fused, half-canvassed and full-canvassed.  Fused suits are the least expensive, and are glued rather than stitched in certain areas.  A fully- canvassed suit will move as you do, and looks less stiff.  Half-canvassed suits are fused in the bottom and sewn in the top. Expect to pay $1000 or more for a fully canvassed suit, unless you can find one on sale.  You almost always get a better looking suit as you pay more.  Hart Schaffner Marx is a good quality, basic, half-canvassed suit.  Hickey Freeman suits are fully-canvassed and a couple notches better.  Brooks Brothers’ Golden Fleece line, Oxxford and Canali are progressively better.

Fused suits are particularly noticeable when they are summerweight.  Winter weight suits are inherently stiffer, regardless of whether they are fully canvassed or not.  I think that winterweight suits look better, but don’t wear one in the summer or you won’t look successful enough (you’ll also look too hot).  You can wear a summerweight suit any season.

And pay attention to the wool.  I bought some stylish suits on sale that were made from cheap material a number of years ago before I knew any better, and they looked ratty fast.  If you can get super 100s wool or better, you’ll look sleek and the suit will feel more comfortable.

What you need depends on the level of the position you’re seeking and your industry.  Go to the higher end if you’re in financial services or law. 

Fit is most important!  An expensive suit that fits poorly is far worse than a $300 suit that fits well.  You can make a suit look almost custom tailored by having a tailor make a cut here and there, and usually this will cost you less than $100 a suit.

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Cotton Shirts.
  Once again, nothing with any polyester.  We all know that cotton shirts wrinkle, but polyester blends always look cheap.  Make sure they're ironed and starched, and consider some of the higher end all cotton non-iron shirts that are on the market today.  These non-iron shirts still need a touch of ironing, but they wrinkle less than all cotton shirts.

  Your tie needs to be 100% silk, of course, but there are plenty of $10 and $20 ties you can find on the sale rack that are 100% silk.  The cheap silk ties are thin and often get runs, so get something with some heft to it.

Leather Shoes.  You should have two pairs of leather shoes with leather soles – lace-ups, not loafers.  A black pair and a Cordovan pair will match any suit you have.  I wear Allen Edmonds, which look good, last forever, and are much more comfortable than most all-leather shoes.

Belt.  Once again, leather, and it should match your shoes and complement your suit, shirt and tie.

Socks.  Socks need to match your pants, not your shoes.  If they match your shoes, your legs will look short.

Briefcase - all leather.  Someone once told me that a consultant is someone who comes from 1000 miles away and carries a $1000 briefcase.  You are probably not interviewing to be a consultant, but you want to come across as someone who is just as believable as consultants are supposed to be.  A leather briefcase may not be as popular and is not as easy to find as it once was, but you will make a better impression if you come in with a high-quality briefcase.  The best leather briefcases somehow seem to look better as they age. Korchmar, Atlas, Schlesinger and Hartmann still make beautiful, all leather briefcases.

Watch.  Leave your digital watch at home.  Make sure you have a nice looking gold- or silver-colored watch with a leather watchband.  Simple, unpretentious and classic is best here.

Pen.  Carry a simple Cross pen – no plastic cheapies.

Notez Bien:  Always keep an extra shirt, tie and t-shirt in your car, in case you spill something or your car gets all steamy (and you look like wet laundry) because you got hung up in traffic.  If you have to change to look good, do so.

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