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4 Menswear Experts on Nailing the Interview Outfit

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Courtney Mays’s client Chris Paul, looking confident and cool in a polka-dot suit / Getty Images

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October 15, 2018

Over the last decade, so much has changed about the way we work—and that includes what we wear to do our jobs. We’re guessing you’ve noticed that there’s only a select number of industries that still require men to wear a suit to work everyday—and that there’s a growing number who count hoodies and sneakers as acceptable workwear on top of that (guilty as charged). That freedom is wonderful on every day except maybe one: The day you interview for the gig. With the pendulum swinging from fleece-wear to tailoring and back again, figuring out how to present yourself for that all-important first meeting can be tricky, and potentially hurt your chances of landing the job if not executed properly.

 

While, yes, what you should wear to an interview will change depending on what industry you work in and what specific role you’re applying for, there are still some universal truths every modern guy can benefit from. Here to break them down are four people who spend every day helping men look their best and sharpest. Listen, learn, then go grab that job. Worst comes to worst and you don’t get the offer you’re looking for, you’ll still have a top-notch fit to flex in on your next big meeting or night out.

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The Expert: George McCracken, senior style manager at Bonobos

Blending in is not the goal.

 

“Simply looking ‘appropriate’ is no longer sufficient in the way that it was in the past, when conformity to corporate structures was expected of employees. Since the introduction of social media about ten years ago, self-expression has morphed into something like personal branding. Personal appearance has become an essential part of building a desirable brand that will attract potential employers.”

 

The formal interview look.

 

“A clean, fitted but not tight, two-button navy suit, crisp white cotton shirt, simple matte silk navy tie with a subtle pattern and classic black oxford shoes or cap toe shoes without any exaggerated details works well. The Bonobos Jetsetter Stretch Wool Suit is the perfect example.”

 

The casual interview look.

 

“This is a much more difficult question, because it is specific to the job, but take the same well-fitted navy suit and pair it with simple white or black leather sneakers (nothing overtly branded) and a lightweight navy crewneck sweater, sweater polo, or white shirt. Navy and white always look great together and everyone looks good in those colors.”

 

For the guy on a budget.

 

“Spend the money getting the clothes that you already own tailored, cleaned and pressed, get your shoes shined, and get a haircut from a decent barber.”

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The Expert: Courtney Mays, stylist to Chris Paul, Kevin Love and Anthony Anderson

The formal interview look.

 

“Keep it classic and timeless: A navy or grey fitted two-button suit with crisp white shirt and tie. Cognac lace-up oxford (cap-toe is a favorite). Don't forget a white cotton folded pocket square. All of those adjectives are crucial when picking the square… Yes, square; yes, cotton; and yes, white. It’s a bit of a distraction when there is a puff of pastel silk hanging from your jacket! I’m into the accessories, so try for a slim tie bar and fun socks. Those small details don't go unnoticed and allow you to show a shade of your personal style without going overboard.”

 

The casual interview look.

 

“I believe a suit means business regardless of the occasion or how casual the interview. Maybe instead of the shirt and tie, wear a crisp white crewneck tee or thin grey merino wool sweater. Try a pair of white low-top (Common Projects) sneakers or even something tonal with your suit. (New Balance and J.Crew have done this styling well!)

 

"Another thought. Maybe a casual interview is your time to show off your creative side. Bring out your new olive cotton suit or double-breasted windowpane jacket. As long as the silhouette reads 'suit,' I think you're good to go.”

 

Make sure your suit fits like a dream.  

 

“When have you ever heard someone say, 'I hate a man in a suit?' Never. What’s lame is ill-fitting, dated styles! Spend time getting your suit tailored to fit you properly—even if it’s just at your local dry cleaner. Slim your pant legs in addition to getting rid of any break at the hem and make sure your jacket is well-tailored both open and closed. Consider slimming the sleeves!"

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The Expert: Nish de Gruiter, vice president of Suitsupply

What not to wear to an interview.

 

“You want to keep it very moderate with your interview style. Don’t wear anything too aggressive like a pinstripe suit or a loud shirt. Never wear a red tie. Don’t wear jewelry or an oversized watch. If you’re wearing a tie or a pocket square, go for tonal solids or subtle patterns that don’t make too much noise. Just keep it all very clean so that your personality can shine.”

 

The formal interview look.

 

“If you are going for a bank job or a finance job, then a suit and tie is probably naturally part of who you are and how you present yourself. Basic navy or gray is always a good move. If you are interviewing for a marketing or PR job, on the other hand, a suit worn without a tie might feel more appropriate. Just leave the top two buttons and the collar unbuttoned.”

 

The casual interview look.

 

“If you’re interviewing at a startup, where the norm is hoodies and jeans, I would recommend a button-down shirt, ironed really well, and dark jeans. Tuck the shirt in and wear an understated belt, then finish the look with nice sneakers.”

 

Details matter. Think through every move.

 

“If you’re carrying a bag, make sure it’s clean. Polish your shoes. Make sure your folders and papers are well organized and that they are not sloppy and wrinkled. Get a haircut and shave. Arrive on time. Send a nice follow-up email or card with the hiring manager’s name on it. These are all small things that show that you are detail-oriented and take pride in yourself and your work. I think they mean a lot.”

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The Expert: Warren Alfie Baker, stylist to KJ Apa, Barry Keoghan and Lucas Hedges

Why you should put time into your interview attire.

 

“Younger people and younger companies are way more relaxed about the interview process. And that’s OK. But that doesn’t mean looking your very best won’t help your chances of getting the job! When you look sharp, you look smart.”

 

The formal interview look.

 

“I would always say a suit is a great interview look. Or, some great fitting trousers with a nice shirt always speaks volumes. I would keep the suit in solids and generally cooler tones. If you want a little personality, do something interesting with your tie or pocket square.”

 

The casual interview look.

 

“You can still use the suit but maybe wear it with a great fitting T-shirt and some cool, clean sneakers like a pair from Common Projects. Stick with the cool tones and solids!”

 

Things to avoid.

 

“Never wear anything too loud. You want your personality to shine through on the interview, not your clothes. Don’t wear anything too trendy either. It’s likely the person interviewing you won’t get it and it could hurt your chances of getting the job.”