This post, about how to wear a men’s suit in Silicon Valley, ties in to the last post about how to buy a men’s suit in Silicon Valley. Once you’ve bought the appropriate suit or suits for business and social occasions, it’s time to put one on and wear it. But there are some cultural rules about how to wear a mens suit in Silicon Valley.
Wearing a suit to a job interview in Silicon Valley could be totally inappropriate. If you’re interviewing at a large tech company, you absolutely have a responsibility to research what the corporate culture is like. Wearing a suit to an interview at a more conservatively run company is acceptable and expected, particularly if your position is in sales, is a high level management role, or is high profile. If the position you’re interviewing for is in engineering, be sure to study the corporate culture further before looking too formal.
Start up companies tend to have less published information available to tell you about their cultures. But it’s pretty reliable advice to never wear a tie with a suit to an interview. You’ll look too formal and out of place at a business that moves faster than a knot around your neck conveys. I love ties as much as anyone, but don’t blow an interview opportunity because you showed up wearing one.
Many young people with brilliant ideas pitch their concepts to venture capitalists looking like they’ve been up all night and disheveled. It could enhance your presence to show up wearing a suit, but it had better look modern, and you should wear it in a more relaxed way. The key here is to wear a suit in a way that differentiates you and makes you memorable in a good way. Even though, the venture capital community really wants to know about a great idea with strong potential, they are buying you as much as they are buying your widget. You’re the brains behind the idea, and looking more engaging says something about what you’re creating.
Wearing a suit to a dressy social occasion can definitely enhance your experience of the occasion, and can also give people a fresh perspective about you. Just be sure that you’re not wearing a suit that looks like it could be a business suit to that social occasion. Suits with stripes look more businesslike. Better to err on the side of wearing a suit with a solid fabric and with a clean silhouette. If you like patterns, consider windowpanes or subtle checks.
Suits with narrow lapels, whether notch or peak styles, look great with a narrow tie or without neckwear. Don’t wear a standard width tie with a narrow lapel suit. Suit pants that are cut slimmer will be hemmed to a length that is shorter than you might consider being typical. If you’re going in the modern narrow lapel suit style, also be sure to wear a shirt with a shorter pointed collar. Also beware that narrow lapels don’t look smart on a fuller body frame because narrow lapels will only make a thick neck or broad shoulders look even thicker and broader. Just because a style looks directional and fashionable doesn’t mean that it’s going to be right for you.
Today’s modern suits are typically going to feature a higher armhole, a higher button stance, and a shorter coat length. If there’s some old suit lurking around in your closet, it may look ancient as compared to the look, feel, and attitude of the more current models. Granted, men’s suit styles evolve at a glacial pace. But when most brands and designers embrace the new look, it’s important to evolve your wardrobe, too.
It’s very important to look and feel great in your suit. In addition to the suit itself, finishing touches like shoes, belts, shirts, ties, and sportswear items all can help you to create a look of distinction and of individuality. Here in Silicon Valley, the counterculture sensibilities are what created our rules of dressing. Use the counterculture spirit to your best advantage to create a look that is as memorable as it is appropriate.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs transform their self-confidence by improving their personal style. Get Joseph’s free report that helps you know which “7 Ways Your Image Is Leading to Low Performance” at josephrosenfeld.com.