As you know, first impressions count. As an attorney, you always want to look understated, professional and dignified. Most lawyers don’t want to be perceived as flashy, dandy-like or fashionable, there are some who do. After all, who doesn’t want to show some personality and fashion. Some advice I give new attorneys is to build a wardrobe with the basics and add personality with accessories until you get a handle what best for your firm and clientele. At the same time, you don’t want to be like a cartoon character who wears the exact same thing every day.
This guide is about what to wear at the office, when you meet clients and what to wear in court. If you want to learn how to dress for a job interview as a lawyer, I’ll cover this in a upcoming blog. Stay tuned. Of course, if you work in environmental law, or if you have a lot of musicians or artists as your clients, your dress code could be more relaxed.
The suit is the hallmark of a lawyer’s wardrobe. Dark solids are your friend. An ideal suit would be a single-breasted one, with a notched lapel. Ideally, you have flat front slacks and regular hems at the bottom. Some gentleman prefers pleats and cuffs. It’s your choice. Majority of my attorney clients wear flat from slacks and hems – not pleats and cuffs. However, it’s personal preference.
In terms of suit colors, you want to keep it professional, so navy blue and charcoal are your friends. Black is usually something worn at evening events or for funerals. However, in the last 3 years, more men in the southwest are wearing black suits to court and the office. Some will even argue navy or blue are better than grey because it connotates truth. In my opinion, both colors work very well.
Brown has become a trend color and relevant to men’s wardrobe. Some say brown is a casual color. I disagree. If you want to wear a brown suit, select a darker color/tone.
When it comes to patterns, subtle stripes and checks are most popular.
For a year-round suit, a light weight worsted wool is great. Since we live here in a warmer climate, tropical weights and fresco wool are recommended because it’s breathable. When you have the solids covered in your wardrobe, it’s time to add stripes and checks. If you are uncertain, start with a subtle and simple pattern instead of going with a bold pattern. Your coworkers will remember a bold stripe more than a subtle one.
Ideally, you have barrel cuffs with buttons or French cuffs or double cuffs for cufflinks. In terms of colors, white and light blue are your staples. You can play around with the textures, have subtle stripes, waffle weaves, twill, plain weaves or whatever you want, even stripes and checks, but make sure they’re not too bright and everything looks subtle and professional. If your face is round, ideally go with a more closed collar. If you have an oval face, go with a slightly more spread collar.
As an attorney, you want to wear neckwear. Traditionally, it’s a necktie. I would stay clear of bow ties because they’re a little too flashy. Of course, you should choose the right tie. So forget all the nineties and the hand-me-downs from your uncles because they look very dated and not professional. You always want silk ties either printed or jacquard woven and stay clear of textured materials which are great for a casual wardrobe but not for a lawyer’s professional wardrobe.
With accessories, the same rule applies as with all other things in a lawyer’s outfit. Keep it simple. If you wear a French cuff or double cuff shirt, go with simple cufflinks in gold or silver. Stay clear of precious stones, maybe semi-precious stones, in multiple colors as well as enamel. It’s simply over the top. Apart from cufflinks, a wedding band is acceptable and maybe a signet ring or a pinkie ring if you wear it, or if you’re at an interview or you’re just starting out, it may be wise not to wear that and just keep it plain and simple.
If you’re a partner, you can think about wearing tie bars or maybe collar pins. If you’re just an associate starting out, I would suggest not to wear those because it could be interpreted the wrong way. In terms of tie knots, I suggest keeping it simple. Avoid a Windsor knot because it’s too big and it makes you look like a used car salesman, instead go with something like a four-in-hand knot. Now some people prefer to go with a dimple while others prefer to go without.
When it comes to shoes, I think most lawyers underestimate their impact. You can have a $5000 bespoke suit but if you wear it with cheap shoes, it ruins the entire look. Apart from oxfords and derbies, you may also want to invest in a monk strap shoe or maybe a double monk strap shoe. Word on the street is that older lawyers will always judge you by the look and the quality of your shoes. So, I suggest you buy the best pair you can afford. If you take care of them, rotate them, and put them on shoe trees, they should wear you for decades to come and the cost per wear will be extremely low.
Bear in mind, this guide provides general guidelines; ideally, you want to talk to your secretary and ask her what’s appropriate or simply look around you at the office. What are the other people wearing and especially what is your supervisor wearing? That will give you a good indicator of what’s expected of you