How should designers dress?

Hi Guys, following on from my thread

and a response from Lingmiester, I was wondering how you guys dress for work, or how you think we should?

I have to admit that my dress sense is slipping since working for myself - when I go to meet new clients (in the interiors market; commercial and domestic) I usually wear reasonable shoes, clean jeans and smart shirt and a suit jacket, and it seems to work, but recently I’ve begun to ‘live’ in jeans and trainers which won’t help my image, so before I go out buying new clothes I thought I’d ask you guys…

All sensible replies gratefully received!

Stewie :smiley:

Im pretty sure were supposed to wear those thick black square eyeglasses.

Can’t forget the all black and “designer” watch.

Do you mean only wearing black? Which watch would be a good one then?


Simple: dress the way you want people to think of you.

I spend more than average, and I wear things that are a bit different.
I tend to stick with:

Michael Kors
Kenneth Cole
Seven For All Mankind (jeans)
Modern Amusement
Calvin Klein
I stopped wearing Diesel–too casual.

Based on those designers, I guess you could categorize it as a NY look.

if your an older designer, I think your supposed to wear the jeans and jean jacket with a big bushy white beard and fishermans sandles

How I dress - Casual and comfortable if I’m just working at my desk. Cool comfy shoes, nice jeans, t-shirt, watch.

Business casual for meetings and client events. Cool dress shoes, button shirt, dress pants, watch.

I use my cell phone for the time so I think it’s funny that I wear a watch. More or less as an accessory. Although it does have a compass on it which is pretty kickass.

How should you dress - However you want to dress. If you think you will be judged by your attire, which you will, dress how you would like to be perceived.

Also take into consideration that you not only represent yourself but also your company or colleagues.

I wish I could just wear shorts and a tee every day. Maybe take naps in a hammock after lunch.

Anyone have a hammock in their office?

yeah, all joking aside, it is first of all important to dress in such a way that is comfortable to you and your co-workers. Secondly, and equally important, your attire and demeanor shouldn’t offend or make your clients uncomfortable. I would suggest, for a client meeting, dressing similiarly to your clients, but a little more stylishly. If they are wearing suits, have a nicer, more modern cut suit. If they have a watch, have one that a little cooler. The details, just like dating, are important. Maybe pick up some magazines like gq, or details, take some cues from there and maybe mix them with a little style from a punk rocker look.

It depends on everything. Most importantly, you.

I just gave a presentation to a multi-billion dollar company for a 500,000 piece product run and I wore jeans, orange Reebok sneakers, and a button purple dress shirt. I felt completely professional, no big deal. Then again, I’ve worn a suit, sans jacket, with an odd-colored tie for smaller ‘less important’ clients.

There’s no rules or guidelines really, it’s a personal question that does indeed come up… but the only person to ask and to answer is yourself.

A good suggestion might be: let your clothes reflect your work.

Rule of thumb that I know you’ve heard… you can’t make a second first impression. Think about the message you want to send to your… clients, co-workers, boss… etc. Think about what goals you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to land a new client, get promoted… it is important to project an image that is as brilliant as your work. Being comfortable is important too, just be sure you still look professional. Take lead from the overall style of the company you work for. Look to those above you for appropriate attire, but make sure you wear clothes that reflect who you are and your own personal style. And don’t forget the other rule of thumb…dress for the job you want not the job you have. I heard this once, and then decided to update my wardrobe. Within one year had received a 15% raise, I am sure it was due to a combination of factors, however several people mostly higher ups noticed the changes and I can’t help but think that made a difference in how they thought about me and my work.

yup, tri-id, i think you’ve got the right idea. i’ve said it before elsewhere here on the boards, but i think it worth repeating-

dress for the position you want to be in, not the position you are in.

that is, if you want to be CEO/Design Director, etc. dress as those people do (well cut, clean, contemporary)

…if you want to be a CAD jockey or jr. designer, feel free to rock dirty sneaks, jeans and a T.

my philosophy is that you can never be too well dressed. im not saying tie and tux are required, but casual can be more than jeans…

i often reference The Sartorialist
good mix of dress and casual, but all with a unique style that sets it apart from the masses.

i believe mostly that accessories can make the biggest difference. plain jeans and an american apparel v-neck T can be great for a more casual meeting, but adding a nice watch, unique shoes, stylish portfolio bag, card holder, scarf, hat and driving gloves can make all the difference.

best thing i’ve always found about being a designer is that people expect you to be a little different so you can get away with more (without being over the top- sorry Karim)!


Sorry, just a little OT, but are Karim’s glasses even prescription?

rkuchinsky is on the money! Impression is vital and where and what you want to be is the key.

I often go with simple classics from Zara, Mexx, Club Monaco, and Banana Republic. I cant afford Boss or CK! By going with classics looks you can afford to spend a little more on better cuts or material.

I NEVER wear jeans or track shoes. I go with a tailored pants, but not suit like, and a bright long sleeve collared shirt. I fold my sleeves when I sketch, and button them down when I walk around.

Some tips make sure your belt is the same color of your shoes and have at least 2 pairs of black and 2 of brown shoes.

Always wear a watch, and tie optional. I tend to avoid a tie, but wear it with my suit at management meetings.

Also find a nice color that matches your skin tone and get variants of shirts with that.

Good Luck!

I think every designer is different. Isn’t that part of what we do and who we are is being unique? I would have to agree with the comment about be professional, unique, and make your client feel comfortable.

I dress business casual everyday but Fridays. This is because I work in a corporate office. On Fridays though I am a little different than probably most designers. I wear cowboy boots and jeans with a nice button up shirt, sometimes a western stylish button up. (I grew up in the south with many family members that are farmers or blue collar works. I have a love of country music and non corny western wear.) This has become my niche; I am now known for it and have created my own “Identity”. This allows me to be comfortable and puts a little bit of uniqueness in me and my work.

I guess what I am saying is I don’t believe that a designer has to always wear the stereotypical designer look or cloths all the time. Go to the IDSA nat’l and just take a look around. We all look completely different and not every senior designer or Design Director is dressed liked that. I am not telling you to go to a client in a dirty pair of jeans and expect them to grant you a big business deal, but I am saying to put a little of your style in your dress and be who you are. Don’t try to dress the part and not feel comfortable in your own cloths.

Thanks for all these replies guys, it is interesting to hear the different points of view.

The main reason for asking you guys is that I don’t really have a frame of reference as I work as a freelancer, so don’t have senior bosses as such. I work on site most of the time, but I’m pretty much left to my own devices, but I want to come out of the corner a bit and really make myself the only person that is thought of when design or design-type work is required!

I like the idea of limiting the wearing of jeans etc. as I feel a little too comfortable wearing them, so I might limit their use to a Friday from now on.

Id be interested to hear more views from freelancers as well as all you corporate guys too!!

Keep 'em coming!



…or, flip it up. I worked in a pretty conservative corporate office a while back with a shirt/tie monday-thursday and “office casual” friday (polos/chinos, yuck). to mix it up a bit, i filpped it around. wore a shirt/tie monday to thursday but with crazy silver sneakers (it was a footwear company so it worked), and then full business suit fridays, but maybe with a dandy touch like a pocket square or bowtie…

at least i didnt look like an accountant.


The tyranny is that designers can’t afford to dress the way they’d like.

I’d advise to shop at, Nordstroms Rack and high-end outlets like Barneys and CK.

When I pay full retail, I’ll do it at Nordstroms, but I expect (and get) lots of personal service there, which makes it worth it.

I always admire people who put that much time and thought into it. I can’t seem to get it together that much. Because of my apparent lack of an ability to dress myself, I like to keep it simple, Levis, Plain T Shirts, and Chucks or Jack P’s most days… but with a cool belt and watch. When I need to take it up, tailored pants and shirts with a cool belt and watch and either an unusual shoe or Chucks or Jack P’s… I’d rather cheap out on the actual garment a bit and get it tailored. Even Jeans, you can’t beat a simple pair of Levis tailored to fit you perfect. I don’t like a lot of embellishments on my jeans, just not me.

A friend of mine, who is one of those dudes who can pull off a crazy look like Richard can, had on this awesome suit. I asked him who it was, and it was from Target… but he got it tailored at Mitt Romney’s tailor. The suite was $99, the tailoring was a lot more.

when I do go to a brand, I like to go with something local like
It’s all bamboo fiber so it feels great and everything is just a little bit different. not so much as to take away from what I’m saying or who I am, but just enough that I know, and if someone did look close, it would be there.

I was going to suggest a jersey dress or a shirt dress with slim fitting tall boots w/ small heel, with a scarf/cowl for a pop of color ( ridiculously comfortable and effortless yet really pulled together), BUT YOU’RE A DUDE. gasp

Am I allowed to wear a scarf every day being that I am a dude? I mean…there’s snow on the ground for crying out loud.

Global warming my ear :wink: