The Working Man: Sizing, Tailoring, and Cleaning Your Basic Business Wardrobe

by Rachel Yeomans | July 6th, 2011   

By Alan Neff

Here are a few basic pieces of advice about selecting and caring for your clothes.  Keep in mind that your clothes will be your biggest initial investment in your career after your education and your car, if you need one.  Take care of them and they will serve you well.

ManTie The Working Man: Sizing, Tailoring, and Cleaning Your Basic Business Wardrobe


Pick clothes that fit you comfortably.  Buy clothes for you as you are, not as you aspire to be.  If, while you’re trying on clothes, you say, “This will fit really well if I lose 10 pounds,” you can buy the item, but don’t plan to wear it unless and until you lose that ten pounds.

Keep in mind, too, that the laws of physics apply to your clothes: if they’re too tight, they’re going to stretch; seams will weaken.  You’ll wear them out more quickly and incur expenses to replace them.

For example, your dress-shirts shouldn’t be skin-tight, especially if your weight fluctuates.  As we age and our metabolisms change, we can gain and lose a few pounds fairly regularly, because our exercise and eating habits vary from week-to-week, month-to-month, and season-to-season.

Suppress your vanity.  Your co-workers – most of them, anyway – don’t care or even want to know how ripped you might be (or might not be).  And if you look like a bratwurst, people might treat you like one.

Tailoring and Alterations

When you try on the jackets for your suits and sport-coats for fitting and alterations, do so with your wallet in whichever breast-pocket you’ll keep it.  If you let the tailor finish your jackets without your wallet, they won’t fit right and won’t be comfortable.  If aesthetics also matter to you, note that a bulging interior jacket-pocket will impair the drape of the jacket.

Your pants-legs should be cut long enough to completely conceal your socks when you’re standing.  Some people like their pants to just beat that mark, without any fold in the fabric.  Others like a little fold in the pants leg where it hits the top of your shoes.  Either length is acceptable.


Dry-cleaning is brutal on suits.  Dry-clean your suits only once a year, unless they otherwise fail the stink-or-stain test.  I received this advice the first time I bought well-made suits from an internationally respected men’s clothier.  It’s the best advice I ever got.  My suits from that clothier lasted ten years.

Starching is hard on your shirts. You can starch your shirts if you want, but starch can yellow shirts, which means their useful life is shortened.  I don’t starch my shirts.

Ties are essential in traditional work-places, but completely stupid requirements.  They serve no useful function (other than to conceal missing buttons on your shirts, which shouldn’t be missing anyway), and they get in the way.  Expect your ties to eat a lot of your food.  You’ll have to dry-clean them when they’re salvageable and replace them when they aren’t.