Daily Dispatch

Tips for the Well-Dressed (Male) Lawyer

By | Jul.15.14 | Daily Dispatch, Law Practice, Legal Careers, Professionalism

Black Tie

Every new parent knows there are far more clothing options for baby girls than for baby boys. While selections have improved in the past decade or so, it can still be a struggle to find outfits for the little gents that aren’t emblazoned with footballs or baseballs, or that aren’t blue, blue and blue.

Fast-forward into adulthood, and things haven’t changed much as far as the narrow clothing selection goes. Although, thankfully, I haven’t seen anyone sporting a baby blue Lil’ Slugger T-shirt during their opening statement.

Given the fact that men’s fashion options aren’t infinite, particularly for the most formal professional occasions, such as appearing in court or meeting with clients, what’s a guy to do? Here are three basic tips for staying snappy.

Keep It Current

Yes, suits are expensive. But it is also true that a classic suit can be worn for 30 years without showing its ancientness. Still, beware of shoulder-pad puffiness, lapel length, button placement and the presence or absence of pleats — all can potentially reveal the era in which the suit was purchased. Also, your body may have changed over the years, for better or worse. Your suits should fit the physique you have today.

These style objectives can be met by wandering into your favorite men’s store and eyeballing the suits closely. Do the little details (such as the ones described above) match your suits at home, or are they vastly different? Are you wearing a floppy suit in the time of skinny pants? Polka dots in the decade of plaid? If you’re not sure, ask a couple of salespeople who are about your age for advice. Ask about the current trends and take their advice only to the extent that you actually feel comfortable wearing their suggestions. Make sure everything you buy fits you perfectly, or have it tailored. Bottom line — your sizzling new buys should make you feel stylistically rejuvenated, never uncomfortable.

Keep It Up

Ode to the polished attorney: May your shoes never be scuffed, your briefcase never bedraggled, and your cuffs always crisp. There’s no room here for sentimentality — always replace or refurbish visibly worn-out garments, shoes or accessories. No matter how beloved the items once were, no matter how much money you once paid, when the fashion reaper comes calling, either make repairs or bid your tarnished babies adieu. I’m sorry to say that this day of reckoning arrives much sooner than you expect.

Be a stickler for upkeep and have high standards. A professional’s clothing should appear as close to new as possible, only allowing for barely detectable signs of wear and tear. Ask yourself if you would feel proud to wear the item to a dinner being held in your honor. If the answer is probably not, then relegate it to casual wardrobe status or send it to the donation bin.

Keep It Clean

It does no good to wear stylish, looking like-new clothing if it is besmirched with dog hair, latte stains, baby spit-up or wafting foul odors. Better to wear out your clothing a bit prematurely due to scrupulous cleanings than to err on the side of grubbiness. Again, have high standards — if you are waffling about whether to wear it once more or clean it, opt to clean. That being said, employing a lint-roller to remove the day’s dirt and hair before returning clothes to the closet helps, and great success can be had with DIY spot-cleaning.

A final word on hair and jewelry — less is more. If you do not intend for hair to grow there (back of neck, ears, nose, wild eyebrows), then it’s essential to scrupulously maintain the hair-free status. Check your face in your car’s rearview mirror under sunlight to behold the true status of your follicles. Then zoom home and groom accordingly. As far as jewelry goes, venture beyond wearing a nice watch (essential) and wedding ring (optional), and you may more closely resemble a recording artist rather than a real estate attorney. Beware of layering on the bling.

There are exceptions to every rule, and certainly your style should not be stifled, but it’s something to consider.

Ryan Sullivan has been a trial lawyer for almost 14 years, practicing exclusively indigent criminal defense. Ryan is also a speaker, writer and trainer. She believes a sense of humor and the ability to frame events positively, combined with solid professional skills, leads directly to career and business success. Her experience working and training others in challenging careers has given her the skills to manage the toughest customers, speak and present persuasively, and shine under stressful circumstances. Ryan and her husband have three children, three dogs and a home suspended in a perpetual state of DIY remodeling.

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2 Responses to “Tips for the Well-Dressed (Male) Lawyer”

  1. Thomas F. McDow
    23 July 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Really good article. I wish that someone had taught me these things when I first graduated law school in 1968. My face turns red, even when I am alone, and think about what I wore in the 1970s.

    For years I have worn a suit every day. I buy two identical navy blue Hart Schaffner & Marx suits at a time but I get three pairs of pants with each suit. I rotate the coats and pants so that they get equal wear. Barring a major spill of chocolate or the like, I have each suit cleaned at the same time so that the cleaning will be equal.


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