This week, we drop in again at a typical day in Leo and Jordan’s law office. Since last post, Jordan has taken some of the lessons in the last few posts to heart and has decided to step up his style. Will Leo be impressed?
“Hey Leo, I’m really enjoying your posts on men’s professional dress. I’ve been taking some of your suggestions to heart and have been stepping up my professional clothing game. I even bought a new suit!”
Jordan stood in my doorway decked out in his finest: navy chalk stripe suit, white cutaway collar shirt, bright pink cashmere Attolini tie, gold cufflinks, and alligator-skin shoes. He looked a regular Scott Disick.
It certainly was a change from the old Jordan who normally sported an off-white shirt a size too big in the neck, a hideous printed tie, square-toed Frankenshoes, and a suit I’m pretty sure was made of the same material as my grandmother’s couch.
I put aside my brief for a moment and chortled.
“Well, Jordan, I am glad you’ve been paying attention to my posts on professional menswear. I only wish you’d listen to me this much in the office.”
“You should be as interesting in real life as you are online, then,” he quipped.
“But for what it’s worth, I think you may have gone a bit too far. Though you’ve stepped up your game, you’ve gone a bit to far. You’re still that guy.”
Jordan stared at me, quizzically. So I explained further.
“You’ve merely traded being Thatguyus Schlubbius for Thatguyus Dandius.”
“Dude, speak English, please. I got a new suit and tie and everything. What’s wrong now?”
“Before you looked like a hobo. Now, you’re overcompensating and drawing attention to yourself by dressing up really flashy.”
“Are you ever satisfied?”
“No. But let’s talk about how you can dress in moderation and avoid falling into the Thatguyus genus.”
“I hate you.”
You’ve seen Thatguyus. You may have even been Thatguyus. Heck, I know that I’ve been Thatguyus before.
What do I mean by Thatguyus?
Thatguyus is someone whose dress distracts from his substance enough that you don’t remember anything about the person other than his dress. Sometimes, you can hear the court staff snicker when Thatguyus walks in.
While districting dress might not be such a bad type for guys who have nothing to offer but their looks, this is a problem for attorneys. We’re hired to advocate for our clients and to win over judges and juries with our superior legal and logical arguments. If your outfit drowns out your oration, then you’ve failed your job as an attorney.
As I see it, there’s are two species in the Thatguyus genus: Thatguyus Schlubius and Thatguyus Dandius. Let’s take a look at what identifies each.
You’ll recognize Schlubius right away. From your first look, you’ll find it readily apparent that he cares not one whit for his appearance. His suit is dated and fits oddly — both loose and tight at the same time, but in all the wrong places. His shirts have ring around the collar and appear that they’ve never known the acquaintance of an iron. His ties are stained and ugly — and possibly feature cartoon characters — and it definitely clashes with his shirt and suit. His shoes are scuffed and worn, and in need of a good shine. Quite possibly, the Schlubius will have an unshaven face and unkempt hair. His shirt, tie, and suits clash so badly, you wonder if he’s colorblind.
While his arguments might be well-reasoned and eloquent, you can hardly pay attention to what he’s saying because as you look at him you wonder how a hobo wandered past courthouse security.
Quite different than its cousin Schlubius, is the Dandius. Unlike Schlubius, Dandius’ appearance exhibits what can only be described as an unhealthy degree of narcissism. He wears only the finest, fashion suits — maybe cut a bit too slim — with peak lapels and shiny fabrics. His shirts are custom made, naturally, which he broadcasts by having each visibly monogrammed, in a contrasting color. His bright ties are knotted with an oversized windsor — he eschews the more modest four in hand. And his shoes are obviously expensive and Italian; you can tell by the horsebit on the loafer vamp. He smells of expensive cologne — perhaps too strongly — and his hair is impeccably coiffed.
Dandius may also make fantastic legal arguments, but you don’t hear a word he says because you’re too busy wondering if his suit cost more than your last car.
Who Cares? You Should — It Can Cost You a Job.
You should. There’s nothing wrong with playing the part of the disheveled underdog lawyer from time to time, nor is it an issue where you wear your finest to meet with a client whom you want to impress. You can draw unwanted attention to yourself whether you over- or underdo it, to the detriment of yourself, your client, and your case
Here’s a quick example. I remember an interview I had with a regional firm back when I was in school. I was so determined to make an impression on the partners who were interviewing me that I wore my best slim-cut suit, a trendy slim tie, and color-coordinated pocket square. Needless to say I didn’t get the job. But a few years later, I found out from a colleague at that very firm that the interviewers remembered me — they just thought my dress reflected a personality that wouldn’t fit in at the firm.
I don’t know if they remembered a word I said, but my ensemble made the wrong impression. I was “That Guy.”
You Can Avoid Being “That Guy”
Here are some quick tips.
Remember last post? KISS — Keep It Simple and Sedate. That rule still applies.
Keep it Traditional.
Avoid tying windsor knots for your ties. James Bond once referred to the Windsor as “the mark of a cad.” I’m not sure how seriously you take the clothing advice of a fictional international superspy, but I agree with the sentiment.
There’s no excuse to wear square-toed Frankenshoes or athletic shoes with a suit. Ever.
Don’t Turn Your Clothing Into a Marketing Gimmick.
If people recognize you only because of your outfits, you might want to re-think how your dress. I know there are attorneys who swear by wearing a particular suit, tie, and shirt ensemble every day, like a cartoon character. You’re not a cartoon character, you’re a lawyer. Have some dignity, and dress accordingly.
Take Care of Your Clothes.
Learn to iron your shirts. Buy a steamer to refresh suits and remove wrinkles between cleanings. Get a shoeshine valet, polish, and brushes and learn how to shine your shoes. Brush your suits with a horsehair clothes brush after each wearing to remove debris and help restore the nap of the fabric.
If you’re apt to wear men’s accessories like cufflinks, tie clips, pie pins, lapel pins, pocket squares, etc., don’t overdo it. As Coco Chanel said: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” Sure, she was talking about women’s fashion, but this is equally applicable to men. Furthermore, all that bling might set off the metal detector at the courthouse. Leave it at home.
We’re all guilty of occasionally showing up to court with a bit of stubble, or neglecting to comb our hair — whether it’s due to a previous all-nighter for a case or having to rush to court on a day you don’t expect it. Occasional faltering is excusable, but don’t make a habit of it.
…But Don’t Overgroom Thyself.
While a little bit of cologne may be ok for court, you don’t want your office mates and the courtroom staff left with the taste of it in their mouths. And leave the tanning beds to the idiots on The Jersey Shore.
Share Your Wild Thatguyus Sightings.
I’ve done a bit to help you identify some of the key issues to avoid being “that guy.” I’m curious to hear about your own Thatguyus sightings in their natural habitat — whether the office or the courthouse. What kind of effect did a close encounter with the beasts have on you? Let me know in the comments.
(photo: Model is happy and lets it show with his jazz hands from Shutterstock)