Five Starter Suits For The Young Professional: Carpe Diem

So you graduated. Now what?--now everyone you ever met and their mother is lining up to ask you what is next for the young professional. You do not have to have your life planned out, but you should be ready to seize the day should opportunity arise. Now, young professional, you buy your first suits. Remember, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Why five?

Suits are like shoes.

No one suit will do for every occasion and (my favorite thing about suits) you do not want to have them washed more than once or twice per year for fear of ware. Wear a handful of suits, and you will grow into the versatile professional; wear one suit every day, and you might turn into a hermit crab before your boss notices you.

You will need at least five suits to find your way in corporate America. Men wear suits for a reason. Different reasons call for different suits.

Suits are not baseball caps.

There is no one size fits all in fit or style. You may be tempted to blow your suit budget on one Armani suit, but no young professional should come off as ostentatious. Your wardrobe should inspire respect, never jealousy. As soon as you get your corner office, channel your inner Hillary Clinton and break the bank on that 200,000 dollar suit. Go nuts. Until then, utility trumps quality.

  1. Charcoal
    Either a dark gray charcoal suit or a navy blue suit should be your first. Your charcoal suit is less bold than your navy suit, but just as businesslike. Wear your charcoal suit to first interviews, or for introductions. Frankly, if you have no idea what to wear, fall back on the charcoal suit, the bread and butter of your wardrobe.
  2. Navy
    Navy suits are the most popular among young professionals. Dark blue projects confidence. Most military dress uniforms are blue--hence the name, navy. Your aunt may tell you to wear your navy suit to the first interview, but you should save the navy suit for your second interview. Set yourself apart from the pack. The strength of the navy suit works best for opening negotiations without intimidating the way a black suit might. Charcoal is your jab and navy is your right hook, but these first two suits can be interchangeable. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

    Something to keep in mind is how rain, as well as other liquids, are less obvious on your navy suit than your charcoal suit. If you like in Seattle, you will learn to love navy blue.
  3. Gray Pinstripe
    Striped suits have a slimming effect, plus they make you look taller. Stripes are impressive, but they are too bold for an interview, or really even your first week at a new job. The lines absolutely must be thin. If you look like an extra from the movie Goodfellas, or like you clowned on the weekends while in Law School, your stripes may be too wide. Either perfect your Joe Pesci impersonation or send your resume to the nearest riverboat casino.
  4. Navy Pinstripe
    The navy striped suit has a lot of character. Again, avoid gangster stripes, like you would avoid laughing at Joe Peschi. However, chalk stripes do work with navy pinstripe suits--chalk stripes are thicker than pinstripes, but less solid. Like chalk. With pinstripes you risk making yourself into an optical illusion if you wear a patterned shirt or tie, like plaid or checkers. Chalk stripes are easier on the eye, so you can look taller without coming off as a try-hard. Chalk stripes may be too soft for gray suits, but they mute the aggressive property of your navy suit nicely.
  5. Blue-gray Solid Textures (the Weave)
    Finally, your fifth suit should be a nail head or tic weave gray-blue. The material itself has texture, so avoid designs like stripes or plaid. You will look like something out of The Music Man. Your texture suit gives off a casual aura, like something out of a cologne commercial. The laid-back, urbane quality or a textured suit makes it ideal for after hours socializing, networking, and smoothing over your professional relationships.

Your first five suits should be built to last, but you will likely want to upgrade once you get your promotion. Starter suits are a means to an end. Diversify your wardrobe at first--once you grow into a workplace identity you can commit to your own styles and colors. Keep in mind that you will not know what works for you until you try it. Unless you want to ask your co-workers to borrow their suits from time to time, invest in five suits for your future.