Not the black suit with the blue shirt (time for that fashion post)

I threatened to do some fashion posts from time to time and here comes the first one.  Its going to sound like I’m dishing out some advice but I’m not really, just offering some observations and some ideas for anyone interested.

I have a confession.  I like fashion.  To me, it is an art form and some, like Tom Ford or John Galliano, consistently achieve it in its highest form.  I have another confession.  I almost left science back in undergrad days to pursue a fashion design career.  Obviously, I didn’t do it but I still think about how my life would be different now if I’d made that choice.

Onto the point.  Most scientist, contrary to popular opinion, are actually pretty good dressers (that’s my story and I’m stickin to it).  Scientists tend to be fit and that helps.  I get the impression that alot of scientists also are fairly hip and enjoy looking good.  Nothing wrong with that, looking good is supposed to make you feel better about yourself and there isn’t a thing wrong with projecting a degree of coolness through your clothes.  Where it often goes wrong is when us scientists (men and women) have to don the old suit for some important event, especially interviews. 

I realize that most of us don’t have to wear a suit to work on a daily basis, probably most of us haven’t had to wear a suit to work in months (years?).  Hence, when the day comes it is often a source of anxiety and we pull the old black suit and blue shirt out of the closet and throw it in the suitcase and head to the airport.  DON’T DO IT!!  First off, many think that a decent suit is gonna cost them a fortune so they don’t even try.  This is crap.  Nice suits can be found all over the place (Banana Republic and J Crew, for instance, have some great ones and they don’t cost too much at all).  Second, many, if not most, tend to go for the safety of standard black or navy when buying a suit.  This is silly.  Some colorful pin stripes or a nice grey make all the difference in the world for an otherwise ordinary suit.  Go with something cool rather than the safe bet.  Chance are that you’ll spend the same cash and you’ll be happier with what you got.  You may even bust it out for the opera or symphony and make the significant other swoon.  Can’t be anything wrong with that!

Aside from going with a bland suit, I consistently notice that scientist’s suits fit them very poorly.  Even the cheapest suit can look great with the work of a good tailor.  Find a good tailor.  You’ll be happy you did.  Good tailors are hard to find, but if you know someone who is always looking dapper, chances are they’ve found a good one.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  When you buy that suit, don’t get it too small!  A tailor can’t do anything with it if its too tight to start with.  If the jacket is a bit too big but you really love it, get it.  A tailor can make you look great.  If the pants are way off and the jacket is perfect, don’t sweat, your tailor can recut the pant to your body with ease.  Onto the shirts… many of them won’t fit you either, just make sure the neck (for the men) or bust (for the ladies) is right.  Let your tailor cut the sleeves back and put “pins” (not real pins, its the tailoring style) to taper the shirt on your waist.  All of this might cost you a bit but you’ll be glad you did it.  Finally, consider having the whole getup made just for you.  You might be surprised that this is often quite economical.

So does any of this make a difference for the interview.  Probably not (I certainly hope it doesn’t).  On the other hand, removing any source of anxiety for the interviewee is a good thing and I know many people stress about their attire for the interview day.  A bit of attention to these types of details can go a long way toward making you feel more comfortable on those most intimidating of days. 

So there you have it, fashion post numero uno.  We were off to a good start and then the new blog goes all to hell…  At least it was self-inflicted! 

14 responses to “Not the black suit with the blue shirt (time for that fashion post)

  1. “Most scientist, contrary to popular opinion, are actually pretty good dressers (that’s my story and I’m stickin to it).”

    My personal experience has been that nice clothes inevitably attract nasty things…like radioactivity, biohazardous waste, indelible dyes (skin attracts those too), and anything containing thiol groups. So I’m rather pleased with myself when my clothes are without holes or stains. But then perhaps you and I inhabit very different fields. :-)

  2. You are ruining your blog. Just so you know.

  3. I disagree with PhysioProf, and as a soon-to-be-Junior-prof, I hope you continue with fashion posts. I work with nasty things too but haven’t had problems ruining clothing. In my case, the simple solution is a lab coat — works like a charm.

  4. I also like lab coats. Its amazing how they block stuff from getting all over your clothes, like antagonists for the dirty receptor.

  5. Suits? Who wears those, anyhow? We just had a bazillion potential faculty interviews and only one guy wore a (bad) suit. Pants plus dress shirt/blouse/sweater seems preferred. But maybe we project a lazy ethos.

  6. What, Manolo Blahniks in lab… I don’t know about that.

    Juniorprof I am tagging you for a 6 word memoir…

  7. I have worked for the top medical schools in New York City during my 17 years in medical research. (Oddly, I too during this time pursued a career in fashion — textile design. Oh, sorry, off topic…)

    I notice when candidates are casually or poorly dressed. A clean, well fitted suit is just one indicator that the candidate understands the task at hand and what is required to succeed. Would you accept a sloppy CV on ripped paper, or would you wonder about the candidate’s ability to process paperwork and meet deadlines? Wouldn’t you be concerned about the accuracy of study data or whether the grant will be submitted on time?

    BTW, especially if tall, I recommend the “3-season” weight suits from Express or Victoria’s Secret. Extra length in the pants and shirt sleeves!

    And don’t scrimp on the shoes!

  8. suits are how we pick out the clinicians. for ridicule. just sayin’

  9. George Smiley

    Give it up.

    Suits are weddings, funerals, and meetings with M.D.’s who might give you money — and they’ll still pick you out of a lineup at 500 m.

  10. You have been tagged with the Song Chart Meme.

  11. Pingback: 10 PhD-related blogs you should read — Knowledge beyond words

  12. Hi,

    Sorry about the previous comment. I assume that it is a plugin that looks for backlinks. This article is not published yet but I will keep you informed about it.

    If you want to reach me, I am Valentin from Novoseek (ns_info(at)


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