A suit is usually the only appropriate option. “Especially since I’m in sales, even ‘dress-down’ days are still dressy for me,” says Bell, who prefers suits in traditional colors, such as navy and gray, and classic white and blue shirts. While khakis, a white shirt and a tie are good for some, young black men interested in getting ahead must take special care to present a confident, professional image. In other words, you’ll need a great suit.
There are many things to look for when shopping for one. “Educate yourself about quality before you buy,” advises Andre, who suggests browsing without your wallet. “Get to know which fabrics feel best, and what good stitching and construction look like.” For more help, men might use this checklist compiled by MBA Style (www.mbastyle. com), an online magazine dedicated to interview preparation and career dressing, when buying a suit:
- Jacket collar. It should hug the back of your neck without buckling or pulling. No more than a half an inch of your dress shirt should show above it.
- Arms and sleeves. High armholes allow for the best drape, but shouldn’t bind. Sleeves should end about half an inch above the point where your hand meets your wrist.
- Lapels. They should lie flat and cling to your chest. When you rub them between two fingers, the inside and outside panels should move independently.
- Shoulders. The suit should lie flat against your shoulder blades and allow room for growth. This ensures a proper fit.
- Buttons: Tug at all the buttons before buying the suit. They should be
well sewn on.
- Vents. These are the vertical slits located in the “skirt” of the jacket below the waist. You can have a single, center vent, or two side vents. They should overlap each other by about three-quarters of an inch so slacks don’t show through.
- Pockets. Those located on the sides of the jacket should have flaps.
- Slacks. While trying them on, bend your knees and squat. The crotch shouldn’t be tight or short. The front creases for each leg should cross the middle of your kneecap.
- Cuffs. Cuffed slacks are standard in business fashion, and the length is determined by your height. See a tailor to get the best customized fit.
At 5 feet 8 inches and a muscular 200 pounds, Bell-along with Ma’at, Goodman and Brownlee-knows the importance of having a good tailor. “There aren’t many suits that I can buy and wear straight from the rack,” he says. As soon as you can afford it, Andre recommends assembling your own “professional team”-a tailor or seamstress, a cobbler, a dry cleaner and a jewelry-repair person-to help you perfect your image down to the last detail and keep you looking sharp.
#2: Pull It All Together
Professional apparel that fits like it was made just for you is a good beginning. For a great finish, add accessories. They can liven up an understated outfit, and they’re a great way to let your personality shine through-without you even having to say a word.
“I’m a very conservative dresser,” says Bell, “but