Why don't contemporary architects care about well-dressing anymore?


I know this question is stupid for many people, but I am wondering this because I have seen that architects do not care about their appearance anymore as previous architects did, such as Le Corbusier, Eero Saarinen and Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe.

Feb 22, 12 4:43 pm

What in hells name are you talking about?

Feb 22, 12 5:15 pm

It might have something to do with having to decide between food and new threads....

Feb 22, 12 6:40 pm

It seems like the same comment has often been applied to society as a whole. Sometimes the cause is not architecture...

Feb 22, 12 9:43 pm

How do you know that the architects you name "cared about their appearance"?  At most, you've probably seen a few photographs of them, and really have no idea how they dressed and groomed on a regular basis.

Next odd, poorly considered question, please...

Feb 22, 12 10:27 pm

That's the first person I've heard that was concerned that architects aren't foppish enough.  Pshaw.

Feb 22, 12 10:38 pm
go do it

what a waste of the internet

Feb 23, 12 12:11 am

I agree with the OP - although I think architects haven't been concerned with their appearance since Christopher Wren.  it's been all downhill since then.

Feb 23, 12 9:35 am

No sense of style.

Feb 23, 12 10:15 am
won and done williams

Toaster, you could really say it's all been downhill since Imhotep - Dude had style!

Feb 23, 12 11:23 am

Look at what I am talking about

Feb 23, 12 12:40 pm

The custom had almost died out altogether by the early years of the 20th century, but was revived in the 1920s and 1930s largely through the efforts of the Shimwell family of Tideswell.  Another boost to the tradition was the Festival of Britain; in villages like Wormhill where the custom appears to have ceased in the late 18th century, it was revived as part of the Festival of Britain, and has continued nearly every year since.


Feb 23, 12 1:01 pm

so, now we dressed more like some of the OTHER best-dressed folks on that esquire list. what's the problem again? 

Feb 23, 12 1:04 pm

I have been doing my part to bring Archi-sexy back, by wearing bowties.

Feb 23, 12 1:34 pm

if only richard meyer and zaha would stop wearing paper bags out in public...

Feb 23, 12 1:51 pm

It wouldn't hurt any of you to read T magazine once in a while.

Personal appearance has gone down hill since the invention of the T-shirt and prêt-à-porter.

Feb 23, 12 2:36 pm

Hahahaha. That picture was funny. Yeah James, you are right. Those things made the appearance less elegant

Feb 23, 12 9:18 pm

I don't read T for the same reason I don't read Wallpaper* - which is that it has nothing to do with me or anyone that I hang out with or work for.  Maybe it's because I'm in L.A.?

Feb 23, 12 11:57 pm

when you aquire fame, then you can dress however you want. and zaha looks like a sack of potatoes. it looks like she just doing the walk of shame and the only thing she could grab was the window curtains.


Feb 24, 12 12:37 am

In the early 1900s...there was a handful of well-to-do architects that needed to maintain an appearance. Now the field is flooded by people who dream about those days, when architects were capable of being celebrities and appearance meant something.

Also there's no sense of pride or ownership of this field anymore. These forums are evident of that. There's so much arguing, e-peen flexing and the like. Discourse is fine, but the true sign of our time is the lack of interdisciplinary co-habitation. 

If someone was to go out of their way to try and bring back the "architect" look, they'd get ridiculed by numerous individuals who are living in disdain with their own self-loathing!

My 2cents.

Feb 24, 12 12:54 am

A few random thoughts an architects and clothing:

Zaha's outfit has a concept.  I always argue that architects don't necessarily have to be dressed expensively, but we owe it to our clients to dress with style, with consideration, as if we've designed an outfit.  So it can be jeans or khakis but the whole look has to be considered, not just thrown on.  Zaha takes it a step further and dresses with a conceptual direction.  She's amazing, and that dress above is frankly too cool for most people.

My favorite architects tend to also be  some kind of craftsman.  I was at a job site yesterday with three other architects and we were among the scruffiest of all the outfits on site!  Because we are all involved in making things and that means being dressed to get dirty.  There is still style (scarves, color and texture combinations), and there is still quality (high quality there expensive boots and accessories) and definitely careful consideration of a functional, nice-looking outfit, but the overall effect is one of function and no concern for the dirt of a jobsite.

Feb 24, 12 7:09 am

Funny discussion.  I think personal style, imho, has gone down hill for quite a while (as a society).  It is coming back, a little, as the hipsters mature a little (my personal, naive observation).

On average, I'd say architects are worse dressers than many other professions.  Everyone seems to be caught between a "gotta look like an artist/own style/create with our hands (Donna's point)" and a "we are professionals and our clients are professionals".  Guess it just depends on the clients.

Please, please, let the scarves die!  A few people can pull it off, but most look like pretentious "artists", without any originality (again, my personal opinion).  Get a few nice shirts, some decent pants (whatever, jeans, just something that fits well), some good shoes and you are good to go.  Really not that difficult (imho).

Feb 24, 12 8:58 am

So, what I'm hearing is that my my cargo shorts, long-sleeve Hanes Ts and Timberland boots won't cut it?

I'm out.

Feb 24, 12 10:37 am

citizen, are you wearing a scarf with that ensemble? You're fine.  Sorry, trace, I'll give up scarves* the day I give up boots, which is to say grudgingly when the thermometer finally hits 72d.

I think a lot of architects have given up on dressing in a codified way since so many people have cool glasses these days.  That used to be our "thing".  So unless the bowties come back, we're all too dispirited to dress up lately.




*Bear in mind I'm a lady.


Feb 24, 12 10:55 am

I love bowties, and wear them frequently...Brooks Brother chinos and blazers, french cuff shirts (I collect vintage cuff links) and saddle's just what I like and feel best in, out of respect for the profession, I try to dress the best I can afford.

Feb 24, 12 11:33 am

Because I don't give a shit what I look like when I'm sitting in front of a computer until 2am for no overtime pay.  (Not me personally, I don't work like a slave, but I'm just saying...)

Feb 24, 12 12:02 pm

Of course, Donna!  The scarf!  One simple accessory and I'm safely back into haute couture.  That's brilliant.

Does it count if I fold it into jockey shorts under my cargoes?  ;-)

Feb 24, 12 12:07 pm

designer jeans in the office don't look professional or even progressive or arty.  they make you look like someone who is about to get some starbucks on their way to restoration hardware at an upscale mall... in 2004.


the only people in an architecture office that can get away with wearing jeans are people who work in the model or print shop.

Feb 24, 12 12:28 pm

Depends, citizen, on what you want it to "count" for: is it acting as jockey shorts, or stuffed inside the jockey shorts?  Two different demographics of interest, there.

toaster, do designer jeans exist these days?  I wear jeans every day, and I just consider them very generic.  Of course my office is my family room.  I can't imagine wearing jeans to a real firm/office job.  

Kevin W., when I can dress up, I love wearing French cuffs! But I only own one cuffed shirt these days - ah, self-employment.

Also, I know this has been going around the internet forever (since tuesday) but it makes me laugh every time:

Feb 24, 12 12:39 pm

Actually, the general decline in fashion standards (in terms of dressy-ness) is very interesting to me.  When I was a pup (in the 70s to 80s),  some restaurants wouldn't even seat you if you were in jeans or t-shirt.  Now you can go almost anywhere wearing almost anything.  (Sure you'll get looked at askance if sloppy or underdressed, but that won't keep you out.)  Maybe it's a local/regional thing, too.  I'm in So Cal, where it seems the decline of most reasonable norms gets a running start.

I can see the same thing happening in person-to-person manners, too.  Addressing someone by "Mister" or "Ms." and last name seems to have all but disappeared in a lot of settings, even when youngsters meet oldtimers.

Oh, and I miss nickel candy bars and I Dream of Jeannie, while we're at it.  :-\  And get off my lawn!

Feb 24, 12 1:09 pm

I should also report that I myself am the biggest exploiter of the slackening of clothing norms there is.  My goal is to wear long pants as few days a year as possible.

Feb 24, 12 1:11 pm

Donna, Toasteroven & Co: Would you consider jeans acceptable in an office if they are well-cut, fitted, and generally look well-dressed? I've typically thought that architects are one of the few professionals who can wear jeans so long as they are on-par with a pair of pants, and are spruced up with a decent shirt, etc.

Feb 24, 12 1:22 pm

donna - I guess "designer jeans" is an old-fashioned term - but I think anything over $75 a pair counts.  think anything raw selvedge.  I guess 10 years ago you could get away with "nice jeans" in a design office, but these days it looks a little dated.


I'm not including faded worn-out levis because at least you're not pretending to turn jeans into something professional looking.

Feb 24, 12 1:39 pm

benC - no.  


they make you look like you're headed to a sleazy russian night-club or a dave matthews concert in des moines or you're a retired mcmansion owner who drives a mercedes SUV.

Feb 24, 12 1:49 pm

it's a slippery slope.  This is what we've become:

I think as one of the most fashionable professions we should end it now.  no more jeans in the office.

Feb 24, 12 4:14 pm

I can jump on that bandwagon.


Feb 24, 12 4:29 pm

actually - I'm perfectly fine with people making a conscious decision to wear jeans as part of the office's culture (if you're doing a lot of messy things) - but jeans go with t-shirts and sneakers/work shoes, not dress shoes and sport coats.  especially not sweater vests.

Feb 24, 12 4:44 pm

not only do some architects not care about "well dressing", apparently some don't even care about...well grammer, either.

Feb 24, 12 11:41 pm
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ironic and weird

someone calling out Rick Santorium as an example of how not to dress

at the same time the same someone sounds a lot like Rick Santorium in telling others what they should and should not do

slippery slope indeed

it's like someone doesn't even know how they're dressing themselves

Feb 25, 12 9:03 am

are you equating my telling people to stop pretending that "nicely cut" jeans are business casual with the rantings of a repressed conservative?  of course it's just my opinion peppered with a bit of hyperbole for greater dramatic effect.  In reality I have no power over people on this forum who want to dress like they're extras in a michelob ultra commercial from 2005 - or worse, someone who is from chicago.


jeeves disapproves.

Feb 25, 12 2:42 pm
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"If the shoe fits, the foot is forgotten."


"Who asked you for a stain resistant dress?!!!!"


Feb 25, 12 4:16 pm

I'm waiting for Donna to post a picture of her wearing a bowtie.....

I where jeans about 300 days out of the year and I guess that is because I always have since I was a little kid. Something that happens to you when you grow up in a small town on the high plains.  I used to wear cowboy boots but they became to fashionable and way to expensive.  I was always drawn to Justin Boots cause they fit better than Tony Lama Boots.  Oh and ya I never tucked my pant legs into the boots cause I didn't own a thousand head of cattle.  Although I come from a long line of Cowboys one of them controling  a track of land larger than the State of Rhode Island.  When I'm wearing a suit I feel like I'm wearing snake skin.  Part of my problem is I'm hot blooded and well a suit make me even hotter.  So I guess I'm one of the individuals that ruined it for the Archi-Farts.  Oh ya and I don't do  dresses.  Come to think about it I did sign my biggest contract in a pair of summer shorts. So I guess either I looked really good or they just saw me Naked and said ya he would look good in a Suit.

Feb 25, 12 6:05 pm


Corbusier + round glasses.  FTW, yo!

Feb 27, 12 10:39 am

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Modulor.

Feb 27, 12 10:45 am

Now *that* is a scar.

I wear cowboy boots frequently.  They are very comfortable.

Feb 27, 12 5:30 pm

What the heck happened to Corb's leg?! I know he thought a house is a machine for living, but I didn't realize he personally was a cyborg revenant from the future.

Anyway, this thread is full of many lulz and interesting observations. Here's what I think is going on:

1) Architecture was traditionally an upper- and upper-middle-class profession. The middle class and proles need not apply. As the profession opened up and higher education became the primary status-striving mechanism for the lower classes, architecture became flooded with people from the middle and lower tiers of society. That has brought a certain ... um ... pedestrian aesthetic into architects' sartorial repertoires.

2) At the same time that was going on, the elite classes were going into stealth mode, adopting a more casual mannerism and outward affectation to say, "Hey, we're just normal folks too." There's a long tradition of elites "slumming" among the lower classes, but it's got very much out of hand in the last few decades.

3) Personal style is dead. We live in the age of Quantification, not Value.

Feb 27, 12 6:39 pm

first of all, I work out of my house by myself most days so sometimes I go the whole day without putting any pants on at all. I LOVE IT!

Most client meetings, and site visits get Dark jeans, Black Hanes crewneck T-shirt, sometimes with a black dress shirt over it and tucked in. Black, Shined leather shoes, matching belt and a nice watch. 

I know black is a cliche architect thing, but I can wear dark jeans and a black T-shirt almost anywhere, I don't have to think about anything, and I look decent. I like the details. I love matching my watch, shoes and belt and keeping them of very high design with a bent toward mid century mod. In this way I think my dress represents the kind of architecture I enjoy. A lot of my clients are techies, and NONE of them dress nicely. It would be very awkward if I showed up to a meeting dressed up. The dark jeans, black T-shirt and nice details work for me and my crowd.

Feb 27, 12 8:12 pm

Well of course this is a cultural question. This forum is predominantly American, and many of the famous architects of the last 50 years is American. And as you can clearly see in this forum, Americans believe that being fashionable, or dressing well is superficial. According to American bias, in order to be a smart guy, you need to dress down, not care about your appearance and care about "deeper" things in this world. Actually Adolf Loos has a really great book called "Why a man should be well dressed?" It's a great read for all my American colleagues who think that looking good is looking stupid. 

Feb 28, 12 6:13 am

God, Americans suck.


Feb 28, 12 6:25 am

i guess if i were in the corporate world i would dress in a suit n tie. but i'm not. as a sole practitioner with maybe 2-3 free lance drafters working with me when the work load requires it - i dress like - normal. only the stuffed up real estate types and the lawyers in my neck of the woods dress like their on wall street while making deals with the hedge funder 1% types who buy n tear down n build. however, when i do go to town hall for a ZBA hearing (at night), Planning Board meeting (again after supper), or the Architectural Review Board (at night - bring a snack and coffee) - i dress for the occasion. its not a suit n tie but comfortable, clean, jacket and button down oxford shirt n tie with either jeans or corduroy pants - nothing special. when i first moved to the burbs people told me i was waaaaaay tooooo overdressed - "we don't dress like that here". so i re-learned the old adage: "when in rome do as the romans do" ...............

Feb 28, 12 7:06 am

And Donna, clearly Americans are also sensitive since they take an observation as criticism. 

Feb 28, 12 7:27 am

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