How to dress like an Architect


Architecture, like many other professions, depends on the image and the reputation of its leadership as a catalyst for developing trust and rapore among its client base. Therefore, how one dresses as an architect is paramount to creating a first impression. What does one's outfit and everyday dress code suggest about the architect and office culture of the firm he/she may work for?

Aug 8, 13 5:50 pm

my mode of dress is Sunnyvale casual. I look more like a coder type

Aug 8, 13 6:07 pm

Good topic, BB.

First, rapore is spelled rapport.  Its origins are French.  *right back atcha*

I do think dressing says something about the person or the firm.  If they are a suburban solo practitioner, then they can do business casual, the polo shirt, or the Scandinavian sea captain look.  If it's a downtown firm, they should be in a coat and tie, but it need not be a suit, thought that is the norm in some markets.  Funny how some architects think they need to make a statement with their apparel - the creativity comes from within, so an absurd level of flamboyance need not accompany top notch talent.  The equivalent concepts hold for a woman in the field.

I have picked up literature in the past where a really quirky new building was showcased and then you see the group picture of the design staff, and they look so avant garde and bohemian, that you almost want to tell them that twin-blade razors are cheap at the dollar store.

What I have seen is when a firm relaxes the dress code, from requiring business apparel to nice jeans and a polo shirt, the level of informality rises - sometimes, too much so.

I'm all for architects dressing well.  It could be in good taste that doesn't go out of style, since you don't want the building they'll be designing to go out of style either.

Aug 8, 13 6:11 pm

Your wardrobe should run the gamut of formal black suit and tie to jeans and a t-shirt based on your schedule for the day.

My rule of thumb, never "out-dress" your client.

Aug 8, 13 8:34 pm

^ I've never heard the "never out-dress your client" before in my short time in this profession but I think that's a pretty interesting take. For an initial meeting I would say a more formal attire is necessary but after that, unless you're going into the middle of the city to meet your client, you can show them that you're just as intelligent and important to their project without the suit.

The architect is knowledgeable in many areas and I think the dress code should be just as diverse. Of course, you can't go wrong with dress pants, dress shoes, and a button down. Better safe than sorry.

Aug 8, 13 8:49 pm

My rule of thumb, never "out-dress" your client.

I agree.  That's a good one.  In some markets and/or some typologies and sectors, the suit would actually ensure that you do NOT clinch the deal.

Aug 8, 13 9:01 pm
No murses
No vajazzling
Aug 8, 13 10:07 pm

Like a sack of potatoes.

Like a fashion designer.

Like bookends.

Like a truck driver.

Aug 8, 13 10:34 pm

Haha- go figure... Zaha get's inspired by her own curves and rem by his dutch poker face...

Aug 8, 13 11:23 pm

beach attire - LA style

Aug 8, 13 11:26 pm

They're all poker faced.  Do you know a famous architect who isn't?  It's part of the aura of being better than the plebes.  Supreme Court justices are probably more affable than they are.

Aug 9, 13 1:48 am


Aug 9, 13 4:12 am

I frequently out-dress my clients - in style, that is, not cost.  In private practice I had very wealthy clients whose sweatsuits cost more than my best business suit, but I would never meet with a client without looking very well put-together. Never.

It's a gesture of respect to dress appropriately for a meeting.  That might not mean a suit and tie, but it means looking considered.

I also have some old-school etiquette ideas about dress.  For example, no visible toes in the workplace, on either gender.  Visible heels are bad enough, I don't want to see toes.  Or armpits.  Sockless *only* in July and August.  And this means stockings for women most of the year too - sorry, but that's my attitude.

Advice: invest in expensive shoes and other accessories like belts, your watch, your bag. It's OK to be casual but you should look stylish and like you appreciate quality. Then, also, *polish* your shoes.  Make sure they look top notch.

I'd kill or die for that double collar thing Rem is wearing.  Love it.

Aug 9, 13 12:32 pm

I'm gathering here that my hiking boots and cargo shorts are somehow...  wanting.

Aug 9, 13 12:59 pm

Are you wearing them with a bowtie? You might get a pass. ;-)

Aug 9, 13 2:01 pm

I don't understand how one can possibly "outdress" clients when we're all wearing the same dinner jackets at the country club.  Perhaps when women are allowed might we start seeing a little more "competition" in evening-wear (like that will ever happen!  LOL).  However, I do agree flashy accoutrements might be a little dangerous when negotiating fee.

Aug 9, 13 2:02 pm

The "never out-dress your client rule," is strictly based on the market you're working in. Large midwestern manufacturing giants strictly wear jeans/khakis and a company polo. If I came in wearing a suit, they would think I was trying to rob them. The other side of the coin, clients in aviation tend to wear suits on their days off.

You have to dress the part.

Aug 9, 13 2:33 pm

more seriously, my only rule is (to rip off cameron) "dress like you give a damn."


you put yourself together like you put your buildings together - you show up to a meeting looking like you know what the hell you're doing with your own clothes, people give respect - doesn't matter if they're a bunch of midwestern manufacturers or boring suits in the aviation industry, someone looking to remodel their kitchen, or the chinese government.   dress sloppy, people assume you're sloppy with everything else.  Once you figure out your own style, how clothes are supposed to fit, fall, work... you don't need to shift uniforms in an attempt to pander to people.

Aug 9, 13 3:08 pm

Well-said, toaster.  And keep those toes under wraps.

Aug 9, 13 3:39 pm

I smell the clothes, I also look for holes. If there is too much smell or too many holes, I look for something else to put on. I avoid agreeing to attend meetings so as to not have to look for/smell clothes.

Aug 9, 13 3:52 pm

My partner has nice shoes, she should go to the meetings.

Aug 9, 13 3:55 pm

I recently read a jokey Facebook thing that referred to middle-aged women's "love of wine and wide-legged pants". That's me these days for sure!

Aug 9, 13 4:49 pm

Looks great! :) 

Aug 9, 13 5:25 pm


Hat looks like that of a 1920s flapper outfit.  Can't comment about the rest.  Whether or not black is in, black always makes people look thin(ner).

Aug 9, 13 5:26 pm

our professional practice prof told us to always dress slightly better than the client, in order to set the tone.  its an alpha thing i guess. 

Aug 9, 13 6:50 pm
And yet, Will, you guys do great work but I imagine wear jeans and flip flops in the office?
Aug 9, 13 10:29 pm
Yeah pretty close Donna. But usually a nice shirt. I

do remember my prof saying that though. For him it was about power but I think it's useful to remember
clothes are a message too. We wear suits where appropriate. Wish I could afford rem's wardrobe. Stylish without looking like a salary man is expensive (didn't billy Joel say that ?)
Aug 10, 13 4:26 am
i look like a salary man.
Aug 10, 13 10:01 am

I look like a put out to pasture man....

I remember meeting with the former head of Sony Records  one day along with his wife. They were considering moving their art gallery from one side of their vineyard to the other side.  It was hot I was overdressed, they were both in tee shirts and shorts with tennis shoes. 

Aug 10, 13 10:22 am

bloody i-phone and its weird spacing. looks like im free-basing robert frost or something.


put out to pasture can work too.

When I was younger i did a pitch to a group of levis execs for a cool shop  -  in a suit. the VP took me aside and told me it wasn't necessary to be so formal going forward.  So I wore levis jeans instead after that, which was the obvious first choice in hindsight .  We got the job btw. in spite of the suit. I feel sort of stupid for not knowing the culture beforehand. luckily the design was seriously cool.

Nowadays I wear a suit mostly only when meeting politicians cuz they would think I was not taking them seriously if I didn't.  The cultures of all the people we meet is pretty fascinating study actually.

Aug 10, 13 11:04 am
Steven you dress great and always have a cool belt and cool shoes. Even your wheelies.
Aug 10, 13 11:22 am

How come no one has brought up the accesories up into this discussion?? The architect's glasses for example?? :)

Aug 10, 13 11:59 am

Would you hire these architects?

Aug 10, 13 12:06 pm

They look like Corbu on crack haha

Aug 10, 13 12:10 pm
is that real? looks like a band photo.

thanks, donna. wasn't fishing for a compliment.

my default is decent pants, an open-collared white dress shirt, and my charcoal 15yo brooks bros jacket. basic, anonymous, decent cut. works in a tie crowd and a casual crowd.
Aug 10, 13 12:11 pm

Would you hire these architects?

No.  They look  forcibly artsy-fartsy and avant garde, bohemian, hipster-like, and just plain old fucking weird.

Aug 10, 13 12:20 pm

Im curious- why hasn't a starchitect come up with his/her own perfume? Gehry came up jewlery...

Aug 10, 13 12:31 pm

Michael Graves, or someone else, about 20 years ago came up with dinnerware or sheets - items for the house.  Isn't that Martha Stewart's job?

Aug 10, 13 12:33 pm

I own some- not a fan pf his buildings though... I dislike post-modernism... Alessi had a lot of the rights to his stuff... But perfume is part of apparel not house ware...

Aug 10, 13 12:38 pm
Bulgar, every other group of people who consider themselves creative and avant garde have stolen our chunky glasses, that's why no one has brought them up. No one has cool glasses anymore because *everyone* has cool glasses.
Aug 10, 13 4:31 pm

At least now we know where Johnson got the glasses. 

Aug 10, 13 7:02 pm

Those have to be Phillips Glasses....think he must have forgot them after visiting with Wright ...  Most likely he was purchasing Wrights Japanese Block Prints for  MOMA.

Aug 10, 13 7:47 pm

I think in general in the architectural world wearing black pants and a nice shirt is generally the safe route.  Office wear really depends on the culture of the office.  In the corporate world there are strict rules to how women should dress, but in small offices I think it can be a little more casual and be okay.  As long as you look nice and presentable to people we are good.  In regards to leaving the office for interviews and meeting it really is important to know your client.  If you client all wears flip flops you do not come in suits, it communicates to them that you don't understand them, it also doesn't mean you can wear flip flops.  I think dressing safe is best.  Works for office and for meetings.  

Aug 10, 13 7:48 pm

Hmm - no more Grey pants from Penny's and UniQlo Pull-over Shirts?

Aug 10, 13 9:41 pm

I'm going to wear Rad Hourani Unisex Tuxedo Pants to my next client interview. Shirtless, of course.

Aug 10, 13 11:20 pm

I've always felt that a really good pair of well-fitted jeans (not ultra skinny, just well fitted) is the prime choice - it lets you easily dress them right up or down depending on the shoes they're paired with (I keep an extra pair at my desk). I have a pair of black levi's that are dyed such a dark black that they actually look like dress pants - definately my go-to  in the morning.

Aug 11, 13 6:17 pm

Does anyone here weat boweties? 

Aug 11, 13 8:35 pm

so your telling me i cant wear my dress shirt, jeans, and red chucks? ;)

Aug 11, 13 9:00 pm

I'm a fan of Haggar's "work to weekend" line of pleated dress jeans:

Look everyone!  I'm hip!  I'm wearing jeans with nice shoes!

Aug 11, 13 9:32 pm

I wouldnt wear this ^ to an ugly party ;(

Aug 11, 13 11:18 pm

God those pants are offensive.

Aug 11, 13 11:41 pm

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