A new series where I review one of my former jobs. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
In 1995 I took my second trip cross country, and upon arrival at my half-brother’s house in San Diego, broke up with my hippy, vegan, dreadlocked girlfriend, Caitlin. She and I had come to the point in our relationship where constant bickering over life’s inconsequential minutiae had become surprisingly less entertaining than expected.
Alone, immature, and crashing at my then thirty-something brother’s pad with his new wife proved inconvenient for both of us, namely him, so it was on me to get a jobby job and find a place of my own. This being San Diego’s mid-90’s salad days, I was quickly able to find a job at a Mission Hills sub shop, the most menial possible job possible within a bike ride of my temporary home base in Normal Heights.
My job was clear: I’d do all the sh*t work that no one else would be bothered to do. In food service this means lots of cleaning, from grease traps to ovens, and then for a treat, the lowest end of food prep, i.e shredding lettuce, cooking bacon, and slicing tomatoes, i.e. anything that requires zero cooking skills.
The boss was Steve Carona. His namesake eatery was a typical non-descript sandwich joint in that one spot that has turned over 10 times on an otherwise nice little restaurant row. Steve had a standing order for at least a few dozen subs a day on to the base, which basically kept the place running while he squandered any meager profit either on one of his many ex-wives and mistresses or more likely, up his nose.
Steve was a massive pain in the ass, but was rarely there. My day started with Howard Stern on the radio while sweeping the leaves from a nice, shady upstairs eating area. Then it was time to prep for the lunch rush. My least favorite job was in the afternoon: protecting the private, shared parking lot from non-authorized-parkers, something which basically involved me counting minutes while staring into space. Occasionally, I had to clean the grease trap, or cook 50lbs of bacon at a time, and inhaling bacon grease vapor is not something I would recommend to anyone.
Honestly, it wasn’t a bad job. It was one of those jobs that’s just exactly what you’d expect. The paychecks cashed and the people were nice. I made friends with the lead cook and we’d sometimes hang out at her under-furnished North Park apartment and drink beer. Eventually I saved up enough to get out of my brother’s house. I think I quit because I found a better job somewhere else, and no one really cared one way or the other. Carona’s closed a few years later.
15 years later, I find myself picking up a pizza pie from my favorite local place, and who’s standing outside, greeting customers and answering the phone? None other than Steve Carona. I shake his hand and tell him that I worked for him a dozen years ago. His interest piqued, but clearly having no idea who I was, he responds like he was running the place: “Oh yeah? Well, I’m over here now”. That was pretty much about what I’d expected.
Some more musings on corporate men’s fashion…
- Wearing all-black does not really make you stylish. If you are over 30, it makes you weird.
- If you are over 30, resist the urge to shop and H&M or Zara. Those clothes don’t fit you anymore. You can find lower-cost adult clothes at places like Lands End.
- The hem of your pants is probably the most important detail of all. Your pants hem should touch the sole of your shoe in the back for a full break, and about an inch above for no break. Showing your socks or man-ankles is absolutely forbidden. Similarly, walking around with sacks of cloth on your shoes is not good either.
- If your pants are hemmed too short, get them fixed at the tailor, don’t sag your pants down to make up for it.
- Invest in more than one pair of shoes. A good basic selection would be a black plain or cap-toe oxford, a brown oxford, and a brown loafer. If you wear the same shoes every day, people will notice.
- Wearing the same pair of Gucci Horsebit loafers every day is not going to cover the fact that you only have one pair of shoes. Instead of spending 500 dollars on those, get 3 pairs of Allen Edmonds on sale.
- Wearing loafers with a suit really doesn’t make sense. Loafers are casual shoes.
- Sportjackets are casual, not dress clothes. However in ‘business casual’ offices, you will get a little grief for wearing a jacket. Just keep at it and eventually they won’t notice. I’m wearing one today.
- A tie and a dress shirt is not really any dressier than not wearing a tie at all. If you wear a tie, wear a jacket too. No jacket, no tie. You can just wear a sportjacket with out the tie as well.
- If you wear a jacket, keep it on. If all you want to do is take the jacket off the minute you get to your desk, ditch the jacket entirely.
- Buy a pair of socks that stay up. Baggy socks are definitely a no-no. Club Room socks have EverStay technology and really do stay up!
- Socks match your pants. Not your shoes. So grey slacks and black shoes means grey socks.
- Please, for the sake of everyone else in the office, wear an undershirt. I can see your hairy man-nipples through your white shirts.
- If there is one and only one piece of advice I can offer, it is to either learn how to iron your clothes or go to the dry cleaner and get your clothes professionally pressed. You can’t just keep wearing the same shirt again and again without getting them pressed. My rule is 2 wears per laundering.
I am a big Thanksgiving fan.Â It’s a holiday with the sole purpose of getting together, eating, drinking, and being merry.Â There’s no religious overtones, no consumerism-tainted gift-guilting, and it’s a one-day thing – no endless parties and social events around it.Â Plus, it’s a 4-day weekend just when you think you’re about to go insane from not having a day off since Labor Day.
For me, a proper Thanksgiving is a must.Â No need for new traditions here.Â Just turkey, taters, gravy, wine.Â See you in the food coma, kiddies!
There comes a time in a man’s life when he needs to wear a suit. It might be a job interview, business affair, wedding, funeral, or a fancy night out with that special someone. Despite current trends towards ‘Dressy Casual’ jean & t-shirt combos and designer track suits, the venerable men’s suit is still the preferred choice for most formal occasions.
It’s probably easier to talk about what not to do than what makes a good suit. In basic terms, you want a wool suit that fits properly, 2 or 3 buttons, wrinkle-free with pressed slacks, dress shirt, tie, shined shoes. Couldn’t be simpler, right? Well, I guess not.
The biggest problem I see is “swimming in the suit”. Most men seem to be wearing clothes that don’t fit. Too-big jackets, too-long pants, sagging pants are all-too-common. I’ve talked about the importance of pants that fit before, so I’ll talk about the jacket, which can be a tough thing to figure out.
The basic rule of thumb it’s OK to have a jacket that is slightly too small but not OK to have a jacket that is at all too big. There are a few easy ‘tells’ when trying on a jacket that will make it easier to get one that fits. First, ask the salesman for a shirt in your size. This is important. Make sure it fits correctly and ask for him to measure you if necessary.
Button up the shirt all the way and button the sleeves. When you try on the jacket, you are looking for about a half-inch of your shirt collar to show above the jacket at the very back of your neck. If the jacket covers your shirt collar, it’s too big.
Watch out for over-padded shoulders – the easy way to tell this is to stand with your shoulder against a wall – your arm should meet the wall before the shoulder pad of the jacket.
See how the jacket fits in the chest. Button the top button (or 2 of a three-button) and place your fist under the top button. It should fit comfortably and snugly without too much extra room. If you can pull the buttoned jacket 5 or more inches from your chest, it is too big.
Your jacket’s sleeves can be hemmed. If the jacket fits in the chest and shoulders, hem the sleeves so that about a half-inch of shirt cuff shows with your arms at your sides. You can go even shorter (to about an inch) if you are young, slim, and want that hipster look. Some modern cuts also have smaller, more tailored arms which are nice for taller men. Look for these, they prevent the dreaded “football shoulders” which is hard to avoid.
A couple more things to remember:
- A sportcoat and slacks is not a suit.
- Don’t wear a tuxedo shirt without a tuxedo.
- Don’t wear french cuffs unless you are wearing a suit.
- Your tie should reach your belt. Too-short ties are an instant barney maneuver.
- Get your suit tailored, steamed and pressed before you wear it.
- Shine your shoes!
- If you can only buy one suit, it should be black, navy, or dark grey. Striped suits are for your second or third suit.
- 3-button suits are better for men with thinner upper bodies; both 2 and 3 button suits are appropriate. Be careful with the 4-button suits.
- Your jacket should have a vent (center or sides). A jacket without a vent looks like a sack.
- If you wear a black suit, wear black socks and black shoes and a black belt.
Sassy’s ten-year plan
Years 1-9 : toil
Year 10 : toil more
These days Uncle Sassy works in a big corporate office with lots and lots of people. After years on the job I’ve finally figured out the difference between the guys who are “on the track” vs. the “guy in IT” – it’s their clothes. If you want to play with the big boys, you gotta dress the part – and I’m gonna tell you how.
Most offices these days are “Business Casual” – meaning you don’t wear a suit. But even without the tie and jacket, you still can look sharp for that impromptu meeting with the CEO. Like it or not, you are judged on your appearance – and there is a world of difference between a true player and the khaki-clad, polo-shirted cube jockey.
When you walk into Macy’s, you will see a big selection of men’s clothing right near the entrance. Walk right past this section and find the place where the suits are sold. The section out on the floor is the casual section. Those clothes are meant for 25-year olds with their parent’s credit cards. If you want nice clothes for work, you need to find the old man with a tape measure around his neck, usually in the back with all the suits.
A good pair of Italian 100% wool slacks should last you nearly a lifetime with care. Avoid elastic waistbands, stretch, or polyester. If you are under the age of 40 and in decent shape you should consider flat-front pants. Pleats are fine for those of us with a bit of a spare tire to cover up. Wear your pants at the waist and wear pants that fit. There is no level of bagginess or sag that is appropriate in the office. Low-rise pants for men are an abomination and should never be worn to work.
Get your pants hemmed by a tailor. The break of your hem (how much your pants rumple at the shoe) is crucial. Short men can wear pants hemmed with no break or a half break. Tall men should wear a full break. A proper hem is to the heel of your shoe and to about the third lace of the shoe’s upper. Be careful about pants that are too long and fold over too much – and watch out for too-short hems, these are very common problems I see in the young men around my office. Also avoid the “straight leg” look – your pants will cover too much of your shoe. Cuffed pants are generally out of fashion for younger men.
Keep your pants pressed. Creased fronts are more dressy than plain fronts. Chinos and Khakis are OK too, but if you want to be “on the track”, save em’ for casual Fridays.
Remember when I was talking about the casual section? Try this sometime: go look at a button-down shirt in the casual section and check the size. Then, go to the dress shirts and check their sizes. You’ll notice that the casual shirts are sized “Small” or “Large” while the dress shirts are “16 – 34/35” or whatever.
Ask the old guy to measure you for a shirt and buy the shirt that fits. Those casual shirts will never fit right and will always have some problem like too-short sleeves or collars that are too wide. You can buy the “slim fit” shirts if you’d like but you’d better be slim.
Personally I stick to 100% Italian cotton shirts – no stretch, no sateen, no permanent press. French Cuffs are for bankers and salesman, otherwise it’s a bit dressy for most offices – but if you like em’, go for it. Grandpa’s cufflinks are classier than Geoffrey Beene’s.
Iron and starch your shirts every time you wear them. Your sleeves should have crisp creases. Press your collars – I can’t tell you how many men I see with curled collars.
Personally I do not like button-down collars. Also, a men’s dress shirt has a breast pocket. If the shirt doesn’t have a breast pocket, it’s for the clubs, not work. Keep your shirt buttoned to the top if you wear a tie, otherwise the top button is the only one that should be undone.
Long-sleeves are the safest bet if you want to look sharp. Polo shirts, short sleeves, untucked shirts are OK on casual fridays but otherwise should be avoided.
Shoes make the man and they are the easiest way to tell a player from a schlub. Those thick-rubber-soled square-toed shoes that Steve Madden is churning out of Malaysia are cheap and look cheap. If you can afford it, buy Italian leather shoes with sewn (not glued) leather soles. It’s tough to swallow spending 300 bucks on a pair of shoes but with care they will last you for life. Those glued rubber sole shoes will fall apart in 3 years. Keep em’ shined.
Avoid trendy shoes at all costs. Those gauchos or alligator skinned mocs are not gonna fly. Oxfords, pennies, weave loafers – stick to the classics. Besides, when those goofy shoes go out of style in 3 years you’ll still be looking sharp.
Socks, Belts, Jewelry
Dress socks are key – no ribbed black cotton jobs allowed. Your belt should be conservative – avoid chromed or large buckles. Jewelry should be similarly conservative – those gigantic men’s watches are great if you work for a record label but ain’t gonna fly at a real job. Similarly, those wristband watches are better for the weekend.
Unfortunately for Uncle Sassy, who loved his mop-top and goatee, short hair and clean-shaven is the way to go. That means no sideburns either. Neat and clean nails, teeth, it all matters.
So that’s it kiddies.Â Get that credit card warmed up and make it happen.Â You’d be surprised how much more seriously people take your nonsensical ramblings when you look good.