In this post we look at what architects wear to work and how to appropriately dress like one, along with what seems to be quite a popular question; how to dress like an architecture student.
There has never been a set fashion or clothing style in architecture other than the classic stereotypical all black turtleneck outfit, but ignoring that, the style of fashion present in our industry is incredibly diverse and completely dependant on your working environment and practice culture.
Some (often commercial) firms promote a formal shirt and tie scenario where others (often boutique) small firms don’t mind shorts and t-shirts. These varying fashions types are also the best indication of the firms ethos, and can be a good sign as to whether a practice is right for you or not.
How should an architect dress?
As architects, our roles are ever changing and throughout a working day we can be called upon to be designers, artists, managers, businessmen, makers, not to mention marriage councillors, all whilst trying to be bespoke and searching for originality. …the list can go!
Our dress sense therefore needs to portray our ability and understanding to clients, directors, peers and consultants; the way we dress can be seen as a reflection of our performance and professionalism, especially when meeting for the first time.
The architect’s uniform
Today, architecture fashion is generally summarised by eccentric bold colours, the colour black, formal suits and well-designed fairly relaxed garments.
When picturing an architect, most people head for the stereotypical all black silhouette, we personally always seem to picture Rem Koolhaas and Jean Nouvel.
These days however, architects rarely dress in all black outfits to meet this stereotype, and so unless you can successfully combine a few slightly different tones together, it is best to avoid the all black look, especially for the men. …who will look like they’re heading out to a fancy dress party.
Occasionally in architecture schools, you may see the odd student try this uniform on, however it almost always looks ridiculous.
For further convincing, Archdaily have a good article on this very style here: An Architect’s Dress code
How an architect should dress
An architect is employed to design buildings and structures, that big or small should stand the test of time and remain current and inspired, and this should be reflected in the architect themselves.
The architects choice of clothing should therefore never be out of style, and for this reason should not follow the fanciful temporary trends that come and go in fashion, just as the architecture itself should not.
They must on the whole aim to remain timeless and consistent with good quality and well considered clothing.
Dress for your office
Every office is different big or small and will have its own formal or informal dress code, and you should obviously always aim to comply with this. On the whole, most studios opt for a smart casual dress code, and may only require you to step this up a notch for important meetings.
Some practices do require a more formal appearance however, with suits, ties and dresses, and if this is not for you, then it’s likely that the practice isn’t either. An early indication of this will be in your interview, look at what your interviewers are wearing and try to get a glimpse of the actual employees.
How you dress, is unfortunately how you are perceived, and if you turn up each day in casual clothing, then you will be treated as such. The working environment is a professional one, and you should dress for the job. You would not see your director arriving in old converse trainers and baggy jeans, so you should not either.
The way architects or any other employees for that matter dress and present themselves, contributes to the culture and reputation of their practice, firm or office. To give clients (old and new), consultants, company directors and fellow staff members a good and favourable impression of yourself, you need to be well presented, and therefore good grooming and appropriate dress sense are key.
By taking the time to consider your appearance, demonstrates to your employer and clients that they can have confidence in your aesthetic abilities, and more crucially that you care about how things should appear.
Sometimes knowing what to wear is made easier when a practice will determine or at least hint at the appropriateness of the appearance that is expected, i.e. no shorts and that the clothing should be neat and clean.
First impressions count (a lot), there is no way of taking back a first impression and so this is key to get right. Architects are employed to design functional and attractive buildings, and your clothing and fashion sense should reflect this.
If you turn up to work each day, in a baggy jumper, an un-ironed shirt, or worse a hoody, then you will not be selling yourself as a style conscious designer that knows how to be creative.
You don’t want your peers to question that if you can’t dress yourself correctly, then how on earth are you qualified to design?
Dress for the appropriate occasion
Same goes for client and consultant meetings. Particularly with clients, they have employed your professional service and so you should represent this agreement and carry yourself as such.
You need to convey confidence and professionalism and represent someone who they would like to work with.
It’s a lot better to dress too smart than not smart enough, so for an initial meeting, an interview, first day of a new job etc. aim high, and once you fully establish the environment you are in adapt your dress accordingly.
How to dress like an architecture student
The typical architecture student does not wear black every day either.
Architecture students came from all sorts of backgrounds and places, and therefore bring with them a huge variety of tastes, influences and fashions. College and universities in terms of dress are casual environments, and therefore unless you are really pushing boundaries, you can wear whatever makes you feel comfortable.
However, just as the qualified architect does above, you should still be demonstrating that you are design conscious and know how to achieve a good aesthetic.
For students money is tight, and the luxury of new outfits often just isn’t there, which enforces the point even further that the limited amount of clothing you do have, should be of good quality and not fade away with passing trends. …it needs to last, and be simple, stylish, and affordable.
We mention here the importance of representing your work in the best possible light, and what you choose to wear is important, especially for presentations.