What do Architects Wear – The architects dress code

There has never been a set fashion or clothing style in architecture other than the classic stereotypical all black turtleneck...

In this post we look at what do 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 dependent 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.

What do architects wear and 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 councilors, 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.

What do Architects Wear?

The architect’s uniform

Today, architecture fashion is generally summarized by eccentric bold colors, the color 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.

architect attire

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 favorable 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

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.

For example…

Everyday Office Wear for Architects

In the office, architects often lean towards business casual attire. The goal is to look professional without sacrificing comfort, especially considering the long hours often spent at work.

  • The Black & White: This is a popular choice due to its simplicity and elegance. Black, white, and grey tones offer a professional look that’s easy to mix and match. This monochromatic scheme is also a nod to the architectural fondness for minimalism and clean lines.
  • Pattern & Khaki: For a slightly more casual but still professional look, patterned shirts paired with khaki pants are a common choice. This combination allows for a bit of personality to shine through while maintaining an air of professionalism.

Dressing for Client Meetings and Presentations

When meeting with clients or presenting, architects often dress more formally. This is an opportunity to project confidence and professionalism.

  • Suits and Ties: A well-tailored suit can make a strong impression. For men, pairing it with a conservative tie, and for women, adding a unique accessory or a smart blouse, can blend formality with personal style.
  • Accessorizing: Accessories should be chosen to complement the outfit without overpowering it. A statement watch or a subtle piece of jewelry can add a touch of personality.

On-Site Attire for Architects

On construction sites, practicality and safety are paramount. The attire should reflect these needs.

  • Safety Gear: Hard hats, safety vests, and steel-toe boots are essential. They prioritize safety while also adhering to site regulations.
  • Functional Clothing: Durable jeans and breathable shirts are ideal. They should be comfortable for movement and resilient to the on-site environment.

Expressing Individuality Through Clothing

Architects, being designers, often express their creativity through their clothing.

  • Unique Elements: Incorporating unique design elements or textures can subtly show off an architect’s creative flair.
  • Color Choices: While neutral tones are common, adding a pop of color can make an outfit stand out in a tasteful manner.

What Not to Wear: Avoiding Common Mistakes

There are certain fashion faux pas that architects should avoid in a professional setting.

  • Overly Casual Wear: Items like shorts, flip-flops, or overly distressed clothing can be seen as unprofessional.
  • Too Much Attention: Outfits that are overly loud or attention-seeking, such as the anecdotal bright yellow pants, might not be suitable for professional environments.

Seasonal Considerations in an Architect’s Wardrobe

An architect’s wardrobe needs to adapt to changing seasons while remaining professional.

  • Layering for Cold Weather: Incorporating layers such as turtlenecks under a blazer can keep one warm and stylish.
  • Summer Attire: Opting for lighter materials and breathable fabrics can help maintain comfort without compromising on professionalism.

Sustainable and Ethical Fashion in Architecture

There’s a growing awareness among architects about the impact of their fashion choices on the environment.

  • Eco-friendly Choices: Choosing brands that use sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing processes reflects an architect’s commitment to sustainability.
  • Second-Hand and Vintage: Embracing second-hand or vintage pieces can be a unique way to be both stylish and environmentally conscious.

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.

architect dress code

FAQs about what do architects wear to work

What color do architects wear?

Architects, like professionals in many other fields, do not have a specific color they are required to wear. Their clothing choices often depend on their personal style, the nature of the day’s work, the culture of their workplace, or the requirements of specific meetings or site visits.

In a traditional office environment, architects might wear business casual attire. This can include dress shirts, slacks, dresses, blouses, and so on, in any variety of colors.

If they are visiting a construction site, safety will be a primary concern, so they might wear hard hats, visibility vests, steel-toe boots, and other safety gear. Safety vests are often bright orange or yellow for visibility, and hard hats can be various colors, often white or yellow.

That said, the stereotype of architects often portrays them wearing black clothing, likely because of the association with a minimalist and modern aesthetic. However, this is a stereotype and doesn’t reflect the reality of all architects’ wardrobe choices.

In summary, architects can wear any color they choose and what they wear often depends on the context of their work on a given day.

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