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Dressing in a suit for the job

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Dressing in a suit for the job

Old 02-21-24, 10:11 AM
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Dressing in a suit for the job

I once had a mentor who strongly encouraged me to dress in a suit for the job I work in. Where I work the dress code is flexible, and we have people who wear everything from business casual (jeans+polo) to suits. But... those who want to or are advancing seem to be the ones dressed on the better end of that spectrum. I don't want my appearance to hold me back from career opportunities, and I'm wondering what commuters do to arrive somewhere on a bicycle while looking dressed to the 9s. My commute is 9 miles and I live in a state where there is currently still grime and snow on the roads. It's not only a matter of arriving neat but also keeping the body warm.
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Old 02-21-24, 11:01 AM
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Many thoughts here.

You should absolutely dress up if that helps you advance in your job. A suit isn't even particularly uncomfortable to work in with modern climate control and all.

However, I don't see how anyone can bike 9 miles every day through the weather and still arrive "dressed to the 9's".

One potential option is a gym membership near your job where you can bike to the gym, lock up the bike, work out, shower, shave, get your fancy suit and tie of the day out of a locker, put it on, and walk to work. A friend's house or family's house would accomplish much the same thing.

The next possible option (what I happen to do) is to leave clothes and shoes at work. Of course, then you are walking in the front door grungy every day. At the very least, you might be able to stash a pair of nice leather dress shoes and a sport coat at work. In my experience, no one really cares if you wear the same shoes and/or sport coat every day. Dark blue with dark blue buttons is the most versatile, but it is also easy to switch to a tweed or something else in the fall/winter and a lighter one in the spring. I rotate between two pairs of shoes at work.

If none of that works for you, still not a problem because at your job, any effort is better than no effort right? Think back to the 1930's or so when proper men wore a suit to work everyday and didn't necessarily have a car. Make it practical and do what you can - a backpack with dress shoes. Beautiful sweaters. Dress socks. Real leather belts. Probably few would care if your trousers were plastic blend - as long as the cut was dressy and they weren't jeans.

As business casual caught on, suits, sport coats, dress shoes, and ties could be found for cheap at second hand stores. I have probably 60 pairs of work shoes, 200 ties, 50 jackets, 50 belts, etc. Dressing for work was a bit of a hobby. Sadly, most men haven't worn nice clothes in so long that the really nice stuff is hard to find and expensive nowadays. Our dress code changed years ago and I quit with the ties. Since I switched to bike commuting, I keep fashion at work to wearing a nice belt and nice shoes and putting a sport coat over a polo shirt.
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Old 02-21-24, 11:09 AM
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Another thought, if you can swing it. Lean and physically fit is still in, and bike commuting helps make you lean and physically fit. Get some 32" waist pants or whatever and tuck those shirts in and show off your amazing physique.

It's also no problem to ride a bike in any season with a fresh haircut that means business.
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Old 02-21-24, 11:32 AM
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My experience is only partially relatable but still worth sharing. As a disclaimer, I work a blue collar job technically and work the back end of an auto body shop so arriving a bit sweaty isn't a big deal, nobody cares. However, I still interface with our vendors so I do need to be presentable to a degree.
My commute for many years up until this last November, which I only managed once a week on average, was 12 miles each way with a steep hill out of my front door. Thankfully, it was downhill on the way to work. I'd generally ride hard since it was a relatively long commute and wanted it to go by as quick as possible, I'd average 20mph so good and sweaty I would get. I'd always bring a backpack with a full change of clothes. I would have to budget time to cool off and and clean up the sweat. I always used the shop paper towels to clean up but stashing an actual towel at work may have worked better, a shower would have been ideal. Once cooled off and all the sweat was dried off, the fresh clothes went on, including the work outfit (blue work shirt with matching Dickies) and nobody could tell I just rode the bike for 35 minutes. I'd try to have deodorant with me but that didn't always happen.

A close friend is in the same boat as you where he wears a nice suit at work (high school teacher, doesn't need to dress that nice but chooses to). He's very fit, mostly runs but sometimes rides his bike around. He always drives to work but we've talked about what a bike commute would look like for him, which happens to be around 8 miles. Unfortunately for him, he naturally sweats a lot, so a real concern for anybody in a position where a suit at work makes sense. One thought we've had is if he got an e-bike of some sort. That way, he could get in some level of exercise without having to push too hard and sweat everywhere but still get there in a timely fashion. I recall the idea being that he would bring the suit with him in a bag or backpack. Chances are, any e-bike he'd get would have a rack so no backpack to make the back sweaty.

One last note on hauling around a suit while on two wheels. I've gotten myself to many formal gatherings on my motorcycle and have found it easy to get a nice suit into a backpack. For me, I've long had a Chrome brand messenger bag that mostly collects dust but works perfect for carrying fancy clothes. I'll fit the full getup in it. Shoes, socks, slacks, belt, button up shirt, tie and fancy coat. Folding it all neatly before and then rolling each item has been an effective way of preventing wrinkles.
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Old 02-21-24, 02:21 PM
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I leave the shoes behind at the office. Everything else goes home with me each night. What does everyone else do?
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Old 02-21-24, 03:18 PM
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When I had a multi-mile each way commute and needed a suit I used a garment pannier from Nashbar. Nashbar is no longer around. About the only concern still making a garment pannier is Two Wheel Gear and my DW rocks one, because she is the corporate worker these days and I am the freelance slacker. If you are doing it right, even a 2 mi inbound will have you too sweaty to already be "dressed to the nines". The gym near work is a viable strategy but so is arriving in Hi-Viz and changing (a shower should not really be necessary) in the men's room, as long as you aren't doing the spiff job on company time. You have to know the company culture you are part of. At one company, a guy who bikes in is a tree hugging waste of space, and at another he is an heir apparent. It's a tight labor market. I'd switch employers for one that thought I walked on water because I live car free.
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Old 02-21-24, 04:33 PM
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The long time answers are "shower when you get to work/at a gym nearby" and "shower before you leave, ride easy, clean up with baby wipes in the handicap stall of the restroom."

If you have the office that should go with the suit, you can leave a suit or two hanging on the back of your office door.

I leave a pair of dress shoes under my cube desk, and bring khakis and a dress shirt every day.
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Old 02-21-24, 04:49 PM
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Hard for me to imagine cycling when not wearing a suit. Remember that a bicycle can be an exercise device or an exercise prevention device. Travel around 8-10 mph and it is far easier than walking.
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Old 02-21-24, 04:52 PM
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For me I have spent many years satisfying mandatory uniforms. 32 years in the military means many types of uniforms. But I wore them all with pride. I think thats whats makes a difference. How you wear your uniform is really what it is. I am a 70 year old PA-C who works in a rural area. Having been a Nurse, Lab Tech, X-Ray Tech, and Army Medic adds allot to the way I carry my current dress.

I am an old retired guy and more a Jack of All Trades then a specialist. I wear Hawaiian Shirts, tucked into dress pants, with polished dress shoes, and a short sleeved Pharmacy Smock. I only wear Scrubs in surgery and Lab Coats are for those who do not wash hands.

50 years ago this would have been considered Civil Disobedience ending in Professional Crucifixion. But now days its difference and comfort is the norm, if not a statement.

In my bailiwick the patients like it. Or maybe they tolerate it because they just like me...
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Old 02-22-24, 07:27 AM
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I would combine leaving the suit jackets in the office with carrying the pants and shirt with me each day. When I worked I would change when I got to the office by going in the back way, and then I'd be able to walk through the building not looking like I just got off the bike. When I got to my desk I'd put on the jacket. This only worked when it seemed like all dress clothes started having some polyester in them or were "no wrinkle" cotton. Your body heat would naturally take the wrinkles out. When it was wool suits and starched cotton you'd look like a crumbled mess if you did that. You could either carry your shoes or leave them at your desk. In NYC so many people wore comfy shoes to walk around that nobody would notice the gym shoes just heading up the elevator. My female office mate must've had 20 pairs of shoes at her desk and she came in in running shoes every day.
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Old 02-22-24, 07:57 AM
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I'm in my 32nd year of commuting. Nine miles each way for 28 years; now six miles each way. I bike in my bike clothes and carry my office clothes in a large back pack. I shave at home in the morning. I keep office shoes at the office, and on occasion will bring dress shoes when needed. I also keep toiletries, plus spare socks, undies, and a couple of clean shirts. I've been thinking of keeping a pair of spare pants as well. I have a small, 3-foot wide wardrobe at work.

It's dry and high here in Colorado Springs so even summer mornings are cool, so sweating is kept to a minimum, but even when I do work up a sweat, a quick bird-bath and changing into clean clothes really helps. As long as I shower daily and put on some cologne and deodorant at work I'm okay. Sometimes I'll shower in the morning before my ride in. But usually I shower after returning home.

I've never had to wear a suit for work, but I suppose one of those wardobe/pannier things would work. The kind that drape over the back rack.

My last job was more casual, but the new job is a office casual, but at 62 years old, I feel I need to dress a little better.

I think starting the workday fresh would be more difficult in a humid climate, but not impossible.
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Old 02-22-24, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by pannierpacker
I'm wondering what commuters do to arrive somewhere on a bicycle while looking dressed to the 9s. My commute is 9 miles and I live in a state where there is currently still grime and snow on the roads. It's not only a matter of arriving neat but also keeping the body warm.
Assuming I needed to commute via bicycle on a daily basis and wanted to be on the more dressy end of the dressy-casual spectrum, I'd opt for a good set of waterproof Ortlieb panniers of a size sufficient to neatly hold the "dressy" change of clothes, a spare shirt, clean-up items, etc. And I'd then dress for the commute ride however the ride/conditions required. Better still, if there's a showering facility at the workplace.

Couldn't say this would suffice for "dressing to the nines," but it ought to handle most things.
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Old 02-22-24, 09:25 AM
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I'm a teacher's assistant. The job doesn't require me to wear a dress shirt and tie, but I do anyway. It's slightly uncomfortable riding to work dressed that way, but it's not a deal breaker. I don't wear a dressy jacket. If I had to wear one at work, I would leave it at work.

I guess I can wear anything while cycling. Try it.

If you get super sweaty, next time, slow down on the last mile. Or bring a change.
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Old 02-23-24, 08:24 AM
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Here's a tip -- in summer, wear a short sleeve dress shirt and roll (not fold) your jacket. If you are wearing slacks and a sport jacket, you can leave your jacket at the office and ride without it.
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Old 02-23-24, 09:06 AM
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Really depends on the rider and location. Exhibit A: after a regular off-site meeting, my boss and I walked outside at 9:30 a.m. Ten minutes later, my dress shirt was soaked through with sweat. Exhibit B: I tell my wife I get sweaty just looking at a bike. She agrees.

So I need to change when I get to work.
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Old 02-26-24, 05:48 AM
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Even if my commute was only a half mile, as a rule I don’t wear work clothes on the bike. Even/especially as a kid working at McDonalds.

My waterproof Ortlieb Daypack fits with some room a microfiber camping towel and my entire work outfit minus the shoes. I leave my shoes at work. I really want to leave my blazers there too, but that kinda seems like an invitation for Allstate’s Mayhem Murphy to mess them up. I never put food in the backpack, I always have a thick garbage bag to put my clothes into at the end of the day, so the Ortlieb just smells like clean clothes & plastic.

I currently have a locker I hang my riding clothes & soiled towel in and have a battery fan in there to circulate the moisture out, but I have at other jobs had to use my bike as the clothes hanger and at another I had a large plain corrugated cardboard box with tons of crumpled up paper towels in it to carefully lay-in & loose-roll my riding clothes to dry and I’d stash it in the supply closet. At the latter one I also just used a larger backpack or rarely took my touring bike and loaded a pannier with 6-7 days worth of clean work clothes in and stashed them in an unused cabinet in one garbage bag while also having another garbage bag I’ll have filled over the previous week or so with soiled work clothes to bring home so as to give myself several days of minimal/no cargo rides.

I primarily use merino clothes for riding so they’re not funky to wear in the evening even if I got a case of the zoomies and sprinted a few portions of the ride in.

I do sometimes lightly bend my rule about work clothes now that I’ve got a few pair of really boot-side-of-the-spectrum dress boots that can take a beating and then polish up easily in just a few minutes. When it’s chilly enough for jeans-looking riding pants, the boots get worn the whole day, but I’ve had to put shearling insoles in them all to stay dry footed.
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Old 02-28-24, 01:46 AM
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When I had a locker I would leave a weeks worth of clothes. Currently I keep two pairs of nice shoes and pants in my cube. The rest of my clothing travels with me in my panniers. Shirts folded neatly to avoid wrinkles. I also keep first aid items at work, like gauze, tape and polysporin, in case of an accident on my way to work or to change dressings in following days.
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Old 03-21-24, 11:40 AM
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I can't even think to do commute if I don't have permanent option on the job place to have a locker, shower, etc. I always had it. Sorry for anyone who need figure out how to commute and have a nice looking body at work after that.
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Old 03-24-24, 07:16 AM
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Either I don't sweat much or people are polite enough to say I look too drenched. Sweating isn't a big problem for me.

One thing I do on very hot days is pour a glass of ice water and drink it while sitting very still. This will stop my sweating.
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