Pocket Squares: Interview Attire?

Infallibleatx asks:

I recently graduated from a masters in accounting program, and was chatting with a member of career services staff. She said that they do not recommend that students wear pocket squares to interviews. I was taken aback, because I thought of them as being a classic part of a nice outfit. She said that they were considered “trendy.” Can you settle this? Are pocket squares more of a modern trend, or something classic? Would you recommend them for an interview?

Pocket squares are classic in the sense that leaving a corner of handkerchief visible in your suit’s breast pocket is something men have been doing for a long time. But they’re also trendy in that they’ve made a strong comeback in the last decade, after going underground in the wake of the 1990s biz-caz revolution (the pocket square was the first thing guillotined).

When interviewing for a job—and this question arises for the most part in relation to white collar jobs—you want to wear clothing that (1) tells the interviewer you are aware of and conform to the social norms of business attire (which do change!), and (2) is unlikely to offend anyone’s sensibilities. A lot of things we (reasonably) consider classic are also (reasonably) considered by many to be ostentatious, and you don’t want your job interview to be a referendum on what you’re wearing. Why is a piece of colorful silk in your pocket not acceptable yet one tied carefully around your neck a-ok? A reasonable question. 

Political candidates walk this line constantly, because they’re interviewing for their jobs every day. They default to something like Nicolas Antongiovanni’s concept of Conservative Business Dress (conservative not meant in the political sense). Dark, single breasted, notch lapel suit; plain white or blue shirt; basic, contrasting necktie. Nothing showy or expensive-looking, which would convey frivolousness and concern with unserious things: no pocket square; for god’s sake no French cuffs; as little pattern as possible; black shoes. Look at the images above from the most recent presidential primary debates, essentially the most visible job interview in the world: Not a pocket square on the stage.

I hate to say this, because most politicians dress terribly, but for white collar job interviews: you want to dress like a politician. You can wild out with sick pocket squares once you’re hired and you get a feel for the office culture.

-Pete

Q & Answer: Can Leather Jackets be Altered?
Jeff asks: I’ve been trying to find a leather jacket, but all the ones I’ve come across are too big in the body. Do you know if these can be altered like a sport coat, and if so, is it generally considered a safe process?
Yes, but it depends. Like with suit jackets and sport coats, you should try to make sure your leather jacket fits you well across the shoulders and chest, and that the armholes are high enough. It’s not that these parts can’t be altered; it’s that the alteration can be expensive and risky. Things such as bringing in the body and shortening the sleeves, however, are much easier. 
That said, a lot depends on the specific leather jacket you have. Details such as ribbing, zippers, and pockets can get in the way of certain alterations. If the jacket has a very unique lining or insulation system, or if the panels were cut in a strange way, these can cause other complications. Whether it’s possible to get something done really depends on the jacket at hand. 
Whatever you do, make sure you go to someone who has a lot of experience working with leather jackets. One of the problems with these alterations is that you sometimes need special machinery. Cowhide and horsehide, as mentioned yesterday, are very, very thick, so you need special equipment to sew through them. And if a tailor ever messes up, undoing a seam can reveal some ugly holes, so mistakes are costly. To find someone good, you might want to call places that sell really nice jackets - be that a fashion boutique or a place that specializes in motorcycle leathers - and see if they have any recommendations. There are also some good recommendations in StyleForum’s archives. 
If in the end, should your leather jacket get ruined, take comfort in knowing your can chop off the sleeves and turn your jacket into a leather vest, then ride around town with it shirtless. The body might still not fit well, but I’m pretty sure nobody will say anything to your face. 

Q & Answer: Can Leather Jackets be Altered?

Jeff asks: I’ve been trying to find a leather jacket, but all the ones I’ve come across are too big in the body. Do you know if these can be altered like a sport coat, and if so, is it generally considered a safe process?

Yes, but it depends. Like with suit jackets and sport coats, you should try to make sure your leather jacket fits you well across the shoulders and chest, and that the armholes are high enough. It’s not that these parts can’t be altered; it’s that the alteration can be expensive and risky. Things such as bringing in the body and shortening the sleeves, however, are much easier. 

That said, a lot depends on the specific leather jacket you have. Details such as ribbing, zippers, and pockets can get in the way of certain alterations. If the jacket has a very unique lining or insulation system, or if the panels were cut in a strange way, these can cause other complications. Whether it’s possible to get something done really depends on the jacket at hand. 

Whatever you do, make sure you go to someone who has a lot of experience working with leather jackets. One of the problems with these alterations is that you sometimes need special machinery. Cowhide and horsehide, as mentioned yesterday, are very, very thick, so you need special equipment to sew through them. And if a tailor ever messes up, undoing a seam can reveal some ugly holes, so mistakes are costly. To find someone good, you might want to call places that sell really nice jackets - be that a fashion boutique or a place that specializes in motorcycle leathers - and see if they have any recommendations. There are also some good recommendations in StyleForum’s archives. 

If in the end, should your leather jacket get ruined, take comfort in knowing your can chop off the sleeves and turn your jacket into a leather vest, then ride around town with it shirtless. The body might still not fit well, but I’m pretty sure nobody will say anything to your face.