I once saw a lawyer wear socks and sandals to court. TRUE STORY.
Sandals. And socks. With a suit. Now I get that as lawyers we want to be appreciated for our intellect, strong sense of ethics and our work but we’re still allowed to (and should) care a little about fashion and style, right? (Read: Mrs Clooney, we’re super impressed with your intellectual prowess but we love your street style and stunning Venice wedding snaps too, OK? Two words: Giambattista Valli).
There’s an episode of Suits where Mike Ross asks, “What does it matter how much I spend on suits?”. Harvey Specter, looking slick and stylish as ever, replies, “People respond to how you dress so like it or not this is what you have to do.” And Harvey is spot on: as your style and look are the first thing people see, impressions count and so let’s take the time to be fashionable – without being ‘beige’, boring or ultra conservative.
The legal profession has never been at the forefront of fashion (or perhaps we’re just not in the limelight as much?) but who says we can’t enjoy a little haute couture fun and frivolity whilst retaining our sense of authority and respectability at the same time.
So here’s our style guide for attorneys who want some swagger in their fashion step.
Savvy Interview Attire
Your palms are clammy, your stomach’s filled with twirling butterflies, your mouth is 100% dry and you’ve suddenly developed a nervous twitch. We all know that pre-interview feeling and it’s a whole lot worse if you don’t have your interview outfit ready.
Speaking with Above the Law, Mandana Dayani, a former corporate lawyer who now serves as Vice President and General Counsel of Rachel Zoe, Inc said that your outfit should not detract from the focus of the meeting or interview — “you want to impress your potential boss with your sophistication and capability. Keep it classic, nothing too trendy or polarizing, and let your style come through with a couple of carefully selected accessories.”
Stick to the classics with interviews: you want your expertise and skills to stand out without too much fashion distraction.
Les Femmes: Chic Corporate Style
The ‘uber smart, elegant and stylish’ look is the lawyer’s best pal. You may decide to adjust your look depending on whether you’re in the office, with a client or heading off to court.
Mandana cites Zoe’s belief in the well-tailored suit, noting that it “exudes confidence and style so we aim to send beautiful suiting down our runway every season (she has an unhealthy obsession with tuxedos).”
To piece together a cool corporate ensemble, Mandana recommends a modern take on the traditional silhouette, such as a fitted black blazer (with leather lines for a less conventional firm) matched with a cigarette pant: “this clean silhouette defines professional polish without appearing stuffy.”
For shirts, she prefers “soft and subtle” with a classic colour palette combined with minimal jewellery such as a modern collar necklace, a classic purse in an exotic colour or skin (try to find one that can to your laptop, tablet and interview essentials) and a “basic coloured pump with a great heel and in a luxe fabric … For a more traditional firm, you should keep your heel height under two inches.”
Some quick style notes?
- slip into timeless tailored pants and a fitted blazer
- stick with black, nude or classic colour palettes
- purchase a purse with personality.
Haute Couture Hommes: Tailor Made
For the guys who dream of being a clothes horse like Harvey Specter with his three piece suit, wide lapels, expertly tied Windsor knots and immaculate grooming and want to steer well clear of Ross’ cheap suits and skinny ties, you need to begin with impeccable tailoring. Scott Cruz, an American attorney from Chicago law firm, Franczek Radelet, and a panelist at the Chicago Bar Association’s Legal Fashion Show in 2014, describes his own style as “classic, modern sophisticated” and has one rule of thumb: the fit is what’s most important, not the brand.
“How you dress has a strong impact on a client’s perception, says Scott. “Similarly, court is a place of serious business, and I believe my appearance and style should be serious and businesslike. I always tell younger lawyers that you are not dressing for a wedding, a nightclub or a casual gathering with friends. You never want to provoke the reaction, “Are you kidding me?” Therefore, when I go to court, I tend to dress more conservatively.”
And nothing says ‘effortless modern sophistication’ like Mr Specter. Hey, there’s even a book called ‘The Harvey Specter Handbook: Life Lessons & Mens’ Fashion from the Best Closer in NYC’.
So for the well-attired male attorneys, stay away from ill-fitting suits, loose jackets and loud ties. Instead, try:
- pocket squares
- cut away collars
- custom made suits, and
- smooth Italian fabrics.
Philippe, owner of European label Philippe Perzi Vienna, says it’s all about the fabric and the details:
“Details like collar stays make Harvey’s collar always sit perfectly and if you compare Harvey’s collar to the likes of Louis Litt, you’ll notice that you never see the outline of Harvey’s tie underneath his collar – a sign of quality. French cuffs also allow Harvey to accessorise his outfit with cufflinks, although he also wears 2-button cuffs.”
A little bit of effort goes along way in the legal world: quality fabrics and sharp tailoring are the order of the day if you wanna be adored, feared and revered. As Blue Carreon pointed out in Forbes Magazine, is there anything more intimidating than a man who is as brilliant as he is well dressed?
All Things Amal: Legal Fashion Icons
Amal Clooney, celebrated human rights lawyer and member of the prestigious Doughty Street Chambers in London, has ticked many boxes in her high powered career. It’s hard not to be impressed and humbled by all that she has achieved to date (including her involvement on matters such as the bid to return the Elgin marbles to Parthenon and the Perincek v Switzerland freedom of expression trial regarding the denial of the Armenian genocide as well as her strong support for the imprisoned journalists in Egypt).
Mrs Clooney’s also been in the press, however, for her famous actor/humanitarian husband and her elegant sartorial choices. And whilst she appears to shrug it off (joking in court that she’s wearing “Ede and Ravenscroft”, the English designer of traditional barrister robes), Amal has definitely got it going on in the fashion stakes. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’d like to take a little voyeuristic peek into her wardrobe at the same time as asking her 73 Vogue-style questions about her legal career (which, of course, would include at least 3 about George).
A perfect mix of playful and professional, it’s Amal’s street-smart weekend wear that gets us going as much as her chic corporate style. And that’s the probably the overall message here: for directional style, inject a bit of whimsy into your corporate ensemble to stand out from the crowd but above all, know what works for you and wear it with confidence.
So we have the lovely Amal to look to for fashion (and legal) advice but where are the other style icons in the law? Jump onto jacquilwalker on Pinterest – I’m starting a ‘Legal Fashion Icons’ board and it’s open for pinning!
Who is your fashion icon in the law?
PS: A peep into my next fashion post: some flat lays, a luxe label guide and tips from a local stylist!