Incorporating western wear in business clothing

Incorporating western wear in business clothing

Q. I’ve been living for many years in West Texas where in business situations it’s acceptable to wear cowboy boots and Western hats. The boots are such a given in my business clothing, I don’t even own a pair of regular dress shoes. Now I am going to be traveling to Chicago and New York on business. Do I have to change my appearance? I definitely would rather not. 

A. Well, no, you don’t have to change your appearance, but it might be a wise business move to tweak it somewhat. Please know that I’m not suggesting you cannot express your personal background and your individuality by wearing one or the other – the boots or the hat – to one or two situations you will be attending in Chicago and New York. But wearing both at the same time to all the events does seem a bit too “look-at-me,” and also could come across as rather costume-like.

A lot depends on the image you wish to present as well as what your company wants to present outside of Texas. If your company’s image isn’t “all Texan,” then being a team player and fitting in may be the answer. Or are you aiming to be a maverick in order to stand out, and is that acceptable to those above you? What do you want your clothes to say about you? If your clothes send the wrong message, they are not doing you any good. I don’t think it’s helpful for a man to advertise that he is in some way “different” from the people he is working with, especially if he is in lower management. Of course, if he’s a Texas oil millionaire, he can do what he likes. On the other hand, nice black dress shoes are essential in most men’s wardrobes, and won’t detract from your macho image.

Before any man decides to wear boots, he must find out if his workplace has an objection to them. The best way to incorporate boots into a work wardrobe is to limit them to business-casual situations, that is, when you are not wearing a suit. If you do decide to substitute a pair of conservative dress shoes for your boots, remember that boots have a higher heel than other shoes and, thus, might affect the length of your trousers. Check out the length in a mirror while wearing regular shoes; be sure your pants are not too long. Also, keep in mind that the higher the heel and the pointier the toe, the more noticeable and eye-catching the boots become.  

Surely, there must be a few occasions throughout the year when you are at home and are invited to some social or business event where dressing in more traditional attire allows you to be comfortable. Isn’t there a wedding, a church event, a high-level business meeting, or even a New Year’s Eve party where nice black dress shoes could make their way into your regular shoe rotation? They, too, can be very comfortable and they don’t necessarily have to be expensive. I doubt that wearing a Western hat would be essential for all these occasions. .  

While it is true that Western wear can be, and is, part of appropriate dressing in many areas (perhaps especially in Texas), still, a large part of being successful in business is knowing when to dress for the occasion, and how to go about doing it. The usual line between formal clothes, work wear, and casual dressing is often blurred without causing anyone to feel uncomfortable. But the smart (and successful) businessman pays attention to what might make others feel ill-at-ease.  

So, you certainly might bring your hat and boots along on your trip, but don’t wear them too often or both at the same time. And definitely don’t combine them with turquoise jewelry and belts with big silver buckles. 

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions and comments to MALE CALL:

Categories: Male Call