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Closet Rx : Dressing to Match the Job


Look through the want ads and see how many employers want someone who's "detail-oriented." Although you may think of yourself as having fastidious qualities, beware. Your interviewer may take one glance at your belt and shoes and show you the door.

Traditionally, a man's shoes and belt are supposed to coordinate, if not match.

"It used to be that if you had alligator shoes, you needed an alligator belt," says Tom Fuller of Fuller's for Men & Women in Monarch Bay. "The rules aren't as strict now, but you need to be aware of the colors you're wearing."

Another common question is what color leather goes with your suit or slacks.

The old rule is that navy or gray goes with black shoes and belts. But what about olive and some of those indefinable beige fabrics?

"With olives and tans, you usually go with brown tones," says Bent Simonsen of Burberry's Ltd. in Costa Mesa. "Burgundy or cordovan can work with an Oxford or light gray or tan as well."

Says Fuller: "Don't get stuck by focusing on just using particular colors. It's very in right now to wear black shoes and belts with tan slacks. And grays can go with brown tones; using a tan belt with gray flannel trousers is a very European look."

Says Matt Blanchard of Polo Ralph Lauren in Costa Mesa, "Brown tones are very versatile. Black is great for some things; it stands out so clearly. But don't be afraid to try a brown or cordovan with a blue suit."

Some better men's shoes and belts have a burnished finish, which creates a different look that works well when you're trying them with a range of fabrics.

"It's a teak-like finish that's achieved through the dying process that adds character to the leather," Blanchard says. "The result is a shoe or belt that creates more of a distinction than a smoothly finished leather."

If you're out to leave an impression that your detailing skills are less than ideal, try showing up for a job interview with a cloth belt holding up your slacks.

"Those are definitely casual," Simonsen says. "It's the same with braided leather belts. You need a dress belt with dress slacks."

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