Your clients are judging you. Your headshot, your branding, your website, your business card, and yes, even your clothes. They all send a discreet but vital message about you to your clients and prospects.
Since I’m betting most of you want to be judged favorably and land more wealthy, picky, clients, we put together this in-depth guide on what male Realtors should never, ever, wear to work.
Looking for the women’s guide on what not to wear as a realtor? Click here to download the PDF.
After finishing this article, you’ll have a good idea about what NOT to wear, but you still might be clueless about how you SHOULD be dressing. Bombfell is a monthly subscription box of men’s clothing perfect for your professional wardrobe. Just answer a few questions online and you’ll get a selection of hand-picked items shipped to you every month. Try them on, keep what you like, and send back what you don’t. Shipping is free both ways.
1.Plaid Flannel Shirts
“Hey dude, love the shirt. You into Soundgarden? Met too! Man, I used to really love them back in the day before I went to law school…such an amazing band…
Anyway, have you seen a real estate agent around here somewhere? I’m supposed to meet a Corcoran agent at this Starbucks and he said he would get here by 2:30…”
Look, I get it, I really do. Your feet are important.
I schlepped more than 5 miles a day when I worked as an agent in Manhattan.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret that an old school agent who commuted from Connecticut for ten years taught me.
Comfortable shoes are not necessarily “soft” or springy. It’s actually more about getting the proper support for your feet and ankles.
In fact, well made dress shoes with cork insoles offer far more support than any sneaker on the market. Even better, unlike a sneaker that will wear out in six months, a well made pair of dress shoes can be resoled again and again.
I know this from experience. My most comfortable shoes for walking the city are my Allen Edmonds Strands. Yes, they were almost $400, but I’ve owned them now for more than seven years and they still look great.
Here’s another secret: You don’t have to pay $400 for Allen Edmonds or $550+ for Aldens. You can get “seconds” from Allen Edmonds with minor flaws for half price at their Shoe Bank.
3.Square Toed Shoes
If there were seven deadly sins for male fashion for Realtors the square toed shoe would be the first one carved into the stone tablet.
If there is one rule on here you take seriously let it be this one… I genuinely don’t have words to describe how ugly these are.
Unless maybe your feet are square?
4. Visible Undershirt While Wearing a Dress Shirt
Some of you might balk at this one, but you’re going to have to trust me here, a crew neck tee peeking out from under your dress shirt’s collar just looks sloppy.
More to the point, you’re essentially showing your client your underwear.
Would you wear sagging pants that showed your boxers?
5. Wearing Black Dress Shoes With Everything
Are you off to a wedding or are you a professional I can trust to sell my house?
Here’s a not so well kept secret in the fashion world.
Black shoes are boring.
Want to know another secret? Black shoes are LESS versatile than brown shoes.
Think about it. You can really only get away wearing black shoes with black pants, charcoal pants, and maybe Navy pants.
Brown shoes on the other hand work with every single color besides black and some browns.
Even better, they are going to look much, much, nicer with navy blue than black shoes will.
Take a look for yourself.
A nice walnut colored shoe will pop under blue slacks. It’s a teeny tiny bit less formal than black but that’s kind of the point right?
Editor’s Caveat: There is fierce debate on the black/brown shoes with navy suit divide. This is my opinion only, so proceed with caution. In fact, the high minded sartorialists over at GQ seem to think I’m some sort of heretic.
6. Black Blazers or Suits
Unless you’re moonlighting as a waiter or have a super tight schedule before your uncle Fred’s funeral, black blazers or suits are a no no for Realtors… or any professionals outside the entertainment or catering industries for that matter.
They keep popping up on Realtors because there seems to be this myth popularized by Hollywood that professionals wear black suits…
They don’t. Ever.
Instead, go with navy blue, charcoal, or grey.
7. Red “Power Ties”
Another relic from the days of Michael Jackson and the Iran Contra affair, the “power tie”, most often appearing in red or other brash colors, will just make you look silly.
Even worse, the whole pop psychology behind the so called “power tie” has been proven to be more worthless than the junk bonds from the decade it came from.
Here’s a quick article from Psychology Today to prove it.
Even if they did subtly signify dominance, this is the exact opposite message you want your clothes to send to buyers and sellers.
Who wants a dominant Realtor?
8. Blazers or Suit Jackets That Don’t Fit
This is another big one.
Fit is so important to the appearance of your suit or blazer that a well fitting cheap suit will almost always look better than a baggy, ill-fitting expensive suit.
Peak Lapels are for parties, Shawl lapels are for Shindigs…
While we’re at it, you may be tempted by peak or shawl lapels as they’re a little more formal.
While peak or shawl lapels might look great on a tuxedo, they will look ridiculous on a business suit.
If you want to go a little bit further down the rabbit hole, here’s a quick primer from GQ on identifying and choosing a jacket by the lapels.
9.Ties Below or Too Far Above The Belt
Another one of the seven deadly sins of professional fashion for Realtors, ties that are too long or too short will make your corporate clients think you snuck out of the mail room to try and sell them a house.
Here’s how your tie should fit:
The tip of your tie should just barely hit the top of your belt.
Too short, and you look like you stepped out of a NASA control room in 1967, and too long and it looks like…
While we’re at it, double windsor knots are a bit much these days.
A half Windsor is that tiny bit less informal that will make you look professional, but still stylish and comfortable.
Does this really even need to be on here? Many people seem to think the whole “I rushed here from the gym” look makes them seem more dedicated, but in reality the opposite is true.
It makes you look ill prepared and desperate.
Keep the sweatpants for the gym or the Wednesday night Stranger Things marathon.
11. Buttoning the Bottom Button on Your Blazer or Suit Jacket
Another unmistakable mark of the sartorial neophyte, the buttoned up bottom button is one of the weird fashion rules that seems sort of silly when you first… ehhh okay, okay, fine.
It is a little bit silly.
That doesn’t make it any less of a rule though does it? How many silly rules does your association have?
While the trend supposedly started with a portly King Henry the VIII being unable to fit his growing bulk into his waistcoat, it remains a hard and fast rule for men’s suits to this day.
Actually, if you’re carrying a few extra pounds then it will make your suit more comfortable when you’re bending over to shine your flashlight into a closet for a picky client… So yeah, maybe not a completely silly rule.
12. Chisel Toed Shoes
Okay, okay, I know.
You saw these in a GQ spread last week and they looked amazing. What’s the big deal?
The big deal is the model you saw was probably wearing a pair of $1200 Gaziano & Girling cap toe oxfords or a pair of bespoke Jon Lobbs that probably cost more than your mortgage AND your car payment combined…
You can also be sure the stylist paired them with a handmade Isaia suit made from wool that you can only buy in like, one remote village in the Italian Alps…
What I’m getting at here is that the $99 knockoff chisel toe shoes you bought at Payless are going to look like they came from your Halloween costume.
Worse, poking out from under your slacks with a full break (see rule 14) they’re going to look like cowboy boots…
So unless you have $1500 to drop on shoes or work in texas, then just trust me on this one.
I learned this the hard way… 😪
13. Skinny ties
Yeah, yeah, we know. You’re the “cool” Realtor.
You played the bass in a hardcore band in college and you still own a skateboard.
We get it.
What you’re not getting is that ultra conservative senior citizen client who’s trying to sell his $10 million limestone mansion in Greenwich.
He thinks you look like a punk, and not the kind who plays the bass and still has a skateboard…
14. A Full Break on Slacks, Suit Pants, or Chinos
I’m going to have to “break” with tradition here (sorry, couldn’t help it) and say that any kind of break on your slacks or suit pants is verboten for Realtors.
Yes, I know a half break is traditional.
Before you start grumbling though, Hear me out.
I actually have a solid rationale backing this up.
The problem here is that a full break hides your shoes, and well, let’s just call a cigar a cigar here, looks pretty damn sloppy.
So yeah, avoid the full break.
That said, you should also be wary of overcompensating and turning expensive slacks or suit pants into high water pants.
Yes, David Bowie got away with it recently in a bespoke Thom Browne suit, but that’s no excuse. If you’re on the fence, just ask yourself one question:
Are you an elderly British rock god doing a shoot for Vogue before recording a seminal final album?
No? Then tell your tailor no break on the suit pants (see example picture below).
Also remember rule five? Here it is in action.
Check note how great the blue slacks look with the brown (walnut really) shoes:
When I was growing up, my father, a Marine Corps veteran, would never, ever wear shorts, even while chopping firewood on 90+ degree days. When I asked him why he just said, “Men don’t wear shorts.”.
16. Flip flops
Yeah, it’s hot out. But that doesn’t mean your client’s wife wants to look at your nasty toes.
17.Deep V Neck Shirts
Are you auditioning for a boy band or are you a professional who can help me get multiple offers on my expensive house in an undesirable location?
18.More Than Two Shirt Buttons Undone
Here are the rules for dress shirts:
No button undone = You better be wearing a tie.
One button undone= A little stuffy.
Two buttons undone= Just right.
Three buttons undone= Used car salesmen at a New Jersey nightclub in 1987.
19.Baggy Dress Shirts
Luckily most designers have completely abandoned this look along with the three button suit, but buying two sizes too big because it’s “more comfortable” or pulling an old dress shirt from the closet will leave you looking like Jerry here.
20.Vests or “Waistcoats” Whatever…
Again, not sure this really needs to even be said, but just in case, let’s try a little experiment.
I want you to quickly write down three professionals who wear vests.
Don’t think about it, just write down the three professionals who wear vests that pop into your head first.
I got waiter, magician, and gunslinger. What did you get?
21. Baseball Caps
Way, way too informal for a professional. Would you hire a lawyer who was wearing a baseball cap? I didn’t think so. Why should someone hire you?
22. Graphic Tee Shirts
I know you think the picture I chose for this one is a joke, which yeah, duh.
Guess what though?
This is exactly how that 72 year old Korean War vet with the $2 million listing he needs to sell before he retires to Florida sees you when you’re wearing a graphic tee to work.
Ditto for the hats. They make you look like you’re a 16 year old kid.
Yes, gangsters in 1929 Chicago looked kind of cool wearing them but, yeah, you’re trying to sell me a house, not intimidate a speakeasy owner with a tommy gun.
It’s also not 1957, you’re not a spy for the CIA, and you look absolutely ridiculous showing up at a listing in your Trilby.
I can guarantee you any clients you meet that day will refer to you as “the guy with the hat” for as long as you keep in touch with them.
Which, let’s face it, probably won’t be long.
Lose the hat.
What do you even have in there? Your Gameboy, a Capri Sun and your Adventures in Mathematics textbook?
Well, that’s exactly what it looks like you’re carrying in there…
An Ipad, your phone, and a tape measure.
What more could you possibly need for a showing?
25.White tube socks
You can definitely wear white tube socks with your slacks or suit pants.
You just have to answer one question: Are you David Letterman?
If you are, then by all means, continue to wear white socks and congratulations on the new show.
If not… well, not a chance. Sorry.
BTW this guy is wearing $425+ Allen Edmonds Strands and is still not pulling off the white socks…
26. Leaving the Label on Your Blazer, Suit Jacket, or Top Coat
I don’t think there’s anything that makes me cringe harder than seeing someone on the subway with the label still on their suit jacket sleeve…
Any men’s shop employee that lets you walk out the door with that label on needs to be sent to the Hague to face trial for sartorial crimes against humanity.
27. Not Breaking The Thread on Your Suit Jacket or Blazer Pockets
Apparently this is enough of an issue that the video above showing you how to remove the thread from your suit pockets (scissors, carefully) has 48,000 views.
That said, if you’re feeling a little cavalier you can always just grab the pocket and rip.
It’s just like pulling off a band aid with the added thrill of damaging something very expensive…
Oh, by the way, your cell phone goes in your inside breast pocket. If you put it in your side pocket it’s going to flop around and look weird.
BONUS: How Realtors Can Save a Ton of Money and Buy Amazing Suits Online
If you made it this far you’re probably thinking I’m some sort of uber rich Manhattanite who buys $5000 suits every week.
While I do fine, I’m actually very frugal and when I worked as an agent I figured out how to get incredible suits for ½ to 1/10th their original price. Here are a few tips to getting an amazing suit for almost nothing.
1. Know Your Size
Suit sizing is actually surprisingly straightforward once you know what you need. Your jacket size is roughly equivalent to the diameter of your chest + an inch or so of fabric so you can breathe. If you’re chest is 40 inches in diameter, then you’re probably going to be a 42 or so jacket size. If you’re in doubt you can always go get measured for free at any department store.
Pants are pretty easy. Just wrap a tape measure around your waist.
Length is also pretty easy. “R” just means regular, “S” means short, and “L” means long. Unless you’re unusually short or tall, chances are an “R” fitting jacket will fit fine.
2. Look for Suits Online With The Right Drop
Now that you know your jacket size and waist size, you need to learn what a “drop” is in order to see what size pants your new suit will come with.
The drop is just the difference in size between the jacket and the pants. For example, if a suit is a 40R drop six, that means the jacket is size 40, and the pants are 6 inches smaller, so a 34 inch waist.
3. Learn How Different Designers Cut Their Suits
This might take some time, but before you can confidently shop online for a suit, you need to learn how different designers size their suits off the rack.
For example, Brooks Brothers suits are notoriously roomy, except for the more modern cut Fitzgerald line. J Crew Ludlow are cut just right, and more fashion forward Italian suits might be cut super tight.
That means you could be an entirely different jacket size in J Crew and say, Canali.
4. Hunt for Sales
Now that you know what fits, you just need to play the waiting game. Nordstrom, J Crew, Barney’s Warehouse, and Banana Republic all regularly have great sales on suiting where you can get an excellent quality wool suit for half price or less.
5. Befriend a Local Tailor
A good tailor can make even a cheap suit look like a million bucks. Make friends with a local tailor and ask him what his limits are for alterations. You may be able to get away customizing something that you’re swimming in off the rack to fit you like a glove.
6. Go Custom When You Can Afford it
A suit custom made to fit the contours of your body will look better than anything you can get off the rack no matter how much you spend.
Indochino is an online suit maker that offers a custom made suit for the price of an off the rack suit from J Crew. Amazingly, their sales can be just as good.
For example, in April their suits are 50% off.
Even though every single tip here comes from years of experience working as an agent, marketing professional, and editor in Manhattan, I am fully expecting a minor scale civil war to break out in the comments…
Don’t hold back. Hearing what you guys think is literally a big part of the reason we started this site.