As a realtor, everyone you meet is judging you. And yes, that means your clothes too. Like it or not, what you wear to work matters a lot more than you think. If 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.
PS: This guide is for men. Looking for the women’s guide on what not to wear as a realtor? Check it out here.
1. 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 gray.
2. Plaid Flannel Shirts
“Hey, dude, love the shirt. You into Soundgarden? Me too! Man, I used to 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 an agent here, and he said he would get here by 2:30 ….”
Look, I get it. I really do. You walk a lot and want to be comfortable. Well, I walked more than five miles a day when I worked as an agent in Manhattan. I can tell you from experience that comfortable shoes are not necessarily as “soft” or springy as sneakers. Comfort is more about getting the proper support for your feet, and well-made dress shoes do just that.
High-quality dress shoes have cork insoles that offer far more support than any sneaker on the market. Even better, a well-made pair of dress shoes can be resoled again and again–unlike a sneaker that will wear out in six months.
If you’re on a budget, check out our guide to affordable men’s fashion for real estate agents: Affordable Men’s Fashion for Real Estate—The Ultimate Guide.
4. 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 this list that 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?
5. 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 at the office?
6. 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 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 will look much, much nicer with navy blue than black shoes will.
A nice walnut-colored shoe will pop under blue trousers. It’s a teeny, tiny bit less formal than black, but that’s kind of the point, right? If you want to go expert-mode, you can match your shoes to your belt and your bag.
7. Red ‘Power Ties’
Another relic from the days of Michael Jackson and the Iran Contra affair? The power tie.
Appearing most often in red or other bold colors, it 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 in which it was born. Here’s a short article from Psychology Today to prove it.
Even if they 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
Fit is so crucial 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. You can see the difference between a baggy suit and a well-fitted suit in the picture above.
If you don’t believe me, head over to Brooks Brothers on your lunch break tomorrow and try on a $400 346 suit that fits perfectly, and then try on a $2,500 suit that’s a size too big.
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 mailroom to try to sell them a house.
10. Sweatpants or Workout Gear
Does this 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 Netflix 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, OK, OK, 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? 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
OK, OK, 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 $1,200 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.
13. Skinny Ties
Yeah, yeah, we know. You’re the “cool” realtor. But let me ask you, is your goal here to look cool or competent and professional? I can guarantee you your boomer leads don’t think you look fabulous. They think you look like a punk, 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!) and say that any kind of break on your slacks or suit pants is verboten for realtors. Besides looking sloppy, a full break on your slacks hides your shoes, and if you followed our advice about shoes above, you’d miss out looking like this:
15. Shorts, Bermuda or Otherwise
When I was growing up, my father, a Marine Corps veteran, would never, ever wear shorts, even while chopping wood on 90+ degree days. When I asked him why, he just said, “Men don’t wear shorts.” This has stuck with me.
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 a desirable (or not so desirable) location?
18. More Than Two Shirt Buttons Undone
- 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 entirely 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 needs even to be said, but just in case, let’s try a little experiment. I want you to quickly write down three professional roles or job titles who typically wear vests.
Don’t think about it; just write down the three professionals who wear vests that pop into your head first. I wrote down waiter, magician, and gunslinger. You?
21. Baseball Caps
Way, way too informal for a professional. Would you hire a lawyer who was wearing a baseball or trucker cap? I didn’t think so. Why should someone hire you? Save these for the weekend when you don’t have client meetings.
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 ridiculous showing up at a listing in your Trilby.
What do you even have in there? Your Game Boy, 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 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 more 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 costly.
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.
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 our readers think is a big part of the reason we started this site.