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Attire: Importance of a Tailor

One of the most common complaints about attire that I hear from the Trans-masculine community is the inability to find clothes that fit right. When we find a shirt that fits right in the hips, and chest, the shoulders are too big or the sleeves are too long. Pants that fit in the waist are often too long in the legs. The problems are endless, and vary widely, depending on your body type.

True, these problems are highly individualized, depending not only on your body type, but on your decisions or journey in transitioning (pre-T, no-T, 1 year on T, pre-op, non-op, etc) as well. However, there is one word that I think any gentleman, no matter their gender identity or journey, should know: “tailor.”

Over the years, I’ve had a number of garments tailored: button-down shirts, jackets, suits, pants, and more. A well-tailored garment makes a noticeable difference: it appears more fitted, stylized and professional. Often, shirts or pants that are not tailored appear too baggy or tight, and distract the eye.  Simply put, a tailored garment can add polish to your wardrobe.

So, I wanted to address the importance of a tailor, including: finding a tailor, what to expect in a tailor, and, as always, considerations for transmen.

Finding a tailor

Obviously, this is the first step in getting your clothing tailored. Like a barber, I would advise you to first talk to the community. If you know transmen in the area, ask if they have a tailor recommendation. If that’s not an option, think about people you trust and/ or those who look like they may know a tailor: friends, co-workers, colleagues, even a teacher or professor.

When asking for a recommendation, don’t just ask for a name/location; ask why this person recommends that tailor. Are they LGBT friendly, do they have good prices, fast turn-around, or is it just someone that this person has been going to for years and never thought to change? If you’re asking someone whom you are out to, ask them if they think this tailor would make you feel comfortable.

If you can’t find a recommendation, I have found that Yelp.com is helpful. The site has a lot of reviews, however there are more reviews in “metropolitan” areas. It’s good to see what people have to say, the good and the bad. Also, try reaching out to your online communities (TQNation.com, Tumblr sites, susans.org, livejournal.com, selfmademen.com, etc), to see if anyone has a recommendation for your area.

Another important note: if you’re going to a tailor for the first time, bring in only one item, preferably a “stand-by” shirt or pair of pants. That way, you don’t risk sacrificing an entire wardrobe to a bad tailor or experience.

If you’re looking to save some money, and looking for something simple (a hem, or other easy fix), see if a family member or friend sews. You might be surprised to learn who can help you with a quick fix! For the more complicated things – a jacket or suit tailored, taking in a shirt, etc – I would say stick to the pros. But, for the “small stuff” a friend or family member may be a cheaper and even quicker help.

What to Do and Expect When Going to a Tailor

Of course, what a tailor does will depend on what you need: having a suit custom made/tailored involves a lot more than a simple hem on a pant leg. For now, I’ll talk about the simple stuff – but I plan to write a more detailed post in the future about suit shopping/tailoring (so stay tuned for that).

Obviously, bring the clothing item to be tailored, and explain, first, what you’re looking for: explain what DOESN’T work about the item of clothing as clearly as possible. A quick note about the garment itself: wash the item before you bring it to the tailor. We all know, washing an item, especially for the first time, changes various elements; so run it through the wash first. Plus, if this is something you’ve had for a little while, do you really want a tailor to handle your dirty laundry?

The tailor will ask you to put the item of clothing on, so they can assess the situation for themselves. Here, it is important to replicate, as accurately as possible, the average way you will wear the garment. For instance, if you plan to wear a pair of pants with dress shoes, don’t try them on with sneakers. Bring in the shoes (or type of shoe) you plan to wear the pants with. Do this with a shirt or jacket, as well. If you plan to wear the shirt under a particular blazer, bring in the blazer; or if you plan to wear the shirt tucked in, tuck it in when the tailor is looking at it (they may ask you to un-tuck it at some point, but you should show them how you plan to wear it). You want this garment to work for you, and how you want, so help the tailor out, by being prepared.

As many of us know, tailors get pretty “up close and personal” in many respects. It can be a little unnerving, but remember, they’re NOT doing this to embarrass you, they’re doing this to make sure you get the best fit possible. Just relax, because, if they’re good at their job, you’re going to look great. The tailor will take a variety of measurements, depending on what you’re having altered. While they’re measuring, stand as naturally as possible. If you “suck in” any gut, for instance, then your garment will fit your “sucked-in” measurements. So stand naturally, and the item will fit you well, all around.

Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Just like a haircut, the tailor isn’t doing their job right unless you’re happy. So, if they pin a hem that looks too short or too long, say so. If it feels like they’re trying to make the pants tighter than you want, say something. As I said before, make sure you explain what you want to achieve with the garment: if you want the pants to stay loose in the leg, or the shirt to be tighter in the shoulders, that’s fine, but you need to tell the tailor. They can’t read minds! But also be aware, they may explain something to you that you hadn’t thought about. So be open to their opinion – they are the professional. Have a conversation with them about what you’re looking for, and what they think.

What to bring to your Tailor

Not all garments can benefit from the magic of a tailor. If something is WAY too small, for instance, no tailor will be able to salvage it. Here is a list of things that I generally bring to a tailor, and for what (mind you, there are other options, these are just my most common):

Pants: Generally I look for pants that fit well everywhere else, and go to a tailor for the hem. However, some pants can be boxy in the leg, and so I will have the leg taken in as well. For instance, I had one pair of pants fit great everywhere else, but for some reason, the thighs of the pants were HUGE. I wanted to get that taken care of. It doesn’t help if it looks like your pants have wings. (Take a look at the picture, the pants should look natural from hip to shoe).

Also, if you’re like me, you have that one pair of jeans or pants that you just love: they’re broken in, and they work in every way possible. Sadly, that fateful day comes when a hole appears; but don’t fret! A tailor may be able to patch that! Don’t toss out the perfect pants for just a hole, take it to a tailor and see what can be done!

Shirts: These benefit the most from tailoring. Maybe I have a weird body type, but finding the right fit in shirts, is nearly impossible. The sleeves are always too long, or shoulders too big. Luckily, those are things a tailor can address. I try to err on the side of caution, and get something that fits well, but is maybe a little too big or too long in some areas. Generally, I try to buy shirts that fit well in the neck and collar, but get the sleeves and shoulder tailored.

You can also get the entire body of the shirt tailored, but keep in mind that this will limit any growth (good or bad). I like to keep a shirt relaxed, but not overly loose.

Considerations for Transmen

Remember what I was saying about replicating how you wear the garment for the tailor? This is especially true for us transguys. For instance, if you pack regularly, then pack (with the same packer) when you go to a tailor. If you bind, then make sure you bind the same way, with the same or similar binder, at the tailor.

A note about packing: if you’re getting pants tailored, the tailor will ask you which side you “dress to,” or if you “dress right or left.” This means which side you let it hang. Be prepared to answer this question (preferably without stumbling). Also, personally, I don’t pack on a frequent basis, but I may wear an extra small packer to the tailor just to avoid any confusion. I know this breaks my rule about “replication;” however, it’s personally important to me to avoid any awkward gender situations. Since a tailor will be “up close and personal,” I would rather be extra prepared for any confusion, than caught with my pants down, figuratively speaking. I find that a small packer doesn’t change the fit of the finished product, so it’s worth it for me. You may have a different experience, but this is just my opinion. (and watch out for Joey’s Tailor….)

Also, having recently had top surgery, I have found that I need to take a trip to the tailor, as my shirts are fitting differently, since surgery. So, for those of you who have surgery scheduled in the near future, be aware, a trip to the tailor may, also, be in your future.

Lastly, for those who are just starting T, or still new to T, you may find that your body shape is changing. I know several guys had to go out and buy a new wardrobe, typically in a smaller size, approximately one year (or less) after starting T. If you’re on a tight budget, a tailor may be a better solution to this problem! Getting the waist taken in or shirt body trimmed down will be cheaper than buying all new pants and shirts.

I realize that this is a lengthy post, but I think a good tailor can really give a polished look to your wardrobe. If you have any specific questions or comments, please post them!

Thanks for reading, and, as always…

Cheers – Mason

Attire: Belts or Suspenders

After a brief pause in writing, due to midterms, we’re back!

So, you’re suited up, looking sharp for a day at work, or a night on the town: but how to keep those pants up? A belt or suspenders? Good question, and the answer depends on a variety of factors, such as the event type, time, attire, and  your general style.

First a few quick notes:

  1. A belt and suspenders should never be worn at the same time. There’s an old saying: “he’s a belt and suspenders kind of guy.”  Meaning, a man is so paranoid that his belt will fail, that he wears suspenders, just in case. It speaks of a man who refuses to take risks, for fear of embarrassment or exposure. It’s not a flattering metaphor, and an image you want to avoid.
  2. A lawyer once told me that if you’re going to wear suspenders, don’t do so with pants that have belt loops. The loops draw an observer’s eye, and it is more obvious that you’re not wearing a belt. So, if you’re going to do suspenders, have a tailor remove the belt loops. This isn’t true at all times: for instance, if you’re not going to take off your jacket, no one will see belt loops. However, if you’re going to make suspenders a regular part of your suit, you may want to remove those loops.
  3. No matter which you choose, belt or suspenders, make sure they match. Make sure your belt matches your shoes. With suspenders, make sure the leather ends (where they attach to your pants), match your shoes. Also, with suspenders, make sure the color matches your tie, shirt, or other color you’re wearing.

Now, which to wear? Generally for professional events (work, interview, career-related cocktail party or networking function), I would suggest a belt. Unless you’re over 40 years old, suspenders may look out of place. The belt is more appropriate for these types of events. That being said, if you’ve got the suit for it, and the sense of style – do it! I’m all for bringing back suspenders.

But suspenders can be worn in other places. When attending events where you can play with fashion, rock those suspenders, if you so wish: weddings, formal or semi-formal social events. Not only that, as you can see in some of these photos, suspenders can be worn in casual attire as well, for the truly dapper look (or Larry King – if that’s you’re style).

There are two types of suspenders: formal and working. Formal suspenders have button holes and attach to buttons inside your pants. Formal suspenders will need pants with suspender buttons (which can be sewn in by a tailor). These suspenders are appropriate for formal or professional wear. The ends of formal suspenders are shaped like a “Y” and made of leather (that should match your shoes, as previously mentioned). Working suspenders have clips (or alligator claws), which can be attached to the waistband of your pants. Working suspenders are appropriate for semi-formal or casual wear.

No matter how you decide to wear them, I say wear them with pride! Suspenders are a dapper, fashion forward accessory that I wish were more common. Help me out guys, and bring them back!

Considerations for Transmen

One downside for transmen with suspenders: if you haven’t had top surgery, suspenders may accentuate your chest. If that is a concern for you, I suggest sticking to belts for now. Also, suspenders come in a variety of colors and patterns. If you don’t want to accentuate your chest, stick to solid colors; patterns will draw attention and highlight any swell in your chest. Lastly, if you’re not very broad in the shoulders, make sure to get thinner suspenders, as opposed to the thicker width.

Thanks for reading everyone! Now that midterms are over, I’ll be posting more often. And please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Cheers – Mason

Attire: Winter Wear

I grew up in Southern California, where the most severe winter weather I suffered was a bit of rain, or temperatures dipping to the frigid forties. Imagine the shock my system received when I moved to Northern New England. The first snow-storm I lived through as a resident Yankee was a terrifying experience; I had no idea how to dress, shovel, or drive in the snow. My first winter was plagued with freezing fingers and toes, and so many colds, I think I would have bled DayQuil. 

Luckily, after four years of winter weather, I have figured out how to dress to handle the snow and below freezing temperatures. Over the past two years, I have spent considerable time building up a sufficient winter wardrobe. Not only does this call for the informal winter wear (ski jackets, snow-boots, etc), but also a collection of formal/semiformal winter gear as well. Wearing a suit and tie, or other formal/semiformal clothing, is not nearly enough to keep you warm in the winter; so, you’ll need some winter accessories to compliment that suit, or other semiformal wear. I’ll take a “top down” approach to this post, starting with hats…

(I realize, of course, that this post doesn’t apply to everyone: for my readers living in southern states or locations that don’t get snow and ice – well, I envy you. But read up, just in case. You never know when you might take a trip to places where winter is more than rain and above-freezing temperatures).

Hats

The winter is a great excuse to break out your hat collection. We all know that the human body loses a majority of its heat through the head: hats conserve this heat, keep your ears warm, and they look sharp, to boot. For semi-formal, business or formal purposes, a fedora is a classy choice. Of course, fedora’s aren’t cheap, and aren’t suitable for every situation. My go-to winter hat is a wool ascot (or “newsboy”) cap. It’s formal enough to compliment a suit, but easier on my budget.

For semi-formal or businesses events, I avoid the beanie or stocking cap. It will mess up your hair, and conveys a more informal appearance. If you need a hat, and only have a beanie, than go with it; but remove it before you go into an interview, event, or any other formal/semiformal gathering.

Scarves

Moving down the body, to the scarf. In some places scarves are more than just an accessory, they are a necessity. Generally, for choices, I stick with dark or natural colors, to compliment whatever suit I may be wearing. My primary scarves are grey, black, camel, or combinations thereof. My wife knits (beautifully, I might add), so I also have an in-house scarf maker; she has made me several scarves in the past, if I needed something specific.

Contrary to popular belief, there is a right and a wrong way to wear a scarf. If you live in colder climates, you know that simply throwing a scarf around your neck doesn’t do much but act as an accessory: that won’t keep you warm. If you’re from a cold climate, this is probably “old hat” for you. However, I want to provide the most basic overview for everyone, regardless of experience. Here are a few examples, and thoughts on scarf tying:

The Parisian – this is the preferred method for my wife and me. It involves folding the scarf lengthwise, placing it around your neck, doubled, then pulling the loose ends through the looped end, around your neck. Personally, I like this knot because it works with long and short scarves, and keeps me the warmest. (See David Beckham to the right, sporting a Parisian)

Once-Around Knot – This is the basic overhand knot (think about the first knot you tie in your shoes), applied to a scarf. This is the most casual, and well known way to tie a scarf.

Loose Once-Around/Twice Around Knot – This is simply the process of wrapping the scarf around your neck once, or twice (depending on length). This knot is not all that warm, in my experience, but does look nice.

Coat

We’ll need something to tuck that scarf into, so let’s look at coats next. This will be the most pricey of your winter wear (followed closely by your boots). For formal/semiformal purposes, I avoid my ski/snowboard jackets or parkas, unless the weather is at its worst – and if the weather’s that bad, chances are someone will cancel. Your best choice, again for formal/semiformal or business purposes, specifically, is a topcoat or longer overcoat. You have a great deal of flexibility here, in length, style, color, weight and cut.

Topcoats and overcoats are tailored and made to wear over a suit. If you live in an area with wetter, rainier winters, rather than snow and ice, I would advise a light topcoat, or a raincoat, over the heavier top/over coats. A raincoat is made to withstand a good soaking, whereas the others are typically made of wool or other materials that don’t handle the wet as well. That’s not to say you can’t get the others wet, but they may loose their shape, and begin to get musty with too much regular soaking.

Cut, shape, and length are largely about your personal style. However, if you are shorter, I would keep your coat short as well: the longer coats may accentuate your height. I prefer a coat that hits below the hip, but above the knee. As for color, I keep things as simple as possible, with grays, browns or blacks.

For those of us on a budget, but still wanting to look put together, a peacoat it a good option, as well. That’s what I have right now (I’m waiting for the top and overcoats to go on sale in the spring). The peacoat can be both informal and semiformal, if put together correctly; whereas top/overcoats are more formal or business attire. If you’re in the business world, and have a budget to do so, I would suggest looking for a good top or overcoat. For those who are not yet at career levels, or don’t wear a suit regularly, than peacoats are a great option. Peacoats are double-breasted, and typically hit at my preferred lengths (between hip and knee). Again, stick to the basic colors of black, brown or grey. Toggle coats, are another option very similar to peacoats. Toggles, however, stand out a bit more, and make a bolder statement.

Leather is another option. The nice thing about a leather jacket is that, similar to a peacoat, it can be both formal and informal. This depends largely on style: personally, my leather jacket is mostly informal, and goes better with jeans than a suit. Be aware, leather jackets require a little extra care and maintenance. Water-repellent sprays, for instance, are important to keep your leather coat moisture free.

Layers

What to wear under that dapper coat? Here in the northeast, it’s all about layers. If I’m going semiformal (no suit) I regularly layer a crewneck, v-neck, quarter-zip, or vested sweater, over a collared shirt and tie. This provides enough layers to keep me warm, and keep me looking “put together.” As I said, I stick to crew, quarter-zip, v-neck, or vested sweaters: these are the most classic styles. Also, I try to keep patterns minimal in my sweaters. Maybe a little argyle (if you’ve read my past blogs, you know my love for argyle), or striping, but otherwise stick to solid colors.

Gloves

Personally, although gloves are arguably the most important gear in winter wear (I’m thinking about frostbite here), it’s one place I choose to save a bit of cash, fashion wise. You could spend a great deal of money on gloves, with options like lambskin or leather. Instead, I choose a basic glove that is function over fashion. That being said, make sure your gloves match your coat in color. Wearing tan gloves with a black topcoat, for instance, is a no-go.

Shoes

If you’re in the mid-west or northeast, you know the importance of salt and sand during an icy winter. Now, while these materials are important to our safety, they wreck havoc on our footwear. And, if you’re heading to an interview, formal event, or you just want to look nice, you’ll run into a conundrum, in the footwear department: function or fashion. Sure, you may have a great pair of sleek, leather business shoes, but will they keep you warm, comfortable and slip-free on the ice and snow? But do you want to sacrifice that sleek style for something like a clunky, but warm and sturdy snow boot? Here’s my take on the matter:

First, if warmth is the issue, look to your socks, not your shoes. A pair of warm, wool socks will keep your feet warm, and put you in whatever shoes you want: from casual to formal. Plus, socks are a whole lot less expensive than shoes.

Next, if you’re heading into the office, I would advice wearing the snow boots to and from the car, but keeping your business shoes with you, to change in the office. This is a common practice, and gives you the best of both worlds. This also works for events, by keeping your formal shoes in the car, and changing before heading in. It beats walking in with shoes scuffed by snow or salt.

For a classic, comfortable, and warm winter boot, here in the northeast, everyone raves about the L.L. Bean All-Weather boots. I haven’t had the opportunity to try these out yet (if you have, post! I’m still undecided on purchasing some), but from what I hear, they’re ideal for a cold winter, and don’t look too shabby either.

There are some great mens boots out there. However, they vary widely in price-range, style and purpose. Here’s a quick guide, that may help you narrow down your own style, or at least give you an idea of what’s out there.

Considerations for Transmen

For those of us still binding, a cold winter is one of the few times we can at least feel a little better: although uncomfortably painful, those binders do keep us warm. Additionally, if we’re layering with bulky sweaters, some of us may be able to get away without binding at all (depending on comfort level, size, etc.). If you are binding, however, keep in mind that you’re wearing an extra layer at all times. This may mean that layering with a sweater may be too much, especially when you get indoors. Some people keep buildings extra warm in the winter, and, while you may be comfortable outside in the cold, going inside may require you to shed more layers.

As I mentioned earlier, the length of your coat can accentuate your height. If your conscious of your height, or lack thereof, I wouldn’t go any longer than knee length with your coat.

Lastly, with layering, particularly sweaters: another reason to avoid patterns is because patterns can accentuate a larger chest area, or hips. If you are still binding, be aware of this, and consider sticking with muted patterns, or simple solids. This isn’t true of all patterns, or all body types, but it is something to watch out for.

As always, if you have any tips or thoughts you would like to add here, please post! I love to hear about your experiences, thoughts, or questions on these topics. Thanks!

Cheers – Mason

Attire: Business Casual

What is business casual? This always is what people are supposed to wear when I go anywhere to give a speech, and I am always overdressed when my gay friend pulls me aside and fixes my outfit. (Thank the lord for him.) But one day I hope to graduate to dressing myself for events where I am to wear business casual things.  I would love to just be able to have one outfit and stick with that, but I am soon going to be speaking two, three times a week, and I don’t think one outfit will cut it. So anything you’ve got on business casual would be much appreciated!

Ah, the mysteries of business casual. Unfortunately, this question can only be answered with an unsatisfying “it depends.” But not all hope is lost, I do have some guidance for you!

Generally, business casual is code for “not a suit, but still look professional.” This can apply to a myriad of situations: professional settings, academic events, social gatherings, etc. How you approach business casual will depend on the situation, as well as your personal knowledge of the people involved.

Professional Business Casual

If it is a professional function (interview, career fair, first day on the job, etc) and I am told to dress business casual, I typically go for the basics: nicely ironed slacks (make sure to get the crease in those), button up shirt (also ironed), tie, and dressier, business-like shoes, with a belt to match. Try not to go too flashy with the tie or shoe selection: the point is not to make a fashion statement, but to be comfortable as well as professional. Depending on your own knowledge of the situation, you can opt to lose the tie. Frequently, if it’s appropriate, I will wear a tie my first day, but, if it looks like no one else does, I will ditch it after the first day or week. Remember: for professional situations, it’s better to be a little over dressed than a little under-dressed.

A helpful tip for a new job: if you have an interview first (typically NOT business casual), take a look around during your interview. Are the other employees wearing a slacks and ties, or going with a more casual polo? Make a note of this during your interview, that way, when you get the job (not if, but when), you can pattern your attire according to what you saw, and not feel more nervous than necessary on your first day. Of course this doesn’t work for every situation, but it can be helpful.

There is an even more casual version of “business casual:” personally, I call it “polo casual.” I had a job several years ago, that fell into this category. The basics for this type of attire are slacks with a tucked in polo shirt, and some kind of leather shoe (avoid sneakers or sandals). I would never assume this kind of attire was appropriate, unless I saw other employees wearing it first. However, I did want to make note of it, in case you’re in this kind of situation.

Academic and Social Business Casual 

For the non-professional, but still important, academic or social events, it can be a mixed bag. As a frequent guest lecturer for college classes, I opt for a bit more laid back business casual. Typically, I wear slacks, dress shoes and belt with a button up shirt (top button unbuttoned), and no tie. If it’s cold out, I grab a sports coat on my way out (or tweed jacket, for the real academic look). However, there are some instances where this would be entirely too formal, even for the professor. In those cases, I go with nice jeans, dress shoes, belt and a button up. Not exactly business casual, but more of, what I call, “academic casual.” Gauge whether to go academic casual or business casual on the person hosting the academic event (professor, administrator, moderator, etc). If you know them personally, you may want to ask or send an email saying “what would be appropriate for me to wear?” It’s a pretty common question, so you’re not totally out of line.

For social events (dinners, cocktail mixers, that sort of thing), you can go for a bit more personalized business casual. In these situations I would opt for slacks, dress shoes, belt to match, button up and tie with a sports coat. Unlike the professional business casual, you can chose a more stylized tie: something still tasteful (so no Garfield or other cartoon character tie), with a bit more color, texture or style.

Considerations for Transmen

Depending on where we are in our transitions, the slacks with a tucked in shirt can make us look pretty “hippy” (not from the 60’s, I’m talking about accentuating the hips). If you’re buying slacks for the first time, wear a button up shirt to the store, so you can see how it looks. You don’t want to go too straight leg on the slacks, because that will over accentuate your hips. Go for something more baggy, but still appropriate for business casual, to stay away from the hippy look.

As for button up shirts, if you haven’t had top surgery yet, and you’re bigger in the chest area, button up shirts can be a problem in the chest, with some bulging in the buttons. Try to find a shirt that fits well in the chest, and, if it’s too big everywhere else, take it to a tailor to have it sized to your body. I’m be doing a post a little later about finding a good tailor.

Also, specifically to my dear Anon: keep your fashion forward gay male friends around. If you have the time and money, and they’re Trans-friendly, take them shopping with you! Their advice can be extremely helpful.

Well, Anon, I hope this helps! Good luck!

Cheers – Mason

Careers: The Interview

As a third-year law student, I have recently found myself in job interviews on a more regular basis. Of course, I put a great deal of thought into my presentation, attire, and general attitude going into an interview, and I figured I would put my thoughts to paper (or keyboard). As always, if you, good reader, have any thoughts, don’t hesitate to contact me. At the end, you will find interview considerations for Transmen…

Attire

I believe the default attire for any interview is a suit (tie and jacket included). That being said, there are exceptions to this rule; but generally, stick with a suit. Of course, there is a great deal of diversity in choosing a suit, as well as the manner in which to wear the suit. Overall, the best advice I ever received in interview attire is this: you NEVER want to be better dressed than the person interviewing you. So leave the solid gold tie chain, expensive tie, or $500 shoes at home.

For most interviews, I would advise to dress conservatively. Plain white or muted color shirt, blue, black or grey suit, minimally patterned tie, belt and shoes to match, and of course, appropriately colored socks. Some people opt for a pocket square; personally, I leave it at home. Although classy, I like to make my resume and personality do the talking, and not my attire. Make sure your shoes are well shined (seriously, the care one puts into their shoes speaks highly of their attention to detail and over-all social competence). My wife often gives me a glance over before I walk out the door to any interview: this isn’t just an endearing gesture either. If you have a friend, spouse or family member available, ask them to give you a glance over before your interview – they may see things that you missed, like a loose thread on the back of your suit, or a tie slightly askew.

Grooming

I know you’re probably nervous and stressed, but put care into your grooming before going on an interview. Personally, I have a little pre-interview grooming ritual; this helps keep me calm, focused and centered on the task ahead.

Like your suit, keep your hair conservative. Yeah, I like to spike my hair up on my days off, but for an interview, brush it down. Consider getting a cut a few days before your interview. I say a few days BEFORE for a few reasons: 1. For me, those little clipped hairs end up everywhere, and I would hate to go into an interview with hair in my ears from my haircut; 2. You don’t want it to be too obvious that you’ve just had a haircut; and 3. Personally, I like the way my hair lays a few days, even a week, after the cut, rather than the day of or day after the cut. Don’t try something new before an interview either. Don’t try a new part in your hair, or a new haircut style, even if you think it will look good. Go with what you know, and it will give you one less distraction for the interview.

As for facial hair, the same “new” rule applies: don’t try something new that you’ve never done before. If you are clean shaven, make sure to shave before your interview. If you have a goatee or mustache, make sure you are well trimmed. It seems like this would go without saying, but you would be surprised to know I’ve seen many guys going into an interview with substantial stubble. Like your shoes, your grooming speaks highly of your attention to detail and social awareness.

Also, if you use cologne, don’t overdo it for the interview.

Accessories and Preparation

If you have a briefcase (in good condition), bring it. If not, leave the backpack at home, and opt for a portfolio, like this:

No matter what, make sure to have a pad of paper with you at the table during your interview. Before the interview, write down three (or more) questions for your interviewer on the first page of your pad of paper. ALWAYS go in to an interview with questions. Personally, I also like to do research before my interview, about the company I am interviewing with: what is their company mission statement look like, do they value diversity in the workplace, how many locations do they have, etc. You can use some of this information in your interview questions (Ex “I see that you’re mission statement talks about XYZ, can you tell me more about that?”). Also, bring a copy of your resume with you, as well as business cards, if you have them. You never know when your interviewer may lose your resume, or ask you about a particular element. It’s just good to make sure you bring it with you. If you have multiple interviewers, make sure to bring a copy for each.

Of course, make sure your cell phone is on silent.

During the Interview

Smile…seriously. You may not feel like smiling, but it shows you are comfortable, competent, and approachable. And really, that’s what we’re going for here, isn’t it? Go into this confident, knowing that these people want to hire you, and the interview is just a chance to show them WHY they want to hire you. Be polite, don’t interrupt your interviewer. Sit up straight, but be comfortable (not stiff). Also, go into the interview with your suit jacket buttoned, but make sure you un-button it when you sit down.

And lastly…breathe. Relax. Like I said, these people want to hire you, they just don’t know it yet.

Considerations for Transmen

If you’re early into your transition (or even if you’re not) the issue of disclosure is something to think about. Naturally, a lot of this depends on whom you are interviewing with: for instance, disclosure during an interview with an LGBT organization may not be a big deal. Personally, I have disclosed my Trans-identity in a number of interviews, because that it what I felt comfortable with. You may not, and I fully understand that. If you decide you want to disclose, here are a few things I have learned:

  1. Be comfortable with your identity and talking about it. If you’re comfortable and happy in your identity, it will show, and your interviewer will be put at ease, even if they wouldn’t normally be.
  2. Don’t lead with your identity. Introducing yourself as “Hi, I’m So-and-So and I’m Trans” is probably not going to come off right.
  3. Time it well. Don’t interject your identity awkwardly into the conversation. For me, because I have worked with various Trans groups, professionally, I usually bring it up when talking about my prior work. Like so: “You may see that I’ve worked with XYZ-Trans Group. I want to let you know I am transgender-identified. If you have any professional questions about that, I would be happy to answer them.”
  4. Don’t over disclose. If your interviewer asks about surgeries, you have the right to decline to answer. Questions about the status of your genitalia are never appropriate. During an interview I have been asked if I planned to have surgery. My response was something like: “I don’t believe my future medical plans will have any negative effects on my job performance.” And, honestly, I don’t want to work for a company that thinks it has a right to peek into my pants, if that makes sense.

There are a lot of thoughts and considerations that go into disclosure. In the end, the decision to disclose is yours. You may think, going into the interview, that you will disclose, but then, when you talk to the interviewer, realize that you no longer feel comfortable doing so. Go with your gut; if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

These are simply cursory observations and considerations. If you have any questions about specifics, please don’t hesitate to ask. Good luck, out there. Remember, they want you hire you, and the interview is a chance to show them why.

Cheers – Mason


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