EtherealMind’s Fashion Tips for Network Engineering Men

Just because you don’t speak to “customers” or “the public” it’s still necessary to look like you are a professional and take pride in your work.
1176355 15658686  hipster

Tip 1 – Ties

Engineers are not required to wear ties. Engineers don’t suck up or down to people like managers or sales people, therefore societal rules around ties do not apply to you. They also reduce blood flow to the brain. Notable exceptions are job interviews (yours, or for your replacement to demonstrate that you are actually paying attention to someone stupid enough to take your job), weddings (when you are groom or best man) and funerals (always). Ties attempt to show your sincerity or ability to achieve something. Of course, a tie gives no such properties and lead to the conclusion that you are probably lying.

If you must wear a tie, then have white business shirts. That way, you will never pick the wrong colour tie.

When selecting ties, stick to a single colour. Multicoloured ties are for managers and hipsters. Hawaiian ties are for dress down Fridays only, as a joke. Worth remembering that point.

Tip 2 – Shirts

Always buy shirts with a collar. Polo shirts can be short-sleeved but business shirts are always long-sleeved. A rolled up sleeve says “man at work”, check out any manager with the rolled up sleeve look – yep, you know I’m right (emphasis on “SAYS man at work”). And a collar always looks good – timeless fashion.

T-Shirts are what footballers wear to because buttons are too complex and collars “scratch their necks”.

And always iron your shirts. An engineer does not buy ‘non iron’ material because it never works. And looks cheap. And it pumped chock full of chemicals that’ interfere with your mental processes and cause sweaty armpits.

Any shirt that has a company logo or slogan on it is an ABSOLUTE NO NO. Even when they pay you – fast food chains make people wear company shirts and that’s an association that you don’t want.

Note: When a white shirt has yellow armpits, it goes in the bin. Don’t argue with me. This is about fashion not whether your short has a couple of years left in it.

Tip 3 – Hats

Foundational Tips: Engineers don’t wear hats, hipsters do. But, you may need something to cope with environmental conditions. Therefore the following guidelines are offered: Engineers don’t wear baseball caps – anything you get for free isn’t worth having, thus vendor caps go straight to charity for poor sporty type people who can’t make a living being clever.

While a fez is eminently practical (without the tassel), it’s not currently in fashion. Engineers do not wear floppy hats either, that’s for skateboarders hipsters just before they become drug addicts. Suggestions for Panama hat, and other forms of headwear for personal flair are verboten, unless you are an instantly recognised Internet legend or laudable person. Even then, I’d still say that hats are for hipsters unless they have a specific functional purpose like keeping the sun off your bald spot.

Tip 4 – Portable Computing

Use a belt clip for your portable computing device or phone. This is because putting the phone in your pocket spoils the cut of your trousers. Also important, it means you won’t leave it somewhere (like on the table at a restaurant) and then be like that middle manager saying ‘I’ve left my phone in the back of the taxi cab / restaurant / strip club / gay bar’.’ (Not that there is anything wrong with that).

Sure, a belt clip kind of screams out ‘nerd’ but nothing says ‘prick’ like a phone in the pocket of jeans spoiling the manscaping of your trouser line and demonstrating you are hipster-stupid for not considering practical matters or constantly losing your phone, or dropping it. And then whining about it because you feel good about whining, it’s makes you feel like have some self worth after all.

Tip 5 – Belt

Belts are always wide, black and leather. Fashion experts say narrow belts improve the your perceived waistline, but really, they are uncomfortable, pinch your hips and don’t support your belt clip properly. An unsupported belt clip means you need to keep adjusting it, and that’s a bad look.

Belts are always leather because they stretch. Like your waistline does (how does that happen anyway ?). Requires less belts over a your lifetime. Have you seen the prices of belts ? Jeesh.

Tip 6 – Suit

Engineers don’t need suits excepting special occasions (see Tip 1 – Ties). If you have to buy a suit then get a dark blue suit that is plain, simple cut and straight. Double breasted or single breasted is fine, but don’t go for oversized collars. Anymore than two internal breast pockets means that you will be tempted to install a tablet and will spoil your manscape – a no no.

Think about getting two or three pairs of trousers at time of purchase. You won’t wear the jacket much, and that way the whole outfit will last longer or until your body changes shape (you are watching your diet and posture aren’t you ?)

An expensive suit is pointless since your body shape will probably change by the time it wears out. Expensive suits are for people who don’t need their money e.g managers and sales people.

Tip 7 – Shoes.

Difficult choices here. Primary choices are black leather shoes, with laces. Shoes without laces are for sales people so they can creep out of brothels quicker and not challenge their intelligence on a daily basis. On the other hand, trainers/runners are comfortable but create the perception that you are a casual lay about hipster who is thinking about “shades of blue” and relevant moral values between a “cocaine and heroin”.

Leather brogues create a cool engineer vibe, but only if you have a beard. And big bearded, fat belly Unix types aside, you should never, ever wear socks and sandals.

Tip 8 – Socks

Buy socks in identical multi-packs. 20 identical socks does not mean 10 pairs it means you have a 190 potentials pairs of socks. If you lose or wear out any sock or even two socks, you still have nine more good pairs to go. And you NEVER have check you have matching socks – they ALWAYS match.

Socks are always black because its not quite so obvious if they aren’t clean (travel tip). And made form cotton. Engineers feet never smell, of course, but cotton is a lot more comfortable to wear.

Tip: Discard your socks before they have holes. New socks are a fine luxury for your feet.

Tip 9 – Trousers

Engineers don’t wear ‘slacks’, they wear trousers. While brown or tan trousers may be acceptable on the weekends, it’s dark blue or grey trousers during the week. This matches your white shirts – everytime. And your socks, shoes and belt.

Jeans are acceptable ONLY under the following circumstances  they must be dark colours – black, grey, brown and  they must not be “pre washed” or “distressed” and they should not be tight. Tight jeans mean swamp ass when working (something very few hipsters have everdone in their execrable lives).

In other word, they should hint that you would rather be wearing a suit but you are taking the day off. That’s manly.

Be Awesome and Good Looking

So those are my fashion tips. You don’t have to look like you’ve just escaped from London Fashion Week, just be practical, simple and engineer manly.

Keep it chilled and get back to working on serious stuff, don’t act like a fool, and don’t look like one either.

Image Credit

  • Lukasz Dorosz

    Great post with good tips. Unfortunately in my country there are still opinions that the Engineers or IT guys wears not fresh t-shirt or flannel grand-father design shirts and worn jeans. It’s sad but in most cases is true. As you wrote Engineer does’t need to wear a suit and tie on his daily work life.
    But he should looks fresh and neatly.

  • DaveyK

    Simple, true and timeless.  A great post.

  • Anonymous

    Great post!!! It’s unfortunate how many fellow network engineers think they can wear trainers, jeans, and a lousy shirt untucked just because they don’t interface with customers. I think it’s a good idea to show a little self respect in how you present yourself. Though, I’d like to see more feedback on the phone belt holsters. I’ve always been opposed to them. Only Batman looks cool with stuff clipped to his belt. I do hate how a phone in your pocket really messes with your pants, but I have the same problem with my car keys and I’m not going to clip those to my belt. I just don’t try to put stuff in my pocket unless I absolutely have to.

    • Jearl Gilberto

      “Only Batman looks cool with stuff clipped to his belt.”


    • Anonymous

      I don’t understand this attitude. Self-respect isn’t about wearing what robertjuric on EtheralMind thinks you should wear, but about wearing what you personally find to be fitting and comfortable. It’s implicit in the definition of the term.

      • Anonymous

        You’re right it’s not about wearing what I think you should wear. However, I believe that an aspect of self-respect is your appearance. I think people use the comfortable excuse to disregard caring for their actual appearance. There is a wide range work attire which is still comfortable.

        • Anonymous

          Of course appearance is an aspect of self-respect, but appearance is judged individually, and you seem to want individuals to conform to what you personally judge to be appropriate.

          I think people cite the incredibly nebulous “work attire” wardrobe in an attempt to legitimise their disdain for what their colleagues choose to wear. You can’t make a judgement of comfort on behalf of someone else. You may find some clothing from this loosely defined category comfortable, but that certainly doesn’t mean that the guy in the office next to yours feels the same way.

          Comfort also isn’t just a matter of how the cuts and fabric suit your frame; it’s also a matter of the image you convey, and the mentality associated with dressing to a standard that isn’t yours. It isn’t unreasonable to wish to dress in a manner that shies from certain social connotations. Just as there are many people like you who wish to convey a message of being sharp, professional and all-business through your choice of garments, there are many people who wish to appear more calm and approachable, and they’re more comfortable dressing the part. Even if that means worn jeans and a vendor t-shirt.

          At the end of the day, we’re engineers, not fashion police. It shouldn’t matter to any of us whether competent work gets done in a dress shirt or a t-shirt, as long as it gets done well.

  • Kurt Bales

    Great article Greg – timeless advice. This could probably be linked to in our new HR manual 😉

    Im not sold on the belt clip, but like others say the pocket thing bugs the heck out of me.

    I wear a suit Monday-Thursday and Smart Casual on Fridays, but we have a strict “No Ties” policy. If I could take any single one of your tips and repeat it, it would have to be the collared shirts. Though your statement about logos and so forth precludes you from all vendor swag (which I assume is also part of the point).

    Thanks again :)

  • Simon Naughton

    Hmmm….. some of these points are a little to old man for my liking.

    2.  Collars – Yes, some younger members of my team need to learn this one.
    Vendor shirts – If you have not implemented a workaround for a Cisco bug wearing a Foundry polo, then your not trying IMO.  I find it always helps when negotiating a price to be wearing the opposing vendors shirt.

    3.  Hats – In Australia, a Greg Chappell cricket hats means I can actually walk between buildings on campus in the Summer.  Otherwise who cares.

    4.  Belt clips – No old man nerd, just no.

    7.  Spanish street shoes in leather and anything you order off vancl is fine also.

    9.  Jeans – Worn look / distressed is fine as long as they fit.  If you’re a fat arse, then do something about it.  (Riding your bike to work makes you work better anyways)  Black and tight makes you a hipster.  Having any type of jeans rolled up to the point where I can see your ankle socks makes you a hipster.  Brown is NEVER okay.    
    Jeans are fine in any format when you’re working in the DC.

  • ids

    So you are branching out into the realms of the fashion police as well :) 

    First voice, then fashion – whats next !

  • Anonymous

    Great post. While I agree we should look our best, I would argue our best doesn’t have to be “timeless”. I think looking like we just got off our London Fashion show stage can work for some. It doesn’t have to scream idiot but rather, I care about what I look like. 

    At the end of the day, it is about how you work and not what you wear. BUT again, please for the sake of all that is good…Take pride not only in your work but how you look.

    (and yea, belt clips, sorry…I just can’t get into that!) :)


  • Pseudocyber

    Hmm.  Don’t like or agree with this one.  I’m FINALLY in a job that has a “relaxed” “business casual” work environment – and I’m able to wear T-shirts and Blue Jeans (no holes), and tennis shoes – and everyone does.  It’s one of my favorite benefits in this job.  I’m not allowed to wear my “off duty clothes” of shorts, t-shirt, flip flops.  But it’s a good compromise.

    Your post would be highly dependent on:  Age, Company policies, country/culture.  Honestly, I thought you were trying to be humorous, but it seems like you’re trying to be too serious.

    • Jearl Gilberto

      Dress for your career, not for your job.

      Continue this attitude for long and you will be telling the world that your career (and earning potential) has reached it’s apex.

      Good luck.

      • Anonymous

        Keep in mind that some people are more concerned with being comfortable in their lives, both in and out of work, than they are with elevating the apex of their earning potential.

        Work to live; don’t live to work.

  • Jamie Parks

    not too sure about the belt clip (maybe because my company blackberry is that old i need to hide it in my trouser pocket!!) but otherwise pretty sound advice!

    Where do you stand on facial hear? clean shaved or few days stubble?

  • Andreas Larsen

    I’m glad to work in a country/workplace that dosen’t categorize you on what type of clothes you wear. But I guess these tips are good in general for US and UK ? =)

    • Jearl Gilberto

      By saying “[I] … work in a country/workplace that dosen’t categorize you on what type of clothes you wear.”    What you’re really saying is “I don’t categorize people based on their clothes.”    Which really means, “I don’t understand the message my clothes send well enough to interpret the message other people are sending with theirs.”   Which actually means, “I’m the guy with zero fashion sense that other people are laughing about.”

      If these particular fashions don’t seem to apply in your culture, that’s fine.   There are certainly another set of guidelines that apply in your circumstances.

      Pay attention.

      • Mark Bauer

        Pay attention to your name dude. GOSH! “Jearl Gilberto”, with that name you really need to take care of your appearance.

  • Romans Fomicevs

    General lines are ok, thanks! 
    However, what is most important: your look describes your attitude to your job. As a result it is clear that all radical outfits from suit to worn woolen grandpa’s sweater are unacceptable. Attention to details – colors should match, no holes, always fresh – these things also show you are paying attention to details when doing your work. Your outfit should look comfortable also (no-no for ties, tight shoes etc), the same way your solutions should be – you (or your clients) are going to use them everyday.So blue jeans, t-shirts, snickers and other things of that kind are possible, but during routine work only. When you live in the server room for the whole day t-shirt and jeans tend to look much better, than not so white shirt and “not long ago” ironed trousers. And when you are doing presentation you should look up to the standards of the audience. If they are geeks – jeans with t-shirt are ok, if they are managers – then your described style applies.

    • Jearl Gilberto

      “These things also show you are paying attention to details when doing your work.”   That’s right!   A person who pays attention to details does so in all aspects of life.    A person who can understand the audience and the message they are communicating, is likely to communicate successfully.

      Romans, you’re on the right track.    Remember, always be searching for the person who will replace you so you can move up quickly.

  • James Cape

    Laceless shoes are also useful for people that fly often, engineer or otherwise.

    • Jearl Gilberto

      That’s a cop out.   If that’s your reasoning you might as well go with velcro shoes.

      If you’re so pressed for time in the airport that the additional 14 seconds is important, you’ve got scheduling issues that are more important … and you’re unlikely to arrive at the gate smelling fresh and confident.

  • Will


    I have gained such respect for you since reading your blog that I’m somehow taking this to heart.  In fact i feel like a total loser after reading this and need to fix myself.  anyway:

       -Are you saying no short sleeve polos?  
       -What do we wear in the office when it’s cold?  (I’ve been wearing hoodies but i’m sure that’s a super       
       faux paux in your eyes after reading this)
       -What type of coat for winter?
       -How about grooming?  Beards?  Hair Gel? male-Jewelry?
       -Laptop case?  
       -What about offices where there are no managers?  Does the attire still count?
       -Any brand suggestions?

    • Etherealmind

      I regard all short sleeved shirts short as surf wear, for gardening or barbecue. None of those are  professional. 

      – Cold office – get a light woollen jumper with a V-Collar, where a cotton vest.  Or wear a suit coat. 

      – Coats ? Same guidelines as a shirt. Collared, dark colour. Should be formal styling. 

      – Grooming ? Clean shaven. Always. Studies suggest that men wearing beards are generally perceived as dishonest, shifty, and liars. Hair gel / Jewelry is personal choice, but I’m not that fussy about fashion that I could be bothered with either. 

      Laptop Case ? I choose function over fashion here (see belt clip). I have a large laptop and often have walk long distances so I use a backpack to save my back. I’d like to have a courier style bag or briefcase style, but I have too much equipment for that to be practical. 

      Offices with no managers ? Assuming that any such thing exists, yes. It’s about your attitude to yourself and your work, not about who is checking up on you. 

      No brand suggestions. If you can, tend towards quality and pay a little more where it makes sense. 

      • Will

        “Studies suggest that men wearing beards are generally perceived as dishonest, shifty, and liars.”

        … or *nix admins. This of course means you have to commit to a lifestyle of absolutely no shaving.

  • Nyciscochick

    Can you please also tell them to stop wearing vendor shirts?  Signed, a girl.

    • Etherealmind

      Yes please!!!! I’ve tweeted your comment as well. 

  • UgandanGirlHeartsJuniper

    Any tip on what kind of cologne to wear?

    • Etherealmind

      None. You should not “smell” of anything. Not cologne, nor sweat, or unwashed clothing. 

  • John

    Clearly, you’ve never been to silicon valley/san francisco… Also, you cant be serious with the, phone holster lol

    • Etherealmind

       I have, several times and they all dress like losers. Sometimes you win, but mostly like look like a bunch of kids who haven’t been taught how to get dressed in the morning. 

  • Andy

    Sound advice delivered in a concise and meaningful monologue. Some nonsense about phone holsters to get the debate going. These aren’t just fashion tips, they are EtherealMind’s fashion tips.

    btw Do M&S sell phone holsters? 

  • Guest

    Not a huge fan of this article. Trying to be overly clever has caused it to be borderline discriminating. I also disagree about always wearing long sleeve shirts, polo shirts are fine in my opinion. Also, khaki or brown slacks are versitile and provide a clean look. I think geographic areas also play a role in workplace attire. I have worked in the northern and sourthern US in multiple industries, and suitable workplace attire is different depending on where you are.

  • Laszlo

    Great post.

    When I was working in Hungary, no dress code, only be reasonable (no sandals, athletes, shorts, though I had colleagues doing that). I have to say I was the vendor T-Shirt guy.

    Now, same company, but in the UK… different case. I had some comments on the way I dressed on the first week and dress down fridays came in, but now I see the point. I work with managers and customers on a daily basis now, so I had to adapt, which is great (spent a lot on clothes though). If I go on a business trip to Hungary, I feel overdressed nowadays compared to the others. I could keep my long hair so far, but my colleagues said that either way I will have to cut it. (being promoted to an architect, or going for presales, long hair has to go)

    Nevertheless, looking good definitely helps your career. Dressing well for job interviews and key meetings brings you the success you need, and I would guess a couple of compliments on your look are always welcome. I will take the advice on belt clips, never thought that keeping my phone in my pocket sends a message that I am a prick. :)

    Thanks Greg!

  • Mrs. Y.

    Although engineering is male-dominated, shouldn’t you have someone write something from the female perspective?

  • Jeff

    Thanks Greg, I’m not an engineer yet. Still studying. At least I know I dress the part.

  • Nigel Roberts

    Short sleeved shirts are awesome. This whole article is quite pretentious really.

  • L33tlinux

    I can’t tell if this post is a joke or not. A lot of people are taking this very seriously.

    If you wear a hawaiian tie on casual days, you are being  hipster. A hipster is someone who doesn’t do something because everyone else is doing it. So when you say, I will not wear jeans on casual days. You are being a hipster. Just wanted to point out the irony.

  • Tony

    Actually your belt is supposed to always match your shoes. Brown shoes, brown belt. Black shoes, black belt. Brown shoes with a black belt screems shotty engineer.

  • Mri3mor

    What about the ladies:-)
    Give the poor network-engineer-woman some tips!

  • Chris Campbell

    Mostly agreed, though the belt clip is definitely a no no. If you have things that need carrying use a bag, don’t attach them to your clothing.

  • Pingback: Velcro for VAR Engineers | The Networking Nerd()

  • Raj

    It will be helpful if you also come up with a Netwok Engineer Fitness Quotient