1. All black.
2. Black with a bit of grey.
3. Black with a bit of white.
4. Match different shades of black.
Done. Go home.
All jokes aside, there has never been a set uniform in the architecture profession. The truth is, there are a large variety of different architectural practices, and one’s attire to do architectural work often depends on each firm’s unique culture. There are corporate firms composed of hundreds of people in office blocks where “corporate” clothing is expected, or there are atelier style firms where jeans and a simple shirt are more appropriate for the design-build.
The architecture world is unique in that we are expected to be creative like artists, execute like engineers, negotiate like businessmen, and make like craftsmen but at the same time are asked to discover our own unique style and approach. Hybridity and improvisation abounds in architecture, which is definitely reflected in our fashion choices. In general though, the architect’s wardrobe is governed by four key words: eccentric, professional, relaxed and... well, still largely black. Here we’ve profiled a few tips on how to dress by these four qualities.
We’re still not really sure why and when architects started wearing all black, but there’s something about this style that gives an air of belonging to architecture’s mysterious clique. This is probably why every young architecture student went through an “all-black phase.” Amid the unwelcoming initial shock of first-time project critiques, a uniform of black is an easy way to feel like you belong in architecture. An all-black wardrobe also complements the architecture student’s hectic schedule precisely because everything you own matches—but that’s the lazy approach and a total waste of the shade’s depth and potential.
The truly great thing about black is that architects who choose to don the shade head to toe are given the opportunity to indulge in unconventional cuts, garment construction, or fabric. The monotony of black makes the combination look less eccentric and a bit more toned down for architecture’s pseudo-corporate settings. One of the best-dressed when it comes to all black was none other than Zaha Hadid, whose artful pairings always had sculptural interest.
Brave enough to try out the all-black look? Here are some items for your inspiration:
If architecture is an art then some architects are artists. With their bodies as the canvas, they use fashion as a tool to express themselves, to embody their daily emotions, or to make a statement. Sometimes, they just want to celebrate the beauty of an object: shiny, sparkly, colorful, prickly, intricate objects. One such lover is Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA, who reportedly owns an extensive collection of Comme des Garcons clothing: a fashion house characterized by vibrant colors and bold prints that are often mixed and matched. On the other hand there is Richard Rogers who is often seen mixing vibrant hues of green, magenta and blue. There isn’t much prescription when it comes to dressing eccentrically, just collect what you love and pile it on yourself. Of course, as an architect you’ll know which elements would work together. You got this.
Itching for the eccentric look? Use these items for inspiration:
Sharp and Professional
As much as we would sometimes like to work against the tendency, architects for the most part cater to the privileged elite and the small crop of people that can fund the multi-million construction budgets of our envisioned masterpieces. This is when “power-dressing” becomes part of your sales pitch and anything vastly different from the wardrobe in the boardroom could risk losing the client. However, you are still an architect and you have to distinguish yourself somehow within the “language” of the corporate. Since you’re an architect though, you surely have mastered the world of stylistic languages. The trick is to be just slightly off-kilter: try double-breasted blazers, earthy tones in tweed and corduroy, or ankle grazing trousers—or of course add the classic thick-rimmed glasses. A good rule of thumb is either to remove one item or add an additional piece to whatever you envision as “requisite corporate wear.” If you choose to wear a suit, leave the tie out. Wearing a dress? Pair it with trousers. For style inspiration look towards architecture's 20th century masters—they've got the suit thing down to a tee.
Want a look that's sharper than your pencils? Try out some of these items:
A relaxed wardrobe is perfect for the image of the young protégé, or the long-standing rebel. It might be easy to dismiss this style but that is exactly why it can have some strategic advantages—the relaxed look is a classic double-bluff. When you don't dress for the job it looks like you were too busy actually doing your job to worry about your appearance. And when you don't dress for the job, people are suddenly more interested in listening to your ideas. Bjarke Ingels is otherwise reasonably dressed in formal occasions, but during his TED talks, which for many is a career-making honor, he is considerably dressed-down in a trademark "Yes is More" tee. Casual, comfortable, and loose are keywords synonymous to this style but absolutely no track suits, or sweatpants.
Ready to go for a more relaxed look? These items could get you started:
As Mark Twain reportedly wrote: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.” So as long as you’re not naked, you’re fine. Don’t fret too much.