April 20, 2008

How Not to Dress Like an Army Colonel*

It was 80 degrees this weekend in our nation's capitol, which means that summer is soon upon us. Summer brings three things to Washington: oppressive heat, interns, and newly assigned military personnel (easier to PCS--ie, move the kids--in the summer, you know?). If DC is your next duty station, take some advice from Charlie and avoid dressing like an Army colonel.

Basics (you wear a uniform to work)

1) No pleated pants. Ever. Same goes for shorts.

2) No polo shirts with unit insignia. Save them for the reunion. (Yes, you can wear the t-shirts as PT gear.)

3) No tapered jeans; no light-wash jeans. You are not Jon Bon Jovi, this is not 1987.

3a) No jean shorts (this should really go without saying).

4) No braided belts. See above re: 1987.

5) No white tennis shoes. See about getting some Pumas, Adidas, Tevas, Reefs, whatever.

When in doubt, get thee to Banana Republic and confess total and utter ignorance (don't worry, they'll believe you). Get 2 pairs of khakis, 1 pair jeans, and 3 summer-weight, button-up shirts. Charlie's a sucker for linen, but if you're not into ironing, best pick something else.

Finally, do Charlie a favor and don't wear your flight bag to Sine's. You work at the Pentagon, not an effing airfield. And while you soldiers may be allowed out in your cammies, trust Charlie when she says you'll look a lot better in your new civvies.

Advanced (you wear a suit to work)

6) Go to Nordstrom's. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. Regardless of what you may think, you need a new suit (or 3). The best dressed SF officer in town says to ask for Ernie, and Charlie sees no reason to disagree. Bring your credit card. And don't forget the ties. (You can grab dress shirts at Filene's Basement.)

7) Dress shoes are not combat boots. They hurt after two hours, which means the ones you wear to church aren't going to cut it. Look for Ecco, Mephisto, Cole Haan, and sometimes Kenneth Cole. Might as well get them at Nordstrom's too.

8) Lose the high and tight. It scares the civilians. Take this fine opportunity to grow out your hair. Your wife/girlfriend/mom will thank you for it.

9) Never, ever, wear a blue blazer with khaki pants. (Especially if you're going on CNN...or your friends will never let you forget it.)

10) You are still subject to rules 1-4 above.

Other suggestions for the sartorially impaired? Leave 'em in the comments.

*No particular Army colonel was implied by this title. Though we could name a few.

Update: Charlie's favorite fashionista chimes in:

But, all imperial ambitions aside, Charlie should be applauded for this Quixotic endeavor -- trying to get army colonels not to obviously dress like army colonels in their free time. If they all heeded her advice, it would certainly do a great deal to beautify parts of DC and much of Virginia.

And pay heed Megan's devastating observation (she of Jezebel-crappy-hour-fame):

Just because women like a man in uniform doesn't mean we like how he looks out of uniform.

Update II: The amazing Mrs. Fick writes in to suggest that Charlie remind readers that, "Civilian pants do not need to be worn on the natural waist." So, so true.

Update III: AM here. Charlie is right about much but wrong about one thing. If it's summer (i.e., after Easter and before Labor Day) and you're from south of the Rappahannock River, you can both wear khakis and a navy blazer and seersucker. Hell, you can even wear a seersucker jacket with khakis, which Abu Muqawama saw an older African-American gentleman wearing on the subway in New York one summer and thought was awesome. Now this doesn't excuse Abu Muqawama from not wearing a suit on CNN that one time (he thought he was only going to be filmed from the waist up -- wrong!), but don't let Charlie's fascist rules keep you boys from the south from embracing your heritage. Abu Muqawama wooed his über-fashionable and way-too-hot-for-Abu-Muqawama Italian girlfriend dressed like this one summer, and that was because the aforementioned ladyfriend had spent a little time at Mr. Jefferson's University and knew the score. Charlie: she's racist. Note to the readers: Charlie insists Abu Muqawama let you all know that she is not a racist. She apparently puts this blog on her resume or something and is now afraid that people think she doesn't like the Scots-Irish. Or something.