If you’re a lawyer in Chicago, you wear a suit and tie: Part of our “Young Professionals in the Workplace” Series

Photos courtesy of Aaron Bean (landscape) at www.unsplash.com and Daniel M. Breen.

Over the years, Epic Mens has devoted a considerable amount of editorial space to bringing you the latest news from our premium menswear brands. Now, we’re turning the tables. We want to hear how you and your fashion-forward brethren across the country are styling both classic and trendier pieces to suit your workday needs. This month, Chicago litigator Daniel M. Breen gave us his take on acceptable business attire for those practicing law in the Windy City – and it’s decidedly not casual.

How would you describe the nature of your work and your workplace?

Daniel is a partner in a plaintiff litigation firm, author, adjunct law professor and guest lecturer. That’s quite a few hats to juggle. When we asked Daniel whether his workplace more closely resembled a quiet library or a chaotic gymnasium, his response was a “chaotic library.” Sound like an oxymoron? We thought so, but we get it. A courtroom is a somber place that probably seems at odds with the amount of frenetic activity happening behind-the-scenes day in and day out.

Is there a written (or unwritten) dress code?

According to Daniel, he and his peers are expected to “dress formally for court” on a regular basis. He goes on to say that he’d “prefer not to, but it’s basically a requirement.” This too is easy to understand. How we dress often speaks volumes about how others perceive us. Wouldn’t you want your attorney to personify authority, dignity and professionalism? A formal business dress code can go a long way toward building this image.

What’s your typical workday outfit look like?

No surprises here. Daniel routinely wears a “suit and tie.” And from the looks of his profile pics, he, like others in his profession, typically opts for tailored, single-breasted suits. Subtle patterns or subdued solids (gray, charcoal, navy) that won’t distract from the work at hand appear to be a safe bet. A crisp long-sleeve white button-down dress shirt, conservative silk tie, and polished leather dress shoes are also essential components of a formal business aesthetic.

How do you handle cold weather challenges?

Given Chicago’s infamous frigid winters, we asked Daniel how he stays warm on cold days, and in true just-the-facts lawyer speak, he told us, “I wear a coat and hat.” What we’re actually wondering though is does “coat and hat” mean a handsome felt fedora and a warm, woolen overcoat or does it mean a ski parka and beanie. And how about a little protection for your hands and feet? When the temps drop below zero and you’re trudging to work through several inches of snow and sludge, wouldn’t it feel good to be decked out in a cashmere scarf, lined leather gloves and even an old-fashioned pair of galoshes? Living along the California coast, these aren’t things we spend a lot of time thinking about, but we’d like to know if you do!

If you accessorize, do you choose your extras based on function or fashion?

When we said accessories, Daniel’s mind leapt right to “tie,” not because he likes them, but rather because he thinks they’re a necessary evil. We suspect a great many men feel the same way. However, as the phrase “suit and tie” implies, ties are one half of a pretty important sartorial equation.

What do you carry all your stuff in?

Daniel’s next answer – a black Tumi nylon work bag – sent us scurrying to Google. Made from an ultra-durable nylon and available in a variety of styles, these versatile carryalls appear to be a practical choice for a guy who’s always on the go.

When you leave work for the day to head out for dinner or drinks with friends, does what you wore during the day suffice or do you change things up?

Business formal attire is a fairly versatile look that’s at home in a variety of settings, and It’s a simple thing to shed a jacket or loosen a tie. So, when Daniel told us he typically wears “whatever he happens to have on” for after-work socializing, we weren’t surprised.

If you had to name two items in your closet that you couldn’t do without, what would they be?

“I could do without all of it, but I like my Nike hooded sweatshirt and lululemon sweatpants the best.” We love this answer, especially knowing Daniel spends the better part of his workweek in a suit and tie. 

Conversely, what is the one item of clothing you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing?

“White socks with a suit.” So right. Menswear rule number one is that your dress socks should always be a shade darker than your trousers.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is fashion in your life? Do you have a particular style?

Daniel pegs the importance of fashion at about a “3,” describing his style as “simple.” There must be something to this no-fuss approach, as Daniel’s not the first professional we’ve interviewed who has expressed an interest in minimalism.

Lastly, who or what influences you the most when it comes to your choice of clothing?

“Flexibility” is what Daniel told us he thinks about most. We concur, as we’re great fans of pieces that serve a dual purpose and can be easily mixed and matched.
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