Charlie's Blog: Blue Collar Fashion Guide


Blue Collar Fashion Guide

Clothes make the man.

Do clothes make the man? I think so. Clothing reflects who you are internally. Now, people can wear something that doesn't match that internal reality. This would be the drag queen. But, generally speaking, you can tell a great deal about a man by the way he dresses. Your impression of a man sagging his pants past his underwear will be far different than the impression you have of a man in a tailored three piece suit. Both of those are extreme examples, and they are extreme styles to avoid. This is the blue collar fashion guide to help you out on this.

No one will ever accuse me of stepping out of the pages of GQ magazine. I am not into men's fashions, and I am not a clothes horse. I am actually quite clueless about fashion and dressing nice. But I started to get a clue years ago that I needed to do something about the way I dress. This is because I dressed very poorly. I was mismatched with my wife who dresses like a grown up. When you turn 40, you should already know how to dress like a grown up, but I didn't get the memo on this. I dressed like virtually everyone else I knew. This would be what I now call "douchewear." I dressed like a douchebag. It was embarrassing.

I decided I needed a wardrobe change, and images of men in seersucker suits, white hats, and pocket squares filled my brain. I contemplated the bow tie and things like that. Obviously, this is better than wearing basketball shorts and flip flops, but it is too much. So, I went into my memory bank to remember the last man who I remember dressed as a grown up. This was my grandfather. He was a blue collar man. My great uncle dressed the same way. My father was a boomer, and it was the Baby Boom generation that began the sartorial slide for later generations. Using my grandfather and great uncle as templates, I put together a blue collar man's fashion sense, and I have stuck with it. I ask myself a basic question. Would my grandfather have worn this? This is how this guide came to be.


It is hard to believe that Mark Zuckerberg is the billionaire CEO of a gigantic company. This is because the Facebook founder dresses like a douchebag. Zuck took the inspiration for this from Steve Jobs's famous uniform of a mock turtleneck and a pair of blue jeans. There is freedom in not having to decide what you are going to wear that day. Blue collar guys already know this freedom. They already wear a uniform. They just decide between what it is clean and what is dirty.

Zuckerberg should dress like the guys at IBM dressed. This was a suit and a tie. The IBM dress code was famous, and it became a target for rebellion from guys like Steve Jobs who hated IBM. But Steve Jobs was a douchebag. He was a man devoid of respect for anyone or anything. The only time he put on a tie was when he had to. As he became richer and more successful, this became less and less frequent. The man had no respect. Zuckerberg has a similar lack of respect.

The advantage of douchewear is that it allows you to be comfortable. This comfort thing has been taken to such an extreme now that people wear their sleepwear outside and can barely be bothered to put on proper shoes preferring flip flops. This is atrocious. The typical douche outfit will be a T-shirt, a pair of cargo shorts, and some flip flops. A variation will be baggy basketball shorts or sweatpants. These things are perfectly fine for lounging around the home or sleeping, but they should never be worn in public.


If douchebags are perpetually underdressed, you have peacocks who are perpetually overdressed. The epitome of this style was the author Tom Wolfe who took the style of his native Richmond, Virginia, and brought it to the world. Basically, he wore ice cream colored suits, but he also wore all sorts of outfits of different colors. Double breasted coats, hats, and vests were regular staples in this man's wardrobe. Today, this peacockery is carried on by guys like Roger Stone, TV evangelists, and pimps. 

The tradition of peacockery goes back centuries to guys like the English fops who tended towards effeminacy and finery in their attire. The problem is that this sort of thing will get you booted out of IBM as quickly as the douchewear. This is because it is ridiculous.

The thing peacocks and douchebags both have in common is their focus on their self. One cares for comfort while the other cares about vanity. But they both have no regard and no respect for others. They lack modesty and decorum.

If you are a white collar worker, I recommend that you read up on the classic IBM dress code and duplicate that style. The 1960s would be a good era and typical of what IBM workers wore. Unfortunately, IBM has let their dress code slide in a move to be more "modern." This is a real shame. I have to tell the IBM people that they lost out to Apple not because Steve Jobs wore those turtlenecks.

I don't work in an office. I work a blue collar job where uniforms are provided. I don't have to think about it. But I do think about what I wear when I am not on the job. I am not wearing a suit to the grocery store, but I am not a douchebag either. So, I dress like a grown up blue collar guy. Here's my guide to dressing this way.


This is how to dress most of the time when not on the job or a job interview.


You should not wear flip flops, sandals, or athletic shoes. These things either make you out to be a lazy slob or a kid. It's OK for kids to wear sneakers. It's OK for grown men to wear athletic shoes if they are out for a run or working out at the gym. Sandals are fine for the beach. But when in public, I recommend wearing grown up shoes. This would be a pair of work boots or a pair of leather shoes either brown or black.


You should never wear shorts except for exercise or the beach. Always wear long pants. These pants can be denim, canvas, polyester, or khaki. I recommend the Dickies 874 pants in blue. They match well with things and hide dirt. Carhartts are also great pants. You can also wear farmer's overalls.


T-shirts are undershirts. Somehow, the notion that they are underwear has been forgotten. But they sometimes need to be worn as outerwear when the job demands it like washing a car or a sink full of dishes. Because of this, I do not recommend wearing white T-shirts. White T-shirts scream underwear. Black or navy blue are to be preferred. Plus, no one will see your nipples if the shirt gets wet. Also, these T-shirts should be devoid of writing. These would be concert T-shirts or things saying "I'm with stupid." Shirts with writing on them are juvenile.


An overshirt is a button down collared shirt you wear over a T-shirt. It can be long sleeved or short sleeved. It can be cotton, denim, polyester, or flannel. It can even be a recycled uniform shirt from a job you or someone else had. Pick the shirt you feel comfortable with and matches the season and climate in your area. What the shirt can't be is a polo shirt. That's something preppies and golfers wear. Blue collar men wear shirts with collars and buttons.

Coat and layers

When it gets cold, you need a coat and some layers to keep the chill off. Blue collar coats like the chore coat are awesome for this. What isn't awesome are pink and blue fleece jackets or camel hair coats or leather biker jackets or sports team jackets.

As for layers, the hoodie is an acceptable item as long as you follow the same rules with T-shirts and avoid writing and graphics on them as much as possible. I also like a black fleece jacket as a layer. I wear a cheap one that goes easily under my Carhartt sandstone jacket. I don't know if my grandfather would have worn fleece, but it is a good material.

I'm not a fan of sweaters. I've never liked them, and they don't fare well in blue collar work environments. They tend to snag, absorb grease, and catch on fire. I'll leave the sweaters to the guys working on the fishing boats.


Hats are inherently goofy. Wear a ten gallon cowboy hat anywhere outside of Texas, and people will snicker. Hats should be worn for their utilitarian purposes instead of as fashion statements. Hats serve two purposes. They keep the sun off your melon in the warm months, and they keep your brain from freezing in the cold months. Most of the time, you can get away with wearing a ball cap. It can be a dad hat or a trucker's hat or a camo hunter's hat or a hat from your favorite ball team. It doesn't matter. Where you lost advertising space on your T-shirt and coat, you get it back on the hat. A baseball cap without writing or a patch on it looks kind of bare.

When the temperature drops, you will want to switch to a beanie style hat to keep your head warm. Under no circumstances can you wear a hat with the fuzzy ball on the top.

I'm not sure how or why the fuzzy ball got on the tops of these hats. They are vestigial and serve no utilitarian purpose except to allow you to look like a douchebag in winter.

For extended time in the sun, you want to spend money on a large brimmed hat. I recommend a straw hat for breathability. A boonie style hat is also good.

The key to wearing hats is to know they are worn outdoors and taken off indoors. The cap faces forward except for those times when you need 360 degree field of vision for something like operating a forklift.


Real men don't wear bracelets unless it is one of those medic alert bracelets. The same goes for earrings, pinkie rings, and other jewelry. You are allowed three items. The first is a wedding band. The second is a modest wristwatch. The third is a necklace with a crucifix or medal on it tucked discreetly beneath the shirt. That's it. Anything more will take you down the road of douchebaggery.


This is for those times when you need to wear a tie. This would be church, a job interview, a wedding, or a funeral. Blue collar guys hate these times, but they get through them wearing a poorly fitted suit and an old tie.


Just wear a pair of black shoes with black socks. Wear the plainest shoes you can find. Shine them up but not so much.

Funeral suit

Go to Men's Wearhouse or JCPenney and get a black suit and a black necktie. When somebody dies, this will be the suit you wear to the funeral. You can wear the same suit when you go meet the Pope. You can change the color of the tie to wear to a wedding or a job interview. The rest of the time it stays in a garment bag in the closet.


Go to the thrift store and buy gray and black dress slacks with a flat front. Avoid pleated fronts. Gray and black pants match virtually any sport coat you will find.


Thrift stores have an abundance of sport coats and suit jackets. You want to go with blacks, blues, browns, and grays. Avoid plaid coats, white coats, or fruity colors. These will pair fine with those black and gray slacks you bought. You can get a decent set of threads at the thrift store for less than $20.


White shirts all the way. Colored and patterned shirts are a challenge to match to your pants and jacket and tie.


Thrift stores have a collection of ties, and you should buy thrift store ties. You want to purchase the most boring ties you can find. Don't worry if they are too wide or too narrow. Blue collar guys never get this right. And never wear a bow tie except in the unusual circumstance of having to wear a rented tuxedo in a wedding.


The only hat that works with a coat and tie is a flat cap. They are also known as cabbie hats and newsboy caps. They have been the hats of choice for the working class for centuries. You can also get away with wearing a beanie style hat if is really cold.


If it is really cold where you live, you want to get an overcoat that is either black or gray preferably from the thrift store.


A cold weather scarf is also good to go with a hat and overcoat. Don't waste your money on pocket squares or tie tacks and clips. These things are extraneous. Wear a black belt to match those black shoes.

If you do abnormal wear right, you should look like a guy who never wears a suit. The goal is not to look sharp and fashionable. You just want to show respect. Anything beyond this leads to looking like a peacock.

And that's it for the Blue Collar Fashion Guide. If it seems underwhelming, it should be. Some people will claim this is a variation of normcore. The epitome of that style was the attire of the characters on Seinfeld who did not dress like blue collar workers at all. There are those who say this is hipster fashion overlooking the fact that hipsters stole their fashion ideas from the blue collar workers. One day, those hipsters will move on, but the blue collar guys will still dress the same. Others will say that I am telling people how to dress like Steve Bannon which would be dressing very badly. There is a lot of truth to that. The main thing is to dress like a grown up which is a concept that has disappeared in a time where we have taken casual wear too far. I just know that my grandfather and people of his generation got it right. There are other good ways to dress. There is the frumpy college professor. There is Fred Rogers from Mister Roger's Neighborhood. You don't have to look like a plumber or an auto mechanic. This is just the way I choose to look because it reflects accurately who I am. And I can say that I was very pleased when a nice lady from daily Mass looked at my shirt and asked me where I worked because she needed the oil changed on her car.