In dressing for success, no gray areas at one school

Wearing brown shoes with a blue suit — or even wearing a blue suit — can cost you a job, at least if you’re a Rutgers University student, which was under fire this week for turning people away from a job fair for their fashion choices, reports.

The student newspaper on campus said more than 40 kids were turned away for various infractions, including gray suits.

The Rutgers Business School dress-for-success guidelines were pretty clear:


Some students only have one suit.

What’s the problem with blue?

Rutgers has that figured out:

“While a very nice theoretical discussion, I used to teach science and specifically designating a particular color with chromaticity coordinates using a spectropolarimeter is not possible at a Business School Career Fair,” Martin Markowitz, the Business School’s senior associate dean, told the student paper. “To avoid any confusion, we do not permit blue suits.”

“I know at (Rutgers Business School) forums they tell us that navy suits are more professional than gray,” student Kevin Chen said. “(On Friday) a police officer stopped me and said my suit was too light. They directed me to see (Rutgers Business School Director Eugene Gentile),” he said. “He told me I had a nice suit that was too light. He said that in the real world, the suit was fine, but in this world, it was too (light).”

Rutgers has now apologized, says.

“We take great pride in our students, both academically and professionally,” Business School Dean Lei Lei said in a written apology. “We regret that the actions at last week’s career fair adversely affected some of our students and cast a shadow over the success we have achieved in helping our students secure more meaningful internships and jobs,”

Related fashion: Jeans get governor booted from North Dakota Senate’s floor (MPR News)

  • MrE85

    Washington, DC is still a pretty formal town, when it comes to attire. I rarely wear a suit these days, but I found one in the closet that still fits (barely) from my recent visit there.

  • Jerry

    So the Canadian tuxedo is a no-go?

  • tboom

    Wow, going to all this effort just to dedicate your life to some uncaring corporation that will suck the life out of you.

  • Rob

    I’ve heard about the Fashion Police; didn’t think they really existed…

  • Jay Sieling

    I was interested in the “why” or the genesis of this policy. From the article:

    The purpose of only allowing black or charcoal gray suits was to
    ensure companies would be willing to hire Rutgers Business School
    students, said Senior Associate Dean Martin Markowitz. In the past,
    students would not be hired from the University because of how they
    presented themselves.

    “We have had many round tables and
    industry-faculty symposia, and developed relationships with our
    recruiters,” he said. “Essentially they told us that, while our students
    are superior academically, they did not ‘present’ themselves well …
    (in) interviewing skills, corporate research and attire.”

    I wonder if they’ve addressed the deficiencies in corporate research and interviewing skills? Or do they think the “attire” was really the big issue? Not presenting themselves well is much more a factor of skills and attitude in interviews than dress. Lipstick —> Pig.

  • Kassie

    The thing that confused me the most was the “Minimal makeup, if any” for the women. First, no make up is usually seen to be unprofessional in many environments. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Second, many young women use makeup to make themselves look older and be taken more seriously. Third, when women don’t wear makeup, men often see them as looking tired or sick.

    My guess, a man wrote this. He wants the young women to look like the many successful women we regularly see, all of who wear tons of makeup. Here’s a list from Fortune of powerful business women and their pictures. They are all wearing lots of makeup and any woman would see this, but men often don’t see the makeup until it is pointed out.

    • Barton

      The difference in understanding of “minimal makeup” versus “natural-looking makeup.” I forgot eye liner one morning (actually, just decided I couldn’t be bothered that day), everything else was the same amount as normal. I lost count how many people asked if I was sick or possibly tired, just for the lack of a line of grey ink above my eyelid. No, they weren’t all men, but about 60% of them were.

    • Al

      NAILED IT.

    • Jack

      I’m a professional woman who has worn make-up once for a friend’s wedding.

      Colleagues all know it is part of my “what you see is what you get” persona. It goes quite well with my philosophy of telling management what they need to hear which is not necessarily what they want to hear.

      That said, I also have a son getting ready to join the professional workforce, so I can appreciate what the school is doing- even though they’ve gone overboard (in my opinion).

  • Will

    Being good at business means wearing a suit, let me get back to writing software in my jeans and a t-shirt.

    • wjc

      I’m doing the same thing.

      • Will

        So much concern over the tint of a suit means you don’t have enough serious problems to solve.

        • Jack

          I remember the “Blue Boys” in my college days. Think they were the group interviewing for jobs with Ross Perot’s EDS.

          In my case, I was required to wear dress suits with skirts below the knees,pantyhose, and heels.

          Love my job where I can be business casual or in jeans. With no contact with clients, no one cares what I wear so long as the work gets done.

    • Tim

      A lot depends on your company, industry, and job role. I certainly wouldn’t wear a t-shirt and jeans to meet with clients, for example, but I might wear it on days where I’m just doing desk work and we don’t have guests in the office.

  • Barton

    I laughed upon reading this article. I have always subscribed to the “rule” of your shoes should never be lighter than what is above it (such a white tennies with jeans, tan shoes with navy slacks, etc). It’s an old “rule,” sure, possibly even archaic.

    But the result is that I have been cringing – and judging, sadly – a lot of men who wear navy suits with brown shoes. I shouldn’t, its true. But it just looks like they have no idea how to dress. And yet – that IS what the stores and designers (would love to put that word in sarcastic quotation marks as well, but they are making a living as designers, so no sarcastic quotation marks) are showing.

    It hurts.

    And in (small) defense of Rutgers: how you dress still matters in white-collar jobs (see, “white-collar” jobs require the white shirt on the list), and no one seems to dress up anymore. So I don’t know that students DO know how to put together a formal business/interview outfit.

    • I have to admit, I HATE seeing men wearing brown shoes with blue slacks.

    • rallysocks

      Just this fall/winter, I began wearing my brown boots with colors/outfits I would never have dreamed of. It’s quite liberating, really. Not as much as the wearing non-matching socks trend, but still…

      • Jerry

        You can’t go wrong with the Wellies and Carhartt look.

        • rallysocks

          I am nothing if not fashion forward!

    • Tim

      Right — this is a job fair for a b-school, where the environment is going to be somewhat different. The dress code itself is not unusual, so much as the extremely narrow range of acceptable options. I’ve never heard of a navy suit being considered unprofessional in any business setting.

    • chlost

      I also am old school. I hate seeing brown shoes with a blue or gray or black suit. I cringe at seeing patterned ties and a striped or other patterned shirt. I also am horrified by the “no socks” with men’s dress shoes and suits. And I consider myself quite a liberal on all other issues. 🙂

  • Anna

    Gee, I wonder how they would feel about a tie long enough to tuck into your zipper? 🙁

    • wjc


  • Gary F

    One navy blue blazer, one tweed blazer, tan pants, black pants, white shirts, solid blue shirts, black wing tips, brown wing tips, basic ties has worked for this old man his whole life.

  • Jay Sieling

    I guess this fits:

    • wjc

      And he makes it look good.

  • Bob Sinclair

    RE The Gov of ND: the previous governor of Oregon used to wear jeans with a nice shirt and jacket. Looked pretty classy IMO. Can’t understand why the ND legislators have a problem with their governor (maybe its the sweaters?)

  • X.A. Smith

    Guys—it’s Rutgers. Just ignore it.

  • Gene F.

    Gene Gentile gives a student some real inside skinny and gets thrown under the bus by the politically correct dean. It’s Rutgers.
    What would they make of the executive who showed up at a formal awards ceremony in Somerset in tux and shower flip flops (he forgot to bring shoes and socks)?

    • Everybody goes all exreme and says “but what if he showed up in sneakers.”

      But that’s not really the issue. It’s a distraction.

      The real question is … “what if he showed up in a different shade of a blue suit… with polished wing tip shoes… white shirt and conservative tie?”

      Answering that question is harder, so we get the sneakers and flip flops nonsense.