Let’s take a minute and discuss some typical styles of fashion for the architecture profession. I am almost always amazed, amused, and even envious of many of my fellow architects and their sense of fashion or even lack thereof. I love it when groups of architects join together as it is a parade of styles and outfits that become a feast for my eyes. I have a theory that every architect convention should have an eyewear vendor and a few shoe vendors on the expo floor because I think they would kill it! While I may not personally agree with every choice made, I do enjoy the spectacle. This is not to say that I think their fashion choices represent any measure of their skills as an architect. I actually would completely disagree with such poor judgment, but I do think it may offer some insight into what they may be like to work with either as a client or colleague. Therefore, I am presenting my Top 6 Styles that I think are the most common types of architectural styles and what that says about the personality behind the clothing. This is all based on very non-scientific data I have been gathering over the past decade.
This is what I dreamed of being when I was in architecture undergraduate school. The corporate version of our profession. These architects are all about the full business mode. They may work for a large firm and tow the corporate line or they can be a sole practitioner who just feels more professional in a suit. I think there is a level of prestige that comes from wearing a suit every day. But I also think there is something very “uniform” like about it. It doesn’t make a fuss or try to stand out that often either. It is solid, dependable, and knows its job. I think these architects tend to be more serious in nature. Not that they cannot have fun, but they lean more towards the business-like demeanor. They are professionals to their core. I think for the public this is one of the most stereotypical fashion choices for architects. This is one of the most common ways the public envisions architects. The bookshelves of this type are line with the classics; both in architecture and in literature. They have definitely read them all and probably even have pages bookmarked. The book collection is also home to some rarities of each type as well.
This is the business casual version of an architect. They may wear a sport coat and a button-down with khaki pants or even jeans. They could also sport a skirt with a nice top or a nice top with jeans and heels. They are a more casual version of The Suit. They dress nicely but not to the level that is considered business attire. This envelopes a wide range of architects, but all have a similar trait in common; their own sense of fashion. What I mean by this is they tend to have a certain style about them that is unique to them in some way. They may or may not follow current trends, but they have trends of their own. Or some even found a trend that worked great for them and they have stuck with it. This group ranges from timeless to timely and has no problem with either. They are usually confident in their fashion choices and their fashion sense. This type of architect is not often spotted as one by the public, but when they are discovered as an architect it all makes sense. They usually receive the “I can see that” or “That makes sense” response. As this is probably one of the largest types in number, it is difficult to put a personality to this architect. They work hard, but also know how to enjoy themselves and probably have some cool hobby you wish you had. They have lots of books and may not have read them all. Architecture books to be are a certain majority, but also some various topics related to their cool hobby. Oh! And definitely cookbooks.
**edit – this is not a job title, but a fashion style. It’s not just academics.
This is the type of architect that dresses very “normal”. They tend to dress like an average person in a sense and do not place a high regard on fashion. Their fashion choices are all about comfort. This is not to say they disregard their appearance, but they are comfortable with themselves and just wear jeans or khaki pants and maybe a polo shirt or some comfortable top. Sometimes this could be an attempt to look less intimidating or maybe it is a tactic to help them better connect with their clients. They seem to have a casual attitude and aura about them that can put anyone at ease. They want to be your friend on this architectural journey. They will share their cookies with you. They have a wide-ranging book collection. It will have architecture, but also popular fiction, biographies, and some best sellers.
The Design Builder
This type is part architect and part contractor. They can be seen in the “Professor” or the “Neighbor” but they always have practical work shoes/boots on. But in most cases, those shoes are accompanied by work-ready clothing; jeans or construction pants and a solid work shirt that can get as messy as it needs. It may already have some wood sap, sawdust, and field paint on it. And those work boots . . . they are well worn in and definitely “the best thing I am wearing”. This architect likes to build their own designs and revels in the “process” of it all. They can’t imagine practicing any other way. They used to do just design but enjoy this process so much more. “It’s nice to be out of the office so much” would be a common phrase heard from this type. They know exactly what screw pattern and type of flashing is needed to complete that installation. Some of them just want to have control over the entire process from start to finish and others just like to do some of everything. This is the type to talk about construction details with over a few drinks. Their books are mostly construction-related topics along with some architectural titles. Books on landscaping, furniture construction, and electrical wiring are certainly on the shelves.
All Black. Everything. Always. This is a type of architect that has embraced the notion that black goes with everything. And everything equals black. They may get mistaken for an artist or poet. This type only wears black clothing . . . from head to toe. It is their statement. It is not a choice for them. It is the only choice. They make take on some form of any of the types on this list, but it will be the solid black version of that type. So they are in a separate category here. If, and that is a big if, they feel a bit extreme they may throw in one item of color. Bold color. That is acceptable on occasion but cannot be a regular occurrence. That is detrimental to the lifestyle. So they can wear almost any amalgamation of clothing from this post as long as it is black. Dark gray is also acceptable in some instances, just for a change of pace; nothing lighter than charcoal though. These architects tend to be very cerebral and maybe even theoretical with their thoughts on architecture. They have lots of architecture books, but also philosophy, theory, non-fiction, and of course some science fiction. But not mainstream titles.
This is the wildcard. They have no rules of fashion. Well, maybe one rule; everything is magical. This type often is exuberant in their fashion choices. Bright colors and patterns are essential. Interesting outfits with unique fabrics. They march to the beat of a different drum and they love that drum. Typically these have a personality to match their effervescent fashion sense. This is not an introverted architect. They are often mistaken for an artist or even fashion designers. While they may not follow current trends of fashion, they are probably not immune to them. Although like other categories may have found a genre that suits them best. This architect is all about standing out in the crowd and not being afraid of being noticed. Typically there is a hairstyle to match or maybe always a hat. These types are energetic, outspoken, and opinionated. Sometimes they can be polarizing figures, but that is never their intent. They just want to be themselves. Period. This type again certainly has architecture books, but it is not the majority of their collection. They have all kinds of books about art, poetry, sculpture, history, fashion, 17th-century tapestries, tales of revolution, and various others. This group may have the smallest library due to the fact they believe that life is meant for living!
I hope that everyone will realize this as an attempt to make light of the stereotypes that seem to permeate our profession. While I do think that stereotypes come into existence for a reason, I do not think that the preceding list is to be interpreted as anything other than an attempt at amusement. Truthfully though, I do love to witness this menagerie at conventions and gatherings of architects. It is one of my favorite things. I am depressed to have missed so many opportunities to gather this year due to the COVID situation. I hope to once again see many of my colleagues when this blows over.
I think most architects fall into several categories of style. I know that I flip between a couple on this list. Maybe that’s just me. However, I do know with certainty that the diversity of this fashion sense and nonsense is one element that makes our professional wonderful. It is a testament to our strong sense of individualism and creativity; skills that we use to do our jobs and try to make the world a better place for everyone.
Until next time,