Finding the right outfit for a construction management job can be tricky. The clothes need to look good both on the site and during management meetings in the office. So, what kind of outfit would look good and also meet a construction management job’s physical demands?
To dress for a construction management job, break down your look first. For your tops, polos and flannels would be ideal. Pair them with khaki pants or chinos and the occasional pair of jeans. A jacket could be added too. A good-quality leather watch and sunglasses will complete the look.
Keep reading to learn what and how the different clothing pieces can help put your outfit together, along with the accessories that will go with your clothes and more.
Nail the Outfit: Footwear, Bottoms, Tops, etc.
Unlike dressing for the office or a corporate job, it’s not that straightforward to recommend a particular ensemble of clothing and footwear for a site job. Quite a bit of mixing and matching would be needed to get the look right. The outfit you wear for a construction management job should be fairly rugged and also not be clunky.
Note: The choices of outfits and accessories for both male and female construction project managers would be quite similar.
Since you would be juggling between the office and the site, you may have to look for a pair of versatile shoes to suit both conditions. Besides comfort and looks, the shoes should be easy to clean too. If there are scuffs, you should be able to get rid of them quickly. Regardless of the pair you go with, make sure you wear shoes that let you walk around with ease and comfort and still look professional.
Many construction project managers alternate between two pairs of shoes at work since finding a pair that equally fits in both office environments and the ground is complicated. If you choose to rock the same pair for both working scenarios, go with boots.
The boots, however, should not look too outdoorsy and must be versatile enough to go with a pair of a polo shirt or a regular shirt and chinos, and look good in office environments too.Look at something like the Bruno Marc suede chukka boots. They pair well with different kinds of bottoms – not just chinos. The Red Wing Men’s 595 chukka boot is another solid pair of boots.
If the construction site terrain is a bit too rocky, you will have to set aside a pair of dedicated boots that you can wear right before stepping on the field. The Timberland Pro Pit Boss Steel-Toe and Caterpillar Second Shift Steel Toe Work Boot would be ideal.
If you prefer no taking your shoes off and putting on another pair or would like to rock more office-friendly footwear, you can cover your understated boots with covers every time you head outdoors.
The Thorogood Shoe-In Closed Toe overshoe, for instance, would be great. Just slip your feet into these shoe covers without removing your shoes. Besides being easy to slip your feet into, they are easy to clean and lightweight too.
Note that the boots a construction project manager wears and those working on the ground wear are different. In other words, the boots that the construction workers wear should be safety-rated or have a minimum level of sole thickness.
The leather boots the workers wear should be protected with a sealer from the dirt and puddles on the site. The boots that do not meet industry requirements would be illegal to rock on a construction site.
For more comprehensive information on what to avoid when buying boots, watch this video:
Employees working at the construction management side of things, however, need not meet such requirements. If most of your work is in the office and you spend little time outdoors, or at the work floor, you may even wear loafers and switch to steel toe shoes every time the need arises.
Never wear a loafer when you have to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) such as a hard hat, protective glasses, gloves, and a reflective vest. The boots mentioned above would be more appropriate in those scenarios.
As a professional working for a construction business, you can never go wrong with slim chinos. Your slim and tapered pants would instantly put you above your subordinates, who predominantly wear straight-fit khakis or a rugged pair of jeans.Wool dress or heavier cotton pants would be fine, provided it’s the right time of the year. During warmer parts of the year, linen and cotton pants would be more comfortable.
Denim trousers are not recommended as they would look out of place within a meeting room. Even a formal-looking pair of jeans or something that hasn’t been pre-washed may not cut it. A pair of relaxed-fitting jeans with a bit of fabric stretch is great for construction workers who are likely or supposed to work on the ground-pounding the pavement.
A pair of jeans is not completely out of bounds, however. If you like denim pants, wear them on the weekends or if not meeting clients or spending time at your desk in the office. Besides looking odd, jeans are not comfortable when you spend most of your time seated.
Before you wear your jeans, however, make sure your company is okay with it. Some construction firms may not like to see their managers wear jeans to work.
Most construction project managers or superintendents wear flannel shirts or polos. A standard collar shirt is typical, but you can experiment with shirt collars now and again. Besides the straight point, cutaway, and semi-spread collars, you could try the band or wingtip-collar look. Set aside your polos for the summer, thanks to their increased breathability.
If the settings are semi-casual, toss on a third layer – for instance, a jacket. There’s no scope for a blazer here – both on the worksite and in the office. Since you would be wearing polos and flannels underneath and chino to go with them, the blazer would look completely out of place.
The jacket you wear should be the right length, not bulky, and easy to move around in. A blazer gives the sporty vibes and is not the most movement-friendly too. Medium-weight jackets with a quilted or fleece lining and large pockets are ideal. They are comfortable throughout the year. If it gets way too cold, you could layer the jackets with more clothing.
Carhartt jackets are extremely popular among construction professionals. The Carhartt Sherpa Lined Sandstone Sierra Jacket, for instance, can be commonly seen at sites. However, it’s not recommended to wear the Carhartt when interacting with clients – either via video calls or in person.If you want something more insulating during the colder months, swap the functional coats with wool v-neck sweaters. A button-up shirt would go nicely under the sweater—dry clean your sweaters when it becomes visibly dirty or after having worn them five times.
If it gets too cold outside, you may wear a sweatshirt over the sweater or replace the underlying sweater with another sweatshirt. The outer sweatshirt can be high-visibility clothing so that anyone could see you coming. The inner sweatshirt can be highly visible, so your physical presence is obvious even during summers.
Accessories are like the icing on the cake. They complete your look or give it the final touches it requires. There is a host of accessories to choose from, but not all accessories are needed. For instance, you don’t need a ring, a chain, bracelet, etc. at a construction site.
Some, however, are essential to elevate things: a leather belt, a watch, and sunglasses. The latter two lend a distinctive look and also offer great functional benefits.
Since you would be primarily wearing chinos and other semi-casual pants, the belt you wear should not be too formal. It should be ideally made of leather and have a rugged look too, but subtly so. This classic leather jean belt by Timberland is the exact kind. And no colorful belts, please. Stick to black or brown.
Adopt a similar approach with your watch. The watch should look and wear sturdy but must be elegant too. You need not spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a watch. A Rolex would be great to have, but you don’t need it – certainly not at the expense of months of paychecks.
There are quite a few watches that would fit the bill and your budget too. Steer clear of the fashion watches. They will not just look inappropriate but will break easily too.
The Timex Men’s Expedition Scout watch is both elegant and reliable. Though extremely cheap, it’s quite a durable piece. If you have a slightly bigger budget, the Timex Men’s Expedition Field chronograph watch would be perfect. If you prefer something non-Timex, this Fossil Men’s Machine Stainless Steel Chronograph Quartz Watch is worth taking a look at.
Casio G-shocks are great timepieces, but they are a bit on the sportier side, particularly those with the rubber straps. You can wear these G-Shocks during the weekends, however.
If you really like your G-Shocks and would like to wear them throughout the week, go for the ones with the leather band. The Casio G-Shock GST S120L, for instance, with its black leather strap and metallic lugs, could take more than a few knocks. Having said that, G-Shocks are large watches and may not be to everybody’s taste.
Have a great pair of sunglasses handy as well since you could constantly be teetering between the outdoors and indoors during work hours. When indoors, take your sunglasses off and put them out of sight. The sunglasses should offer protection from the sun, the construction dust, and must look good as well. They must be resistant to heat and electricity too.
Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses look good and offer great sun protection, but they may not keep the dust out of your sight. Therefore, consider a pair that wraps around your face and covers the sides.
It should look more like the Under Armour Men’s Force Rectangular Sunglasses, for instance. Ensure the sunglasses you sport has polycarbonate lenses, increased clarity, and a metal or polycarbonate frame for increased durability.
Get the Fitting Right
The right fit is key to any kind of clothing to look and feel good. But the significance of a proper fit increases multifold when it comes to dressing for construction management work. Most workers on the floor may not care much about fitting their cargo pants and flannel shirts. But as a manager or someone working at a level above them, you must set the bar or lead with example.
For starters, the shirt you wear should fit you right or not gather on your sides when tucked in. If you’re wearing a half-sleeve shirt, make sure the sleeves are not too airy or constricting. In other words, they shouldn’t dangle while you move your arms around or walk and not restrict your arm movements.
Know Your Colors
Dress taking colors into consideration. Each color communicates something about your personality and the nature of your job to the people around you.
- Grey and navy blue are fairly popular colors to sport at a construction site. They are ideal hues for pants, but you could also wear shirts and polos in those colors. The colors communicate authority while being stylish. These colors are quite versatile, too, or do well both in the office and on the site. They, therefore, are a must-have for any project manager, and not just a construction supervisor.
- The color black has a more authoritative and commanding vibe compared to grey and blue. These may not be ideal for wearing on the site, particularly in the hot sun, thanks to the color’s heat-absorbing traits. But if you have a meeting or two to attend, black should be it. Go black with your pants and pair them with a light-colored shirt or polo to achieve the right contrast.
- If you’re going to spend most of your time at construction sites, neutral colors such as khaki would be ideal. Khaki browns are extremely practical, in fact, as mud and dirt get easily camouflaged. If you cannot wear jeans to your workplace, the brown khaki would be your respite.
You can choose from the color as mentioned above palette or experiment with a few others. Use judgment or be sensible about the colors you go with. Do not sport colors that just don’t fit in with your work environment. Also, do not wear colors that indicate something.For instance, green is used by safety inspectors, probationary, or new workers. Yellow is sported by earth-moving operators or general laborers. Brown is for welders. As the manager of the operations, you may not want to be seen in the same colors.
Most importantly, irrespective of the colors you go with, make sure your outfit is clean, crisp, and well-pressed.
Learn the Dress Code Specific to an Organization
The aforementioned dressing recommendations should work in most construction management environments. Still, some outfits or specific combinations of different items could be more appropriate or conform better to certain construction companies’ work attire guidelines.
Here are a few ways in which you can easily and quickly ascertain the company’s dressing culture:
- Peruse the employee manual. Most construction businesses, like companies in other industries, provide company dress code descriptions. In the manual, they may specify work is business, business-casual, or casual. The manual could also help you learn if there’s a uniform culture in place. In other words, you’ll learn whether you must wear hard hats, coveralls, etc. while on the job.
- Look around. Take note of how your immediate supervisors and peers dress. Their dressing styles and patterns should give you a fairly decent understanding of how you must dress at work. Keep in mind that your bosses may dress a bit more formally. You can, therefore, tone down your dressing and should not look to completely emulate them.
Never wear sleeveless shirts or shorts unless you are absolutely sure they are acceptable in the company (it’s usually never the norm). Needless to say, your clothes should not be dirty or ripped.
Construction work can get quite messy, and you must, therefore, always be on top of your dressing game. In fact, it’s recommended you keep a set of alternative clothes handy in the office so that you could change whenever the need arises.
Unlike dressing for other jobs, a management position in a construction company warrants an outfit that is presentable and safe to wear at the same time. A set of spare clothes is not mandatory to have but can be helpful.
Remember, the kind of clothes you wear when heading to the site or when interacting with clients in the office should be the last thing on your mind. You must always have your dressing sorted well in advance so that you could spend more time and energy, focusing on things that truly matter to the business.
- Effortless Gent: How to Dress Sharp for Work: Construction Management
- Reddit: What to wear for construction management internship
- wikiHow: How to Dress for a Project Management Job
- NBS: What colours are safety helmets (hard hats) on construction sites?
- The New York Times: What 8 Workers Wore to Their Wall Street Construction Site