The clothing worn by detectives can vary depending on their location, assignment, and the cases they are investigating. A few specific types of detectives focus on a particular line of investigative work.
Although police detectives are some of the most well-known, there are also forensic, computer crime, undercover, and homicide detectives. Each designation calls for a specific outfit, and although some may not adhere to a single uniform, the way they dress is entirely for the job.
However, they usually dress up in business casual attire (Button down with khakis) or a smart casual style (button down with jeans, tucked or untucked), and sometimes full casual, depending on department rules.
It can also be situation-specific. For instance, if you are going to meet with victims or interview people, you might dress up a little for a sense of authority and experience. However, if you are going to arrest somebody or serve a warrant, you can wear something casual for ease of movement.
A holstered sidearm is usually visible. You can attach your badge or keep it in your pocket. A tie may or may not be worn. Some still do the suit-and-tie look, but it's not the norm anymore. In this guide, I will explore what detectives wear and the reasons behind their clothing choices.
Let's dive in.
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A suit is one of the most common pieces of clothing worn by detectives. Suits are often associated with professionalism, authority, and respectability and are a popular choice for detectives who want to project an image of competence and control.
They also provide a certain level of protection, as they are usually made from durable materials that can withstand wear and tear. They are designed to be comfortable and easy to move around in.
They usually feature a jacket and matching pants, or a skirt. The color of the suit can vary depending on the department, but black, navy, and gray are common choices.
If you haven't got a suit, don't worry; our 20 Best Affordable & Sustainable Suits For Women & Men guide will cover you.
Besides suits, detectives can also wear khaki pants. Combined with a button-up shirt, they give a more casual look that is ideal for warmer climates. They may also wear tactical pants, which are designed to be durable and practical and may feature pockets for carrying equipment or tools.
If suits do not cut it for you, simply go for a plain top and pants with a statement trench coat to complete the look. I recommend you go for solid colors like black, brown, navy blue, or grey for an elegant yet authoritative look.
Not sure where to start with trench coats? Check out our selection of the best affordable and sustainable trench coats made under high standards.
Coat or jacket
Besides a trench coat, detectives can also wear a standard jacket, like a bomber jacket, in cold weather. Go for those made from heavy but sustainable materials for more warmth and protection from the elements.
They may also feature pockets for carrying equipment or tools and may be designed to be worn over a suit or other professional clothing.
Check out our selection of the best affordable and sustainable jackets and coats.
Footwear is also an essential consideration for detectives. They need to be comfortable, durable, and appropriate for various situations. I recommend you wear lace-up shoes, which are comfortable and professional looking. Dress shoes for men with laces, for instance, can help them dress up in a timeless and classy way in different outfits.
However, you can also wear boots, especially if you are working in a rural or outdoor environment.
Avoid loafers that could easily slip off the feet when you need them the most; female detectives should avoid wearing heels.
In some situations, detectives may be required to wear specialized gear or clothing depending on the task or job. For instance, my detective brother, who is part of a SWAT team, usually wears tactical gear, including helmets and body armor, when going for dangerous missions like foiling robberies or arresting criminals.
Similarly, detectives who work undercover may wear clothing that is appropriate for the environment they are working in, such as casual clothing or clothing that is associated with a particular group or subculture.
For example, if you are going undercover in India and you'll be mingling with Indian teenage girls, you may be required to dress like To Dress Indie as a girl.
Dress pants and a button-up shirt
This outfit is perfect for detectives who need to look sharp and professional when meeting with people or conducting interviews. It's comfortable and versatile, making it a go-to choice for many male and female detectives.
Vegan leather jacket and jeans
A vegan leather jacket and jeans can be a good option for detectives who prefer a more casual look and still maintain a perception of competency and authority. It offers a rugged, edgy vibe that can be appropriate in certain situations.
For instance, you can wear the outfit when picking up gang members and street criminals. Finish the ensemble with a short sleeve knit shirt or a dress shirt with dress shoes for men and a blouse with boots or sneakers for ladies.
Detectives involved in high-speed chases or physical confrontations may wear athletic gear such as track pants, sneakers, and a moisture-wicking shirt for comfort and mobility.
Don't forget your vest if you are going to confront criminals. While your polo shirt and track pants are enough, they will not stop edged weapons and bullets. The soft body armor will go a long way in deciding whether you win or lose if the mission turns into a fight for your life.
Then complement it with oversized jackets or shirts to conceal your identity. Alternatively, you can go for an external carrier vest if allowed.
Turtleneck and dress pants
This outfit is both trendy and practical. The black turtleneck provides a sleek, modern look, while the dress pants keep it professional. Turtlenecks look great tucked into your favorite pair of dress pants or combined with white sneakers and a pair of chinos - all easy ways for a detective to look put-together.
Check out our selection of the top 15 ethically made and affordable turtlenecks.
Cargo pants and tactical shirt
For detectives who need to carry a lot of equipment, cargo pants and a tactical shirt with multiple pockets can be a good option. It allows them to keep their essentials close at hand. Cargo pants have become a popular detective outfit because they are loose-fitting and convenient for carrying extra items during everyday activities.
Check out our selection of the best 15 affordable and sustainable cargo pants made under high standards.
Blazer and khakis
This outfit is an excellent alternative to the casual look of jeans and a leather jacket, but not as formal as a full suit. It's ideal for detectives who want to look polished without being too stuffy. A navy blue jacket with khaki slacks is a timeless pairing.
You can wear this with a light blue or white shirt since they go well together. Another fantastic combination is a navy blue jacket and khaki slacks with sailor stripes.
Bomber jacket and chinos
This outfit is similar to the leather jacket and jeans look but has a slightly different vibe. The bomber jacket provides a more military-inspired look, while the chinos keep it sophisticated.
Polo shirt and dress pants
This outfit is comfortable and stylish, perfect for detectives on the move all day. The polo shirt is casual but still looks put-together, while the dress pants elevate the look. Go for a monochromatic shirt, a belt that matches your shoes, and a watch or ring for accessories.
By far, the most common type of shirt a crime scene investigator wears is polo with the name and department embroidered on the left lapel area (or both lapels). These polos are mainly dry weave or a synthetic blend, but some are cotton. Colors include black, navy, gray, blue, and green.
Here is our selection of the best affordable shirts for women and men made in Italy under high standards.
Leather jacket and cargo pants
This outfit is another excellent option for detectives who need to move around. Try pairing dark-cargo pants with a lighter leather jacket, as this will elongate your frame and draw attention to your face.
For most men detectives, the best way to wear cargo pants with a leather jacket is with overshirts, chunky fisherman knits, and hiking boots. If it is hot, throw in white sneakers and an oversized T-shirt.
Cardigan and chinos
This outfit is perfect for detectives who want to look stylish and comfortable. The cardigan provides a cozy, casual look, while the chinos keep it polished and professional.
Here is our selection of the top 20 most affordable and sustainable cardigans
Parka and snow pants
A parka and snow pants can be a good option for detectives who work in cold climates or need to conduct investigations in snowy conditions. It's functional and provides ample warmth while still looking professional.
Military-Inspired jacket and cargo shorts
This outfit is perfect for detectives who need to move around quickly in warm weather. The military-inspired jacket protects you from the sun, while the cargo shorts offer ample pockets for carrying essentials.
Dress and sweater
One of the easiest but most fashionable ways to wear a sweater over a dress for female detectives is with a belt. Tuck your sweater into your belt for a "cropped" effect, or tuck a portion of your sweater into your belt while leaving parts of the buckle visible for a different but still fashion-savvy detective style.
Check out our selection of the best affordable and sustainable black dresses made under high standards.
Flannel shirt and khaki pants
This attire is ideal for detectives who want a casual but put-together look. The flannel shirt provides a cozy and comfy style, while the khaki pants maintain a professional look.
Here is our selection of the best affordable flannel shirts for women and men.
Hoodie and joggers
This is a very comfortable outfit for mobile detectives. The hoodie will make you comfortable by guarding heat across the neck, torso, and core, which helps to protect you from cold and wind.
And the more comfortable you are, the harder you will work, encouraging better results in general. It's a casual but stylish look ideal for conducting investigations.
Athletic jacket and leggings
An athletic jacket and leggings can be a good option for female detectives who need to be comfortable and mobile. It's a functional and fashionable look that can be perfect for long days on the job.
Accessories are also essential for completing the general detective look. A magnifying glass is the most common gear every detective requires to see all the relevant clues and puzzles.
The greater the size, the better! To complete your outfit, add some trilby or fedora hats, a stopwatch, gloves, and some investigation equipment such as notepads and police badges.
Several crime scene investigators also wear belts with various items they need at scenes, including a radio, key clip, flashlight, glove pouch, multi-tool, and knife.
Whatever you choose, make your outfit stick out by experimenting with different hues and giving your detective look its own distinct flair.
If you are interested in affordable and ethically-made hats and beanies, check out our selection here. We've got you covered also if you need cute and cheap gloves to complete your detective look in cold weather.
Make the world a safer place elegantly
There you have it - our guide on how to dress up as a detective! Overall, the attire worn by detectives is an integral part of their job and reflects their unique challenges. They need to be able to move around unnoticed while simultaneously projecting an image of professionalism and authority.
Suits, khakis and tactical pants, dress shoes, and accessories like badges and briefcases made of sustainable material are all essential parts of a detective's wardrobe. Additionally, depending on the assignment, specialized clothing and gear may be necessary.
Now, make the world a safe place elegantly with a clean conscience!
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