I recently returned to work at a retail suit shop and since my return, many a potential shopper has asked me how they should be dressing at work now that most of their workspaces no longer require a full suit and tie. So in honor of these confused men, I’m going to do my best to teach you and your most swaggerless homey how to take some of the best tailoring pieces and make them into elevated street wear ‘fits.
Just as the return leg of a journey seems shorter, as if the mental energy has already been spent on the outlay, and now you are being pulled magnetically back home, unpacking feels easier than packing. The difficult decisions are already made. Did I need that second whisk, or the book about Alexander von Humboldt? Either way, it’s too late.
To quote one of my mentors, “there is no try - only do.” The great masters of style make elegance look effortless because to them it is truly no burden. Being a man of grace lightens life’s load. I am unfamiliar with the travails of the “jeans and polo guy,” but doubt if these unpadded shoulders could carry such a burden.
Autumn has always been my favorite season to dress for. While I enjoy the longer days of summer; I find that the high temperatures make it so that I can’t dress the way I’d like to without looking like a sweaty mess within two seconds of stepping out of the air conditioned confines of my apartment. Most people start to make plans about what the upcoming year is going to be like but to me, this is a perfect time to start making changes and why not begin by getting rid of that nagging voice in your head that tells you that you can’t pull off certain looks.
In the beginning, there is only navy, grey, white, and brown. Perhaps army green if you like to wear military gear on the weekend or olive if have a tailor in Naples. But there comes a time in every clothes-wearing man’s life when he tires of the traditional menswear palette. “I’ll have no more of this monotonous uniform!” he cries. “Let there be color!” he demands. And so there is color.
One of the joys of custom made clothing is getting to choose your own details. But there are plenty of subtle yet distinctive embellishments that can be put on bespoke and off-the-peg clothing alike. Any jacket shipped with unfinished sleeves, for instance, is ready and waiting for any button configuration you care to conjure.
The conventional wisdom within classic menswear is that the shirt collar performs the necessary function of framing the wearer’s face. Hence the fixation with collar height, and in particular the structural integrity of the unbuttoned collar, the collapsed collar providing no frame at all. Without such a frame, so the theory goes, the face is but a naked, wilting canvas, wandering through the world utterly bereft of protection, purpose, and presentation.
I’ve come to believe this theory is a bit overwrought.
Today’s men’s suit began life in the Victorian era as a less formal alternative to morning and frock coats, the standard business dress of the time. Because this “lounge suit” was more informal, there were few restrictions on its design, and therefore could be found in all manner of fabrics and permutations.