Featured Image: Suit & Tie by Jaclyn Auletta. Photo from Flickr.
You know, when I find myself in Sydney city these days, I am always eager to check out what people are wearing to work. I have just returned from New York where I have to say, by and large the working population have really got it together, at least in the sense of their wardrobes. I was there at the start of Winter and so naturally that meant that I saw the beautiful coats, scarfs, and boots which we all know are the perfect marriage.
I also think my own city, Sydney fairs very well. Our workers are mostly really well dressed, and especially the men. There is something really fabulous about a crisp shirt and tie, a great fitting suit and beautiful shoes. To me, it’s a fashion trilogy that never fails as long as the fit is correct, and whenever the formula falls down, I can pretty much guarantee that it is about the fit. There is so much attention, advice and information devoted to women about fashion so I wanted to explore what happens when the men need some advice on how to be stylish and well dressed. In the absence of wives and girlfriends, how does the working man navigate the steps of developing a wardrobe for work, when the only option might be the usually absent-minded and very unhelpful salesperson that seems to be the experience of our modern shopping lives?
Short of finding, and then paying by the hour an experienced stylist, where does one actually find someone to help the ordinary man with finding the right suit, that actually fits, makes him look his best, and is good value? Oh, the minefield. Ok. Take a breath. Help is at hand. Here are some fundamentals that should help you get started.
What should I look for when purchasing a suit? When thinking about purchasing a suit, think about what you are looking to wear it for. If it is for a special occasion such as a wedding, or a special function then David Jones and Myer are good obvious choices as they have large selections of varied designers, price points, and fit. Most department stores have very competent sales people who are well trained in the fit of a suit and also understand that it is a big purchase so will give you the time that is needed and the personal service that makes the experience enjoyable. They will also offer such things as alteration services as well should they be required. Have a price in mind that you feel happy with, and share details of what you need the suit for with the sales person. Allow them to measure you thoroughly and ask them to allow you to try on different cuts, as suits ie. jackets and matching trousers vary enormously from designer to designer. Be open to what is fashionable but stay with classic, as this is how your money will serve you best. Classic lasts for countless seasons and can be reinvented where trends cannot. This picture guide will help you to understand how a jacket and trousers should fit the body regardless of whether they are separates or come in the form of a suit. The formula is the same. These pictures will help to understand the visual components of what comprises the correct fit.
What fabric should I buy?
Naturally this depends on the season, however my choice would always rest with beautifully crafted fine wool. Wool is a natural fabric and as such will be warm in winter and cool in summer. It does not crush in the seat of the trousers and the back of the jacket like cheaper polyester mixes. It will serve you for many years as long as you look after it. Try to purchase garments that are lined, particularly jackets. Unfortunately, many garments are not lined anymore, but it pays to find the designers that still consider it important .One tip. When storing or just hanging in the wardrobe, make sure you guard against moths and silverfish by purchasing cedar balls etc.
How much should I spend?
How much is too much? The price of suits vary enormously and of course, you largely get what you pay for. A well cut suit, in beautiful fabric, lined, will set you back anywhere between $600-$2000 and up. Naturally, everyones’ budget is different, but my advice is to spend as much as you can.
When should I buy from a tailor?
Should I consider having things custom made? Absolutely. This will allow your suit to be completely custom made, and of course you will be able to have the same thing done with your shirts also, and the obvious benefit is that the tailor will help you to select fabrics for both, so that you are assured of everything matching well. The only thing to consider is that this may be an expensive option.
How do I match my daily outfits and know that I always have it right?
This one can be tricky in the sense that many men are not confident in matching outfits. For working attire you need to consider the colour of suit, shirt, tie and shoes. If this is a real problem, let’s say you are colour blind, or you just have no idea, ask the salesperson to help you create outfits. In other words, have a system of knowing that when you wear, that suit, that is the day you know to wear, that shirt/that tie, and those shoes.
Should I always wear dark colours?
I see many men wearing very dark, almost black suiting. Perhaps this is because it is easy to match things and I don’t say don’t wear black, but I would suggest mixing it up a little. Navy, charcoal, dark grey, dark browns (the right brown), can be very smart. Darkish colours, and crisp white or light coloured shirts and a well chosen tie look sharp, and create great first impressions.
How can I wear a suit but still look a little bit casual to attend more casual meetings?
Easy. Lose the tie. Wear more of a colour in the shirt that day. Wear your suit jacket but team it with casual pants, or a different coloured pant, and change the shoes from a business shoe to something a little more on trend. Look at socks that are just a little more interesting than your normal office choice. Maybe choose to wear your sporty Tag that day, and your satchel instead of your briefcase.
How do I know what shoes to wear?
My only advice here is to wear great shoes. Spend some money on shoes. People notice shoes. The Sydney department stores, particularly David Jones have great mens shoes and there are many independents who sell wonderful mens shoes. Have a range of basic colours in your wardrobe, black, tan, and charcoal/grey would be a start. Have some brogues, and look at different styles. Experiment with the shape of the toe. Square, round and pointed shoes can all look wonderful but it will depend on the shape of the trouser leg you are working with.
How many suits do I need?
This of course is an impossible question to answer because it will depend on how often you need to wear one. If you wear a suit to work everyday, perhaps 3/4 would suffice to give you enough choice to mix and match with your business shirts/ties.
Help! I am colour blind. What should I do?
Enlist some help. Girlfriends, wives, friends, salespeople and stylists are all available to help. Stick to simple combinations of colours that you know work. In this situation simple is best. If you want to make an outfit interesting and you know you don’t understand colour go for texture in the tie or the suit. Texture is easier to deal with if you lack confidence with colour. Get someone to plan your outfits so you know that when you wear a certain suit, you know which shirt/tie/shoes to go to. Keep your wardrobe smallish and get rid of things that you don’t wear or that don’t look good anymore to remove confusion. A simple uncluttered wardrobe is the best.
Finally, keep your look simple and classy. Good grooming, nice aftershave, fabulous suit, and great shoes. Who could resist that?
Until next time. Jade x