Recently, M. has been asking me to write a post about men’s fashion in the workplace – which surprised me because the poor guy is already so hen-pecked on the topic. When getting dressed for an event, he pops in for inspection and generally gets one of three responses: 1) “Ummm, no.” (this includes a small head shake with eyes closed) 2) “Honey! Are you kidding!?” or 3) (small sigh) “Let’s go to your closet and start over”. So maybe M. is trying to save other men this experience – he’s a giver!
The most common comment I hear from men about workplace fashion is, “But I work in a conservative office!”. This post has nothing to do with being trendy or looking like you work for someone named Klaus who makes abstract hats for hairless chihuahuas. It’s about looking as good as you can in your clothes, including those you wear to the office. If I had to prioritize the first things to fix about men’s office clothing, there are three things men should stop doing:
1. Stop wearing oversized clothes.
Unlike women, who tend to wear clothing that is too tight, men usually err on the side of wearing clothes too large for their frames. Perhaps they think it will make them look more like a football player. The net effect is actually sloppy and they look like a pudgy child wearing their father’s clothing. It also seems like the oversize of clothes is proportionate to the oversize of the wearer – i.e. the bigger you are, the looser you wear your clothes. Unfortunately, this makes you look even bigger.
The clothing item most prone to this error is the blazer or jacket of a suit. The shoulders are generally too boxy and the body of the suit is too loose.
2. Stop with the pleated pants/puffy button down look.
This is related to the prior error, but still different. Men who dress like this remind me of giant figure 8’s walking around – puffy ball on top, cinched in with a tight belt at the waist, then the clothes balloon out again into the pant pleats and loose, baggy legs. The effect, when wearing khakis, is that of a giant ice cream cone. Use the mental image of a rectangle when buying and fitting your shirts and pants. Keep the shirt material trim around the waist – not puffing out – so shoulders and waist are in line, the waist could even be more narrow than the shoulders. On the pants, make sure the width at the top of the pants is roughly the same width all the way down the leg. No pleats and try to keep all the junk out of your pockets.
3. Stop wearing black shoes with navy suits.
I actually debated about including this because I thought this problem disappeared years ago. Black suits became very popular, and the topic became a moot point. However, navy is on the upswing and, just this morning, I saw a dapper gentleman in my building with a navy pin-striped suit and black dress shoes. There are two words I always think of when I see this look – “Close enough”. As in, “Black and navy are both dark, I can wear these shoes and it will be close enough. No one will notice.” Close enough sucks. Wearing a deep caramel or ox-blood (dark ox-blood) lace-up with a navy suit is brilliant. Both of these pictures show brown shoes with navy suits, one pair darker than the other.
I’d love to know what you think about this topic. If you could change one thing about how men dress for business, what would it be?
Oh, and if you need some inspiration, definitely check out The Sartorialist. He makes me happy…the brown shoe pictures above are from his new book.