For some lucky souls, dressing for work is easy. Postmen, for example. And park keepers. Then there’s people who work in finance. They used to wear pinstripe tailoring and spats and top hats and chomp on stogies (probably). But now it’s gone all zen and Palo Alto. They wear chinos and button downs and fleece gilets with their company logo stitched into the bit underneath where it says Patagonia. Dig the lewk or not, bro, it’s a safe sartorial space.
But what about you? You, that works in an office in a city? You, that has meetings and quarterly reports and drinks on a Friday and dates after you clock off? In the post-uniform world of 2019, what's a man supposed to do?
You don’t want to dress like your boss. But you shouldn’t mimic the intern, either. You need to demonstrate your creativity, but you don’t want people to think you’re a kook. You want to mix things up, but also demonstrate a consistent style.
It’s tricky. But we’re gonna work it out. Here I’ve pulled out various approaches to dressing for the modern workplace, and how to get them right.
The suit used to be a man’s home base, but the gradual casualisation of work wear has caused some to lose faith in tailoring. You need to rekindle that love. Partly because the trend for sportswear and trainers is starting to wane (see January’s A/W’19 shows), and partly because men will always look really good in suits.
The knack now, though, is in the structure - or more importantly, the lack of it. Unless you wear a shirt and tie every day (and therefore your suit needs a bit of shape), I’d invest in a few deconstructed jackets and matching trousers. The lack of padding on the shoulder and chest means that it isn’t so formal and it hangs better, especially on guys with broader shoulders. The softness means you can wear it with a tee or a roll neck and trainers or lace ups, and if you need to upgrade at short notice, then it can handle shirt and tie, too.
"Outfits grow from the ground up."
I have an aversion to dark selvedge denim worn rolled up over tan brogues or boots. Sounds specific (and a little trivial, sure), but it’s de facto look for so many guys that want to be smart-casual, and it's getting dull.
As an alternative, cropped jeans are often not as cropped as they seem and they’re great worn with chunky black lace ups or loafers. Arket do a great pair of ‘cropped’ jeans in a mid-wash that are easily smart enough for work when you get the shoes right (I’ve recently worn mine with a white tee and Prince of Wales check DB, which is a much better look than it sounds.) Otherwise, slim black and indigo denim are fine. Wear them with corresponding colours, though, as that will make it feel smarter, even though it isn’t. And no rips or tears, obviously. (Conversely, if you get to dress down, then the safest bet of all time is white trainers, blue jeans and a crew neck knit.)
I've discussed the merits of a roll neck elsewhere, and there’s nothing more to say about the dependability of thing gauge crew neck knitwear. So let’s talk about cardigans. I’ve seen a few dudes wearing oatmeal-coloured cardis over white tees, and it looks great. With a soft shouldered navy blazer, denim and those chunky black lace-ups I mentioned, it would be great for work. Best to avoid anything too chunky or bold, especially if you’re wearing it as a mid-layer, and the cardigan should be cut with a deep ‘V’ – anything too high and you’ll look like the manager of a mid-table Premiership team.
A ‘statement’ knit can definitely work for the office, too. Slightly oversized, front tucked in to belted trousers with proper shoes. Bingo. (I also want to direct you toward the ultimate dress down/up mid-layer: the denim jacket. No man should be without one.)
Outfits grow from the ground up. And even iffy clothes can be bolstered by well-chosen shoes. So despite being a menswear trope of biblical proportions, it's true you can never underestimate the importance of what’s on your feet. The knack is to find shoes that can be considered smart andcasual – shoes you can wear with that unstructured suit, or those cropped jeans.
A pair of ‘smart’ trainers is a must. Swedish brand CQP make some of the best, but you also can’t go wrong with Adidas Stan Smiths (if they’re clean), and of course there’s Common Projects’ Achilles – the one inoffensive tennis shoe. For dress shoes, my tip would be to go for something in black leather with laces and a commando sole. You can wear them with a suit (and it will look a bit more fashun), but they’ll go with jeans, suit separates; you name it. I find that sleek, low profile shoes like classic oxfords don’t have the stones to hold up against denim.
Let’s just do a check list for this one:
Tote Bag: YES (leather or canvas, not from a bookshop)
Backpack: YES (leather, not the one you had at school)
Messenger Bag: NO (unless you’re a messenger)
Briefcase: YES (as long as it’s from Filson)
Cross-Body Bum Bag: YES (but everyone except your 14-year old YouTuber cousin will mock you)
Beanie: YES (red, preferably)
Trilby: NO (never)
Scarf: Yes (block colour, football team or Burberry check)
Keep Cup: YES (I mean, if you have to… but can you not just wait?)
Congratulations - you're good to go.
From: Esquire UK