Monday, February 28, 2011

It's Just Business

I received the following via a comment on "Pack Much Back, Much?":

Anonymous said...
"I REALLY love your blog and I'm always awaiting updates. I have a question that may sound extremely dumb, but I wanted some expert clarification (I don't know if this is an 'ask' type of blog, but I figured I'd give it a shot).

What is the clear definition of 'business-casual' for men? I thought I knew what it meant, but I'm confused when I show up to work sometimes and see men wearing ALL TYPES of stuff. I see people wearing the dress shoes, slacks, and collared shirts (which I figured was appropriate). However, I sometimes see extra-fancy suit jackets & blazers, sneakers, ties, rumpled shirts, cardigans, jeans, short & long sleeves, some tucked and untucked shirts, vests...the whole spectrum (not ALL on the same person at the same time of course). Any advice for what is appropriate business-casual wear and acceptable variations of the 'template?'"

First things first: thanks for the love, Anonymous. I appreciate you reading DLAMGD and hope you continue to do so. Second, this blog certainly has an "ask" component to it, and I'm happy that you asked.

The thing is, your question is impossible to answer. The inherent problem with business casual is that there is no one clear definition, and this is what frustrates and confuses many men in the professional realm. You have, however, correctly inferred that there is, in fact, a template of sorts by which you can decide what to wear to the office. Here are some suggestions, paraphrased from Alan Flusser's Dressing The Man:

1. Cleanliness is paramount. Slovenliness in attire or hygiene is completely unacceptable in any profession where business casual is the dress code. The only excuse to break this rule is if you're doing yardwork or are so old that incontinence is the new black.
2. If you don't know what to wear to a meeting, wear a suit.
3. When in doubt, overdress. Worst-case scenario, you can ditch the tie and jacket.

As a fourth tip coming from yours truly, remember that there's no replacement for impeccable fit. If your clothes fit well, you can wear jeans and a white t-shirt and still look decent. In addition, learn some basic color and pattern coordination. I've written a bit about these concepts already; links can be found here and here.

To address your question more directly, remember that the word "business" is found in the phrase "business casual," so things like sneakers, rumpled and/or untucked shirts, and most jeans are inappropriate. On the other hand, I've always thought of business casual as more or less a combination of some of the following components:

-Khakis that are pressed and tailored, not rumpled like the ones J.Crew says are all the rage that you can wear on your own time. Dress pants are always a safe option.
-A dress shirt. This does not mean any shirt with a collar; some polos are fine in the summer, but there are plenty of casual button-up shirts (sometimes referred to as "sport shirts") that are too casual and funky for most offices. And it should never have short sleeves. If it's warm in the summer, roll up your god-damned sleeves.
-A v-neck, crewneck, cardigan, half or full-zip sweater in a tailored fit and material like merino, cashmere, or a non-chunky lambswool.
-A blazer or sport coat that coordinates with your pants but doesn't necessarily match (this would be putting on a suit, which is more in the "business professional" dress code). Start with navy and move on from there.
-Throwing on a tie never hurt anyone.
-Relatively thin casual socks or dress socks. Feel free to play with color and pattern here as your style/office/the season permit.
-Shoes with some kind of heel. It doesn't have to be a "dress" shoe per se (i.e. have a leather sole and intended for wear with a suit), but it should be based on that silhouette. You can go with lace-ups, loafers, chunky suede wingtips and boots in the winter, light tan tassel loafers in the summer, and whatever else so long as it retains a dress shoe's silhouette. Don't forget to shine the shit out of them.
-A vest, you say? Give it a shot if your office isn't sartorially stuffy.

As with any situation where you need to look presentable (i.e. pretty much all the damned time), keep yourself well-groomed. A little stubble might be alright, but if your hair isn't combed and you smell as if you haven't properly, ahem, washed your ass, people will become much less forgiving. Finally, walk tall. Nothing looks better on anyone than confidence.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pack Much Back, Much?

I don't know how the hell it happened, but after posting "The In-Betweens" on the Facebooks, an interesting conversation was generated in regards to how to dress if you're a guy whose body is normal except for an unusually large tucas. Since I'm a small-framed guy, I've never considered such a predicament, but the question is totally valid. What's a dude an ample badonkadonk supposed to wear? Apple Bottom jeans? Boots with fur? Certainly not sweatpants.

Please read the rest of this entry before Googling "men with big butts." I should have known better.

For the purposes of this entry, let's say that this bootylicious guy is:

A) Not paying to have all his clothes custom-made, and

B) Looking for day-in, day-out pants: jeans, khakis, and that kind of thing. Let's also assume that the issue he's experiencing is that while his waist size is, let's say, 32", he needs to go up to a 34" or 35" waist size just to get the pants to fit around his posterior. If the increase in size is two inches or less, it's fine to buy the larger size and have the waist taken in by a competent tailor. In fact, if you have the dough, have the tailor taper the leg too, if possible. Remember, however, that an increase of more than two inches will likely result in your pants looking strange because the back pockets will appear too close together.

Depending on how you like your pants to fit, it's also worth trying on a slimmer fitting pant in a larger waist size. If you're a 32" waist and like a not-too-snug, not-too-baggy fit, going up to a 34-35" waist on a slimmer cut might alleviate the problem.

It's also important to look for brands that do more to accommodate what your momma gave you, and the only way to figure this out is by trial and error. After a good bit of Googling, Wrangler and Bonobo came up. I haven't worn Wranglers since I was ten and while the Bonobos generally look cool and the company offers a great return policy with free shipping, they can get a little pricey and I can't personally speak to the quality of them. Take a day to go shopping at a bunch of different places and try on every pair of pants that you like in a few different sizes. This method can also work in department stores that carry various brands. Find a salesperson who will actually tell you when something doesn't look right (that's how you know he/she is being honest), and write down what works.

Another option is to avoid tucking in shirts if at all possible. This will draw less attention to your waistline and, by extension, that big, healthy ass of yours. If you have to tuck in, throw on a single-vented sport coat if it isn't too hot outside (side vents tend to maximize the gluteus maximus, not minimize it). Be absolutely sure, however, that the coat isn't too tight, as this will cause your vent to pull apart and make your ass look like it's bigger than it actually is.

As last ditch efforts, you could stuff your crotch to try to even things out, pay for liposuction, or get a job as an exotic dancer at a sleazy Western-themed male strip joint so you only have to wear chaps. Becoming a professional Jennifer Lopez impersonator might be in the cards for you too.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The In-Betweens

Northeasterners complain about the weather incessantly, and I'm just as guilty of this as the next guy. It's always too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, and we generally get a total of five and a half weeks of truly pleasant weather a year. Thankfully, this past week saw a break in the awful winter we've been having in which we've seen temperatures in the high freezing my ass off and about 6,963,096 inches of snow and ice. Sure, I'll take the nice weather, but what the hell am I supposed to wear when it's fifty-five degrees in February?

These days are a rare opportunity to mix seasonal color palettes and textures and actually get away with it. Since I clearly fancy myself a man of style, I was proud of the outfit I rocked the other day and decided to use it as an example here. Bite whatever you like about it, but in the meantime, here's the breakdown:

Sport coat: This is the same one that I picked up back in October or November and have worn nearly every day since. It's neither too light nor too dark and has flecks of blue and rust colors in there. Typically it's great in the fall as outerwear or in winter as something worn underneath an overcoat, so it made sense in February.

Sweater: Bright yellow cotton crew neck. It's casual and relatively chunky and is generally a great option in the springtime, but hey, it was sunny outside, so why not? And although the color is super bright and maybe a bit loud, it's tempered by the coat and the next piece.

Shirt: This blue gingham number is probably my favorite dress shirt. The scale plays nicely with other patterns, it's a great shade of medium blue, the collar has a great spread to it, and it works in any season. Since blue and yellow are primary colors, the shirt goes well with the sweater, as does:

The tie: I picked this guy up at Club Monaco because they were having some ridiculous sale and it was nine bucks. The colors sync with both shirt and sweater, and the scale of the stripe is larger than that of the check, making for a nice contrast.

Pocket square: Red and blue like the tie, but not identical. I also just dig the dots because they're playful and a little irreverent.

Jeans: Slightly washed-out dark jawns. Always a solid anchor for nearly anything that doesn't require you to wear dress clothing.

Footwear: These entirely baller British Tan wingtips are typically only good in the spring and summer, but again, it was sunny out and they made sense. And yes, the socks are loud as hell, but the green coordinates well with both blue and yellow, and the white stripes link back to the stripes in the tie. A little symmetry can go a long way.

Climate change is here gentlemen, and a lot of the rules about seasonal appropriateness (i.e. no white pants before Memorial Day) might end up going out the window in the next few decades, so it's best to practice new modes now. If Mother Nature isn't going to stick to a script for the weather, you shouldn't be expected to stick to one when it comes to dressing for it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Presumably Gallant Southern Wedding

I received the following question in my inbox recently:

"I have a wedding at the end of this month in Savannah, GA. What should I be wearing? Please advise." My response is as follows, and I'm very curious to hear the opinions of any well-dressed Southern readers I might have.

Savannah, GA? I've been there before, it's a cute little town. Enjoy yourself while you're there. Also, please bear in mind that I'm a Northerner through and through, a Philadelphian who was born in and grew up around Boston. With that said, my knowledge of Southern sartorial etiquette might not be completely up to snuff. In any case, here goes:

Even though it's the end of February, you can still get away with a lot of warm-weather stuff all year round in the South. With that in mind, go with a bunch of color. While I feel it's a little early in the year for seersucker, a khaki suit with no socks and a bow tie would be a ton of fun, or you could go a little more conservative and do a dove grey cotton or lightweight wool suit. If the weather's going to be too cold for going sockless or wearing cotton as opposed to wool, I'd go with some colorful striped socks that maybe sync up with your tie or pocket square. The beauty here is that either of these suit colors give you endless options in terms of shirt/tie coordination; you can do basic white or blue, or you could start knocking people dead with pink, canary yellow, or bright green.

Unless the invitation says "black tie" somewhere on it, I'd ditch the sober black lace-ups and opt for a pair of brown shoes. If you're feeling frisky, throw on a pair of spectators or saddle shoes with the khaki suit to give yourself an air of festiveness. It's a wedding after all, right?