Category Archives: Casual Wear

Finding the Middle…..and Owning It (Part one of a four part series)

Mike K. asks: On several recent occasions I have felt either overdressed in a suit and tie or much too….’ordinary’ when dressed in the standard blue blazer with khakis and a golf shirt. A lot of days call for a look that I’m struggling with…. somewhere between the suit and the blazer… that will raise my game a notch or two. Where should I start?

TomTALKS: Like a presidential candidate during a general election, if you want to win in an environment that isn’t “suited up”, find the middle and own it! Sartorially, the middle is a look which is neither completely dressed up or down – an appropriate combination of clothing and accessories, drawing from both ends of the continuum. Consider these smart selections to address your problem and hit the sweet spot of this trend for the fall season!

A Versatile Tailored Sport Coat. Start with the coat! It pulls from the dressier end of the formality continuum and forms the foundation of your look! A well-cut tailored jacket imbues an otherwise casual look with heightened respectability. In most cases, go for a two-button or “soft roll” three-button model. [If you’re going for a more sophisticated look, and you plan to wear a tie (or a knit turtle/mock neck as shown) then by all means consider a DB jacket. In this case, the navy blazer won’t be so ordinary and would be an excellent choice.]

For the Fall season, choose a cloth with a rich appearance and a soft hand such as wool flannel, cashmere, or tweed.

A step more casual would be corduroy or suede.

Our cloths in this category have been carefully designed to create patterns and finishes that are clear and clean, sophisticated textures that may be comfortably worn in most any region during the fall season.

As you choose your cloth for a jacket, keep in mind that on the continuum from Refined to Rustic,

  • Smooth = Refined
  • Textured = Rustic

In other words, the more pronounced the texture, the less formal the look. Details such as patch pockets, elbow patches, and leather buttons are other ways to “relax” the look. Where you plan to wear this kind of look, who you will be interacting with, as well as your personality, will help to determine where along the range of rustic to refined you should focus.

NOTE: If you’re going to invest a little extra on any one piece, the jacket is where to do it!

And a by-they-way, if your blazer is feeling a little too ordinary, perhaps you need to update to a better cloth and/or a more current cut. The navy blazer still is and always will be the single most versatile and functional sport jacket that anyone can possess.

While you may not be running for national office anytime soon (that would be a whole other conversation), own the stylish middle ground and you will gain a new vote of confidence! Stay tuned for the next piece to the puzzle….

Sartorial regards,

Tom@tomjames.com

Three Rules of Thumb for Proper "Business/Casual" Dress

Client: I’m a consultant with several partners and an office full of associates who spend a lot of their time in front of our clients – and some of our clients prefer to work with us in our office or conference room. Supposedly we have a “business/casual” dress code, albeit unwritten, but my partners and I would much prefer if our associates would consider dressing more “business” and less “casual”. Is there anything you people can offer that would give them another point of view about the merits of dressing better? If it comes from us, they think we’re just being old school and don’t understand the culture of today’s business environments. But if it came from a third party, maybe another point of view would be taken more seriously. Can you send me some information or at least point me in the right direction?

Tom talks: In spite of our efforts to provide our clients with up-to date business/casual clothing options, we hold to three rules of thumb that are hard to refute. Here they are:


1) Your clients have an expectation or image of what you should look like the first time they meet you – and more often than not, it includes the idea of being dressed in formal business attire (coat and tie). Think about it – when you go to see your physician, you’re expecting to find him wearing a white lab coat with his name on the pocket. And if God forbid my house were to catch fire, I hope it doesn’t happen on ‘casual day’ at the firehouse. I want those guys jumping off the fire truck dressed like they came to fight a house fire – the coat, the helmet, the mask, etc – not cutoffs and tank tops. So embrace the concept of a uniform for business, decide what is appropriate for what you do and whom you serve, and dress accordingly.

2) It’s easier to explain being overdressed than being underdressed in any business setting, whether you’re meeting in a client’s conference room or for dinner after hours. If you’re the only man at the meeting in a coat and tie, even a casually dressed audience will assume that a) you mean business, b) you just came from a more serious meeting with a more important client, or c) you have “an engagement” after your meeting ends, and have dressed for that event. A man I met on an airplane once told me about the time he traveled from Chicago –dressed in a suit and tie — to meet a prospective client in the Silicon Valley. He was teased for being overdressed, and his response was “I want you to know how important your business is to my firm, and I only get one chance to make a first impression. My partners and I treat every contract with a degree of formality that speaks to our attention to detail. Now do I still get to wear my necktie?” He went home to Chicago with a new deal in hand.

3) Your self-image affects your confidence which can affect your performance, so if dressing well has even a slightly positive impact on how you think you look, you can’t possibly lose. And what if more formal business dress gave you the edge in performance? Today’s business environment is fiercely competitive, and companies spend real money on presentation materials, technology, lobby décor, even conference room chairs. Your personal appearance, which includes grooming and clothing, should add to the image of your firm and not detract from it. Keep your khakis and logo shirts for the company picnic – and dress for your clients like you’re worth what you are charging.

Best Regards,

Tom@tomjames.com