Category Archives: Custom Shirts

Welcome to the Big City

Casey C asks: I am a 26-year-old investment banker, and I’m new to the industry. Working to help corporations raise capital, and assist in acquisitions and mergers keeps me constantly surrounded by my superiors and I want to make a solid impression. I don’t just want to fit in, but I also don’t want my “greenery” to stand out. My professional wardrobe can be considered embarrassing in some circles so I really need a good starting point. What are the essentials? Help?!

Tom Talks: Building a wardrobe is like building a home: there are cornerstones; and for every gentleman’s professional attire there are five foundational cornerstones.

Suit up. These five colors/patterns allow for a little personality without an obnoxious monologue: solid navy, navy striped, solid grey, grey pinstriped and solid blue-grey. When you’re just starting out, money can be an issue, so just buy the best you can afford. These fab five colors will diversify your wardrobe so don’t be afraid to have an opinion. Play around with the colors a bit by adding different weaves such as solid blue-grey in nail’s head or tic weave. But don’t wait too long to build up your wardrobe. Even though you’re new to the industry, it’s important to invest in your first five suits from the start because you don’t want to wear the same suit more than once a week. Once you have the basics, you can start to build on them with classy patterns such as windowpanes and plaid, and add new earthy colors such as brown, olive and tan. Later on, you can socialize your wardrobe with classic colors such as black or light grey.

Button Up. The goal here is build up enough “stock” so you have three weeks worth of shirts; that way, if last week’s shirts are being held hostage at the dry cleaner’s, you still have an array of shirts in your closet to choose from. Think color. Think variety. I don’t believe in dark-colored dress shirts so stick with three white shirts; one white solid with French cuffs; four blue solids; one navy, one red and one burgundy striped; and one black or grey small pattern.

Sport Up. You definitely need a traditional blazer in either black or navy, but you also need a sports coat. Versatile patterns in grey, navy, tan or olive work well. The final decision depends upon your personal taste and fashion-sense.

Leg Up. Slacks are just as important as shirts. There are several core colors every gentleman should have. Think elemental and mineral colors: charcoal, mid grey, navy, tan, brown, and olive. Our number one selling color is charcoal, so that should tell you something. Again, these are the cornerstone colors; and once you lay a good foundation you can start to build on it by adding in different shades and textures.

Toe Up. When it comes to dress shoes, just start small: one black pair and one brown pair. Once your financial portfolio grows, invest in some burgundy. Matching belts are a must.

After you’ve graduated from the fundamentals, seek out a stylish overcoat, and for your fancier
affairs, a tuxedo. But don’t fret over those right now; just concentrate on mastering the basics. And remember, simple details such as functional button holes, edge stitching, and subtle monograms really make a good impression and build a respectable wardrobe.

Now you’re ready to make a lasting impression in the big city!

Best Regards,

Tom@tomjames.com

Take a Few Years Off Your Age…

Shawn S. asks: My significant other has been after me to update my look – and I agree with her that someone in my profession should not be tagged as ‘old school ‘because of his clothes. She gets frustrated by my lack of enthusiasm for shopping, and, trust me, I get that my clothes are mostly about five years old, and would like to be thought of as “current “. But I’m not trying to look like Ryan Seacrest, and I am not prepared to get rid of everything in my closet and bet the farm on a whole new wardrobe that might go out of fashion before my cell phone contract comes up for renewal. Do you have a sensible strategy that you can suggest for updating my wardrobe?

Tom Talks: Here’s what we would recommend you consider doing to update your look. Think in terms of taking three steps to get started:

1) Consider wearing more trousers without pleats, cuffs, and even without creases – just don’t go overboard until you’re comfortable with the new look and feel. A shorter rise in the trouser (think a shorter zippered pant cut to fit on your hips and not on your ‘equator’) makes it easier to walk and move around. Try squatting down in a full cut pleated trouser and then get up quickly – a much more comfortable maneuver in a pleat-less pant. Your range of motion, like how high you can raise your leg at the knee, improves with a shorter rise flat front pant model — whether its traditional denim or the latest 5-pocket flannel or twill trouser cut to fit like jeans.


2) Realize that closer fitting clothes – properly sized and tailored, of course – trim your silhouette and can literally help you shed weight visually. When it’s done right it really works, and your fan club will see the difference right away. As tailors, we incorporate our “tricks of the trade” to enhance your silhouette by making the shoulders a bit more narrow and raising the coat button position while trimming the girth of the jacket at the button. But fear not — trimmer doesn’t have to mean tighter and less comfortable. With our soft construction option and a new generation of fabrics engineered with a “stretch” component, closer fitting tailored clothes can be nearly as comfortable as jeans but still meet the dress code at work.


3) Hedge your bets by adding only 3 outfits at one sitting – not unlike ‘dollar cost averaging’. This strategy allows you to move in and out of micro-trends in clothing but stay on course as fashion evolves. I’d suggest you consider three outfits together: one for Thursday (dressy office attire — suit/shirt/tie, etc) when you’re all business, one for Friday (business/casual attire—sport coat, trouser, open collar shirt, etc) like how you’d dress to meet your wife for dinner, and another for cool weather Saturdays (comfortable and social – jeans or another 5-pocket trouser, a sleeveless or long-sleeve knit layered over a collared sport shirt, and comfortable shoes) to wear when you’re going to a friend’s house for wine and cheese before heading out to the movies. We’ve designed several Value Packages that will help you do exactly what we’re suggesting here.

Best 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

Creating Your Own Style

Aaron J. asks: How do I go about developing my own “personal style?” I see people at work, in the airport, and out to dinner – even some of my friends, who just seem to have it all together with their clothes – whether they’re dressed up or casual. Is it genetic, or did someone show them the ropes? I don’t necessarily want to dress exactly as they do, but I admire their overall style.

Tom talks: Aaron, it may be that they are one of the fortunate few, for whom it just comes “naturally”, or it may be the advice of their significant other, or perhaps, their clothier. Having said that, consider this. Developing your own sense of style is not unlike developing a sense of humour – figure out what makes you laugh and emulate that type of humour yourself. Start with the clothing in your wardrobe that you and your “audience” agree looks good on you. Then consider the style of the people you admire and dissect it – do they wear all flat front or some pleated trousers, what shirt collar styles do they use, are they tucked or un-tucked, do they “layer” their clothing, do they combine dressy pieces (sportcoat) with casual pieces (jeans), what shoe style(s) do they favour, what colours and colour combinations do they use?

As an example, many of our clients admire Cary Grant’s style. He was the epitome of simple elegance. When I think of Cary Grant, I think of the light colored grey suit, which he would typically wear with a solid shirt, and, of all things, a solid tie. So simple, yet such an impact! People still talk about his style to this day — he remains an undisputed icon of style.

Gianni Agnelli is another man who developed his own unmistakable look. The Italian Industrialist was known for his style, both in Italy and around the world. Milanese fashion designer Nino Cerruti considered Agnelli to be one of his biggest inspirations. He would wear a well-tailored Italian suit, but what set Gianni apart was how he wore his accessories. His signature statement was wearing his wristwatch over his shirt cuff. Not my style, but it worked quite well for him!

The contemporary media offer many new “style icons” to whom some look for ideas. Consider the business dress of actor John Hamm in the television show “Mad Men”, a debonair flashback to the 1960’s. One could also admire the tailored elegance of Daniel Craig, as James Bond, with or without his peak-lapelled DJs and fly front, evening shirts. There is no shortage of inspiration out there, but adopting someone else’s look isn’t the answer.

Begin to figure out what you like. You might select a specific collar style (one for dress, and one for casual). Consider having one detail that is your signature, such as always wearing a pocket square, a white linen pocket handkerchief, or perhaps double cuffs would work for you. Ask yourself what outfits you are most comfortable wearing. For instance, bow ties are a distinctive look. I appreciate them on other men, but feel quite self-conscious when I wear them.

Decide what you already have in your wardrobe that reflects your chosen direction. You may have several garments that simply need new accessories to make them just right for you. The worst-case scenario is that you need to call an arsonist and start over. Just remember that developing your personal style and building the appropriate wardrobe is a process, not an event. And remember: Tom is here when you need him!

Best Regards,

Tom@tomjames.com