Category Archives: Tom Talks

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

A Midsummer Night’s Wardrobe…in Paris

Rick B. asks: My wife and I have decided to take a summer trip to France, but I (well really, my wife) refuses to explore another foreign destination with me looking like an “American dude in Paris;” aka, a classic tourist target (“ No dear, you can’t wear a football jersey to the Lourvre”). We are pretty active and make the most of our days visiting museums, wineries, etc. What would be some wardrobe essentials that I would feel comfortable in and also not embarrass my wife in?

Tom: Conformity is usually looked down upon; but if your individual style is a baseball cap and a logoed-tee, then a little conformity may not be a bad idea. Showing up to a Parisian café in leather flip-flops, tan shorts and a blue, short sleeve chambray shirt is tactful, not uniform; and I assure you, she will appreciate it. Don’t have a lot of time to mull over your wardrobe? Two things to keep in mind: weather and occasion. Summertime in France can be warm in the day and cool at night. A lightweight linen blazer and a gingham shirt are the perfect pair for looking casual at the winery and saying cool during the warm summer day. Add a tie to the mix and you’re ready for a stargazing dinner at Lasserre in Paris in cool night air (Quick tip: Linen blazers look good wrinkled, so don’t worry about keeping it pressed).

Leave the backpack at home, or at least in the hotel room. Buy your wife a bigger purse to carry the city map and cash (she’ll love that one). Besides, many travel companies offer pouches designer to hold cash, I.D. cards, and passports that go underneath your clothes in order to avoid theft.


For lighter fare days when museum hopping and sidewalk cafés are on the agenda, patchwork plaid shorts, leather flip-flops and either a linen shirt or summer polo are great. My best advice? Leave all your logo-printed shirts at home, unless you’re planning to sleep in them (or sleep in the other room).

Best Regards,

Tom@tomjames.com

I Can See Clearly Now…

Alan D. asks: My wife and I think we’re about ready to pull the trigger on a complete closet remodel, and we’ve met with a couple of those closet organizing companies. When they explained the process, both talked about making a list of what we’d be putting back in the new closet (like a complete wardrobe inventory). They mentioned that this would be a great opportunity to evaluate what clothes we really wear and decide what to keep and what to get rid of. I was hoping you could help me figure out what I should keep vs. toss, and give me some kind of blueprint so I can plan what I need to add to my wardrobe in the future. Can you help me?

Tom: We suggest a simple 3-part process for evaluating your wardrobe. First, separate the items you really enjoy wearing that look good on you and are in good condition. These will all end up back in your new closet. Second, separate the items that you would enjoy wearing again except that they need a repair or alteration. Things like replacing a missing button, repairing a pant hem, taking in or letting out the waist of a favorite trouser to make it comfortable again, or having the sleeve length adjusted on that jacket where your shirt cuffs don’t show. Most if not all of these will move back in to the new closet. And third, put aside those old favorites that you know should be retired and donated to charity – or possibly taken outside and burned in your driveway. Make a simple list to tally what you’re planning to give away and attach your list to the donation receipt from your favorite charitable organization. Your Tom James person will know the names of several local charities that could really use your discarded clothing, and he/she can arrange to pick the items up from your office or home to expedite your donation.


BTW: your donation pile should include any trousers or coats with “shiny” fabric (they’re worn out), shoes that are beyond resoling or have really square toes, and anything you’re not comfortable wearing any more .This pile should include any 4-button coats (2 button coats are now the norm) or those “Italian” jackets where the front of the coat buttons down where your zipper starts. Triple pleated pants or any pleated trouser with really baggy legs are all but extinct in fashion, and “shrunken” khakis or jeans that are way too short need to be moved out. Be sure to include “cracked” belts, denim shirts, and any sweat pants with elastic at the bottom. And if you want to be perceived as current, think about retiring your collection of those Tommy what’s-his-name silk “camp shirts”. If you have neckties wider than 4” at the large end, or ties that have a prominent food stain, let them go. In short, anything you’re tempted to wear that looks like you might have purchased it in a museum or thrift store should be part of this third group.

And if you’re thinking that we’ve just added another page to your Honey Do list, fear not. We do this for a living and would be happy to meet with you at home to work on this. It usually takes about 90 minutes for one of us to do the following:

  1. Call out any and all clothing items that have no future in your wardrobe – worn out clothing or “shrunken” old clothes should be discarded, not altered.
  2. Separate the items that only need a repair or alteration to put them back into the rotation – as long as they look reasonably current and the fabrics are in good shape.
  3. Re-assemble the outfits (“ensembles”) to help you remember what goes with what, and take digital pictures of your best combinations to help ensure that you wear what you already have.
  4. Suggest what is needed to fill in any holes in your wardrobe, especially items or pieces that will complete an outfit (an odd trouser, a new shirt or tie, maybe even a new pair of shoes), and help you update and replace any wardrobe “staples” that end up in your donation pile.

I hope this is useful. Walking into a neat organized closet is one of life’s little pleasures, and knowing that you actually wear all the clothes you own is empowering. Have at it….

Best Regards,

Tom@tomjames.com