Category Archives: Tom Talks

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,

How To Dress While Losing Weight

David C asks: After promising my wife (and my doctor and my tailor) that I would lose some weight, I’ve finally started to do something about it with the help of a nutritionist and a personal trainer. I’ve been losing about a pound a week for the last three months and I’m down two holes in my favorite belt. My wife says I now have “back pleats” in my suit pants, so my well-tailored clothes don’t look so well tailored these days. I’m committed to my short term goal to lose 10% of my body weight, so when I’ve lost 24 pounds – halfway there– I thought about buying a week’s worth of new clothes that fit the new me. But I’m afraid that if I keep losing weight these new clothes will end up looking like what I’m wearing now – plus I’m not sure if I should have things altered now or wait until I’ve lost more weight. Any ideas?

TOM Talks: First of all, congratulations for losing weight. Sounds like you’re on your way to looking better and living longer. I’m sure your wife is thrilled! The good news is our clothing has the allowance for up to a 30 pound weight variance. Typically ten pounds is equivalent to about a 1”. So that is 3” (or 30 pounds) to work with on your weight loss. Once you surpass 30 pounds, the suit needs to go.

Here’s a strategy: Now that you have lost the first 5% of your body weight (e.g. 240 down to 228), plan to alter 5 of your favorite outfits – clothes that are relatively new and not on their way out of fashion. I see men wearing their bigger clothes all the time and have no idea how they stay motivated. Once you get these outfits altered, people start to notice and this will keep you excited about moving closer to your goal. This will also tide you over and since it’s likely that only the trousers will need adjusting, the alterations will not be expensive. When you hit 10% of your body weight lost (e.g. 240 down to 216), then go ahead and have your 3 of the original 5 (favorite )outfits re-altered to fit your new size — then order 2 new outfits to fit the new you (be sure and get re-measured top to bottom). Here’s your opportunity to update styles and get new clothing with a trimmer silhouette in the coat and flat front (no pleats) trousers. When you finally hit your goal weight (e.g. 240 down to 200), I recommend you celebrate with a special trip/outing with your wife. Be sure to give me 5 weeks advanced notice so we’ll have time to make you a new outfit for the event. Now is when you should order 3 to 5 new outfits using your new “fighting trim” measurements, and also re-alter the two new outfits you purchased when you hit your 10% goal. You’ll end up with a good rotation of new clothes that fit you properly, and your styles will be up to date.

Best Regards,

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 Benson, Owner of the New Orleans Saints, Celebrates in a Tom James Signature Suit!

Look closely and you will notice the custom suit woven in Super 140’s and cashmere cloth has pinstripes that read “New Orleans Saints” and “Super Bowl Champions”, in gold on a black background.

Bob Faucheux of Tom James New Orleans had a vision several weeks ago for his customer Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints. Bob called Dougal Munro, President of Holland and Sherry, Inc., to work together on creating on creating the perfect, winning suit. Dougal and Bob came up with the Holland and Sherry Signature cloth design, and it was arranged that the cloth be woven and the suit be hand crafted as the one of a kind New Orleans Saints Super Bowl Champions suit for Mr. Benson.

The suit was flown to Florida on Friday where Romina Sifuentes ( Tom James of Hollywood Florida ) hand delivered it to Mr. Benson’s wife at their hotel. Mrs. Benson then secretly took the suit to the owner’s box at the stadium, where she revealed it to her astonished husband once they knew the Saints’ victory was secured.

Mr. Benson proudly wore his magnificent custom suit to receive the Vince Lombardi Trophy, watched by over 100 million people on televisions around the world. Congratulations to Tom Benson and the entire New Orleans Saints organization. Mr. Benson deserves the very best – and is wearing it.

Please click Schedule a Tailor to schedule an appointment or e-mail me with any wardrobe questions you may have.

Best Regards,