Category Archives: Tom Talks

5 ways to use COLOR to put a Spring in your Step

Orange shirtWhen not watching the games of March Madness,  I was out in the garden a lot on the weekends in March.  Where I live it was time to plant more herbs and to get my vegetable garden going.   Mostly though the mission was to wake up the garden from it’s winter hibernation and to add some fresh color.

I especially like the vibrant pink tones of the fuschias, and geraniums.  The yellow and orange tones provided by the marigolds and ranunculus are already making the back yard a happier place.   The colors of spring and summer have a way of doing that.

Color is a favorite topic for most any publication about design, be it fashion, interior design or creating the best landing page for your website.  A uniquely potent medium, color is full of emotion and energy – a powerful resource for your image and personal style/branding.   The colors that you wear and how they are combined can dramatically impact how you are perceived by others.  Doing it well immediately increases your level of influence.
















No matter the season, there are occasions and venues that require dark, neutral clothing, but lighter shades of blue and gray, as well as earth tones (tan, olive, brown) are the perfect backdrop or frame for the colorful shirts, ties, and pocket squares (and socks)  that the warmer, brighter months invite.  For Spring, think LIGHT and BRIGHT!   Lighter tones inspire comfort and ease – a certain cool, while brighter tones energize and command attention.


orange and blue   multi color

Here are five ways to use color to get some Spring into your appearance:

  1. Depending on where you live and what business you are in, you might work more color into your suits, blazers, jackets, and pants.  Why not consider a blazer that is bluer than navy or a light weight jacket in a favorite color made from linen or cotton, or tropical weight wool?
  2. Depending on your natural coloring, as well as your profession, lighter clothing may not be your best choice. Introducing stronger, brighter colors with classic charcoals or navies can create a more dramatic, more powerful, and more flattering look. Pump up the volume with bolder colors in your shirt and/or tie, and turn a subdued, staid outfit into a true star of your wardrobe.
  3. Wear shirts with color other than your basic blue.  With light to medium shades of blue or gray clothing, introduce shirts in tones of orange, green, pink and lavender.
  4. Point #2 applies to your casual wardrobe especially!  In that case you have even more latitude with color and pattern.  Have fun!  If not now, then when?
  5. With respect to neck wear and pocket squares, who’s to stop you from throwing caution to the wind?  I still prefer and recommend the more classic patterns, solids included, but as far as color, wear what you like that coordinates with your shirt and jacket.  By all means, go bright and go light.  That being said, a sharp navy tie with a seersucker, summer tan, or light blue suit is elegance personified.


Give me a Break! Finding the Best Pant Break to Fit Your Style.

A guide to help with deciding how much your pant bottoms should “break” over your shoes.

As it turns out, much has been written in the blogosphere about the pant break options, and with general accord. The basic options for the proper length of one’s trousers are as follows:

  • No break
  • Slight or medium break
  • Full break




In most cases, a slight break is the preferred option. It’s balanced, right down the middle, and never wrong. A medium break is achieved when the bottom of the pant is about ½” to ¾” above where the heel meets the leather (Heel height can vary a little with men’s shoes.) The front of the pant should have one fold or “break.”


A full break is when the pant bottom falls at or somewhere below the top of the heel (but definitely off the ground.) In this case the front of the pant will show at least two, possibly three folds or “breaks.” As is the case with both pants in the photo above, it is difficult to pull off this length and have it not look sloppy, like you’re standing in a puddle. The full break only works with a pant that is cut full, with plenty of drape at the knee and bottom. In that case the extra fabric has more room to flow out over the shoe. If your legs are on the longer side, this may be a style to consider. If you prefer wearing suit and sport coats that “drape,” then wearing pants that also drape will achieve a balance pleasing to the eye. Drapes are expected to nearly reach the floor. If your shoe size happens to be larger than average, then all-the-better. The last thing you want is for your shoe to disappear under your pant bottom. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand million times, it’s all about proportion when it comes to these things.

The concerns associated with the no break option are essentially the opposite of those with the full break. On the extreme you run the risk of inviting the proverbial “are you expecting a flood?” comments. The shorter length of a “no break” pant works best when the pant fits on the trim side. In this case, fashion is on your side right now. Pants that are cut full and with no break run the risk of looking “cut off.” If you have changed from wearing pleated pants to flat front pants in the past few years, but you haven’t adjusted the length of your pants, they may need to come up a half inch or so to be rebalanced. The size of your feet and shoes is another part of the overall geometry to consider. Does your shoe size rival that of an NBA forward? Then trim fitting, no break pants aren’t really for you, unless you are intent on making a fashion statement.

To summarize, what most influences whether your pants length will look balanced and appealing is the relationship between the pant length to the width of your pant and the size of your shoes. For my money, the sweet spot is ½” above where the heel meets the leather. From that point, up or down ½” is what I like to call the “range of acceptability.”

As for me, give me a break already, but just a slight one please!

The One Essential Suit

Cary Grant was quoted as saying, “All it takes are a few simple outfits, and there’s one secret – the simpler the better.” For busy people, that should come as welcome relief. With that thought as a baseline, what would be the one suit you would have in your closet, if you could have only one? That suit would have to work overtime and do well in a variety of situations and settings. That suit should get an award!

In years past my answer would have been – without equivocation – a darkblue/navy solid. While that is still a good answer, today I would strongly suggest that one consider a solid, darker shade of gray as that one essential suit. Why the update? Gray tones are especially in step with the times in which we live. The versatility of gray – from somber to social – is unmatched. Why solid? The simpler, the better, right?

Just last week I was helping a young man pick out his first serious suit. It was a college graduation gift from his grandfather. He really liked a subtle windowpane cloth that was among the options on the table, but we kept coming back to that solid dark gray. It just made good sense. Not to mention that his mother agreed, and who really wants to argue with Mom?

  • modernsuit
  • suit
  • swatch1
  • swatch2
  • swatch3

The darker shades of gray (no reference intended toward the series of books that have been recently published under that title) are also uniquely neutral, so you can wear any other color with them and be confident that they are complementary. Yet another option would be to split the difference between navy and dark gray and order up a char blue suit. A great suit color for sure, and one that you won’t readily find off the rack in a store. However, your Tom James clothier can offer you a wide variety.

With regard to style, most men will be best served by a two-button, single breasted coat, with either a center vent or side/double vents, and a flat front pant (with or without cuffs). You may want to add a personal touch by choosing the inside lining of the jacket, or the finishing touch of beautiful horn buttons and working buttonholes on the sleeves; but otherwise you will maximize it’s usefulness by keeping it simple and straightforward with regard to details.

Note: I am not, of course, suggesting that you should have only one suit. The one suit idea is a hypothetical. Most men should own a whole range of suits in a variety of colors and patterns. What I am saying is this: If you don’t have an updated dark gray solid suit in your arsenal, consider putting that at the top of your list for this season’s wardrobe additions.

Reflecting what Matters Most

Does clothing make the man or is it a reflection of who he is on the inside?

In addition to the Smith family, who we featured last week, we recently went behind the scenes with three other Tom James clients: Tim, Greg, and Edward. Each man represents a different generation, a different industry, and wears a different style. Tim, 27, is a rising star in the commercial real estate business. Drafted into the Air Force during the Vietnam war era, Greg is an owner and the President of a successful interior design business. Edward, who passed away at the age of 88 just a few weeks after sitting down with us, had been an insurance professional for 63 years.

Our lofty goal for these conversations was to uncover a fresh perspective on who our clients are, how they define success, and the part we play. What I heard is that we help our clients to feel exceptional, make the desired impression, and reflect on the outside who they are on the inside.

During the next week we will share three brief videos of each man telling us about his work and his perspective on professional clothing. We begin today with Tim. As a young man, the sense of empowerment that Tim gets from wearing a high quality, well-fitting suit gives him an edge. In the highly competitive world of commercial real estate, every advantage makes a difference. As you hear him tell it, listen closely for what Tim believes his clothing choices communicate to others.

Love what you do. Hold your head high. Be an inspiration to others.