5 Cornerstone Elements of Building a Professional Wardrobe

By: Zach Trimble, Clothier
February 11, 2020

Your professional wardrobe influences how you are perceived by clients, partners, and employees. A wardrobe anchored in cornerstone suits, jackets, trousers, and shirts, creates a memorable distinction to your image.

When you wear high-quality fabrics perfectly fitted to your body, others notice that every element has been carefully considered. Your jackets are tailored to provide a flawless silhouette. Your shirts and trousers are designed to your body type. You add subtle, yet perfect accessories, so every outfit powers your professional image. 

A professional wardrobe that conveys leadership, authority, and competence commands respect because the quality and perfect fit are obvious.

5 Essential Components of an Image Enhancing Wardrobe

When building a professional wardrobe consider the image you seek to project. When your wardrobe consists of garments made of exquisite fabrics perfectly tailored to your body, they provide a boost to your confidence, which is noticed by others. 

For example, one of our clients in the financial services industry delivered a keynote presentation to an audience of 5,000. This client decided to wear a sport coat, pocket square, and trousers because he knew the outfit fit him perfectly and commanded respect, even though a dark suit is still conventional in his industry. Afterward, 25-30 people complimented his outfit (and his presentation).

When your clothing enhances your professional image with perfectly fitting, high-quality fabrics, you feel at the top of your game. You walk a little taller and stand a little straighter. And, when you feel that confident you can focus on what matters most: your family, your career, and your community. 

Below are the five cornerstone elements of a professional wardrobe. 

#1: Frame Your Wardrobe with These Essential Suits

Even though the workplace dress code has become more casual in many industries, the suit is still the most essential piece to building a professional wardrobe. In fact, there are four suits required in every man’s closet:

  • Blue Solid
  • Gray Solid
  • Blue Stripe
  • Gray Stripe

These essential pieces act as a picture frame. You can wear them every day with a different shirt and tie and few will notice that you’re rotating these four suits. 

#2: Invest in These Sport Coats and Blazers

Many men still struggle to understand the difference between a sport coat, a blazer, and a suit coat. Once you recognize the differences, you can acquire the six essential blazers and sport coats to build your wardrobe:

  • Black Blazer
  • Blue Blazer
  • Specialty Blazer (such as slate blue or graphite)
  • Blue Pattern Sport Coat
  • Gray Pattern Sport Coat
  • Earth Tone Pattern Sport Coat

As with suits, these essential pieces provide the versatility to wear them with a wide range of shirts, trousers, and ties.

#3: Create More Outfits with the Right Trousers

As you build a wardrobe that defines your professional image, there are cornerstone trousers to acquire. These slacks function as outfits by themselves because you can wear them with or without a jacket and with a variety of shirts. The essential trouser colors are:

  • Tan
  • Olive
  • Light Gray
  • Gray
  • Mid Gray
  • Charcoal
  • Black
  • Navy
  • Blue 

Your Tom James clothier can recommend other shades that may be more appropriate for your particular industry or style to help achieve the image you want to portray. For example, entrepreneurs in the tech industry may prefer lighter colors that appear less formal, yet still command the respect of their employees, investors and industry peers. 

#4: Choose These Vital Shirts

Shirts are an essential element to developing your style and coordinating your outfits. When building a wardrobe, the shirts you should acquire are:

  • 3 Whites
  • 3 Blues
  • 3 Stripes
  • 3 Checkered Patterns

As you acquire these shirts, pay careful attention to the jackets, trousers, and suits you own, especially when choosing colors to coordinate with your striped and patterned shirts. Select colors that complement garments you already own to maximize their versatility.

#5: Coordinate Garments to Enhance Your Professional Image

Building your wardrobe requires you to consider the image you want to project each day in your profession. For instance, politicians wear more blue and red because it projects patriotism and commitment to country.

Other industries have different standards. For example, some lawyers have suits they only wear for court appearances. Another example is one of our insurance broker clients. When he first became a Tom James client, he purchased one pair of trousers every six months. As his career grew, he collaborated with his Tom James clothier to build a wardrobe that portrays leadership, competence, and professionalism. 

Now, he’s an agency manager for one of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. When promoted to that role, he passed many others who had more experience or who had a longer tenure with the company. He credits his wardrobe for enabling him to project a level of confidence he did not have prior to building his wardrobe with his Tom James clothier. 

How to Expand Your Wardrobe

Once you’ve acquired the cornerstone garments of a professional wardrobe, then you can expand to bolder colors and styles. For example, if you purchase a statement sport coat prior to establishing the cornerstone essentials, your statement piece can lose its impact because you will need to wear it often. 

Once you have the foundation of your wardrobe in place, your Tom James clothier will make recommendations to add bolder pieces. Depending on your comfort level and desired image, these recommendations could include brighter colors or bolder patterns that you may not have previously considered. Other times it is a more subtle difference, such as a wider lapel compared to what many are currently wearing.

After acquiring the cornerstone pieces of a professional wardrobe, many clients become confident when considering new additions. For example, one client in finance was previously accustomed to wearing plain gray suits purchased at a department store. As his wardrobe expanded with Tom James, his confidence grew. His perfectly tailored suits garnered positive feedback from clients and coworkers. Suddenly, he became more interested in his wardrobe. Now, he sends pictures of various styles to his clothier and says, “Create something like this for me.” 

This is a common story. With a wardrobe consisting of garments that fit perfectly, in preferred styles, and that offer versatility to mix and match, our clients gain confidence to take ownership of their style and their image.

Build Your Professional Wardrobe

A professional wardrobe requires cornerstone suits, sport coats, blazers, shirts, and trousers. When carefully chosen, in high-quality fabrics, and perfectly tailored, these garments provide versatility so you can effectively coordinate different elements to project your image every day. 

Do you own all the cornerstone pieces of a professional wardrobe? Have your garments been carefully selected to project your desired image? If not, contact a Tom James clothier today to learn how they can help you walk a little straighter and stand a little taller.

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