Gone are the days of formal suits and ties with their accompanying buttoned-up sensibility. The new millennium ushered in a wave of loosened dress codes, taking a page out of Silicon Valley. Twenty years later the trend has yet to reverse itself. With CEOs donning jeans and t-shirts, and the line between boardroom and living room increasingly blurred, differentiating between casual and careless attire can be a challenge. What does “business casual” actually mean? Who wrote the style rubric for casual Friday? We know it’s a delicate balance, and we’re here to demystify it.
“Fast fashion” has taken the office by a storm in recent years. Cubicles are overrun with cheaply made pieces, produced en masse for a zombie workforce that values blending in over standing out. Here’s the good news: Sustainable style is going to dominate the next decade.
As a bespoke tailor, Nad Lawrence firmly believes in crafting effortlessly cool looks that can strike that happy medium where work and play intersect. Incorporating custom-made pieces into your office rotation is a surefire way to express a higher caliber version of yourself. Still wondering what sets apart bespoke clothing from ready-to-wear? We’ve outlined a few of the differences here.
Beyond that, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve. The first is something we refer to as the “Plus & Minus Rule.” Arm yourself with this one tip and five wardrobe staples, then let your clothes do the talking.
The Plus & Minus Rule
Ditch the employee handbook when it comes to dress code. Use your eyes. Scan the workplace and take in what you see. The key is to dress one step above the status quo. This makes you stand out without stealing your boss’ thunder.
Steer clear of styling yourself a step below the crowd. People will take note. As the saying goes, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
If you have your heart set on that corner office with a view, your clothes will need to reflect it. Clients and colleagues alike will hold you in higher esteem when your wardrobe speaks the universal language of elegance.
How to pull that off? There are five key pieces to any work wardrobe, whether that office is a cubicle or an open floorplan with pool tables and chaise lounges.
While it’s likely that a full suit isn’t a necessary element in your office rotation, a blazer elevates any look. You can transform a look with jeans from sloppy to suave as quickly as it takes to throw one on.
Existing somewhere on the spectrum between jeans and dress slacks, cotton chinos are universally appealing for their versatility. Dress them up with that blazer or sports jack, or just a button-down shirt. We like them in khaki, stone, or a deep navy. Another perk? They’re easy to wash at home, saving you the dry cleaning costs.
Deceptively simple, dress shirts are an absolute staple in any modern workplace wardrobe. We encourage you to flout your personality with funky colors, stripes, checks and the like, especially if your office environment tends towards relaxed. Cufflinks can also make a perfect statement piece when hitched onto the right dress shirt. They’re also a wonderful canvas for expressing yourself within the framework of a more traditional piece.
Neckwear is far less common in the office than in prior decades, but a tie can still serve as a creative add-on to spruce up a dress shirt. If you don’t want to go with the traditional three-fold business tie, we recommend knit ties, which offer a blend of casual and office compatibility. If you decide against neckwear, we suggest a pocket square in your blazer or sports jacket — it adds that polished, finishing touch that we’re always chasing after.
Sans necktie, we tend towards checkered dress shirts in bright shades like blue, green, and red. Button-down collars pair well with jackets especially, since the tips tuck down conveniently beneath them.
Shoes are the foundation of any ensemble, and we believe in investing in high quality kicks no matter how relaxed your workplace dress code. Three styles we swear by: the black half brogue oxford, burgundy double monk strap, and the brown penny loafer.
For a more traditional office, the classic black cap toe oxford is a great fit. That said, brown shoes have made a comeback in the workplace. So while black is an obvious classic, we like to switch it up with burgundy, red, and brown. There are an array of office-ready shades even within brown itself: Think light to medium tan, dark chestnut brown, etc. These colors are casual enough for after-hours drinks but dressy enough to show you mean business.
A double monk strap shoe is an excellent pick for younger men. It stands somewhere between the classic office leather dress shoe and a sneaker. This brings to mind one (obvious) rule of thumb: Avoid sneakers. Dressing one step up above the rest of the office means classy footwear is a must.
Over-the-calf socks are your best bet. Don’t get caught wearing short or mid-calf socks, which often slide down, exposing hairy calves. Need we mention that’s not the professional look we’re striving for? Higher socks emit class and provide another free space for self-expression, with the numerous solid colors, patterns, and graphics at your disposal.
Quality over quantity is key when it comes to crafting that perfect collection of office ensembles. Equally important is finding just the right fit. The best way to do that? Enlist a bespoke tailor.
Nad Lawrence savors cultivating chic work wardrobes for clients with discriminating taste. We’ll work with you to design one-of-a-kind pieces that spark confidence. And when your custom look is finished, don’t forget to polish it off with the right accessories. We’ve compiled our top 5 adornments in this handy guide, ready for you to put into action today.