For the busy gentleman, building a quality, versatile wardrobe is an absolute must. Designed as a personal capsule collection, it should be able to take you from the courtroom to a bar and beyond. Far from making this a chore though, this process should reflect who you are and be not only efficient but also enjoyable.
How to build a corporate wardrobe
For many, the first step in curating a wardrobe is building out your 9-5 options. It’s best to work on the basis of having a minimum of 3 work suits per season that can be rotated. This ensures extended longevity for your suits and adds variety to the humdrum of everyday. Stick with 2 block colours as a base – think navy and charcoal – plus a patterned suit or two to change things up. Sticking with classic colours and patterns (i.e.check and pinstripe) ensures that you’ll get a few seasons wear per suit and also makes it easier to accessorise.
When selecting fabrics, think about factors like frequency of wear, season and pattern. These all play a significant role in the overall look but, perhaps more importantly, they dictate comfort. When the mercury rises, look at silk blends or linens – these offer greater breathability in the warmer months. Conversely, in Winter, don’t be afraid to explore beyond wools, instead playing with heavier cloth like flannel.
In terms of style and fit, a good tailor should work with you to achieve the optimal silhouette. Just remember that the closer your fit, the faster your suit is likely to wear out. This is worth keeping top of mind if it’s going to be a regularly worn suit. To further extend the lifespan of a suit, it’s also worth investing in 2 pairs of trousers. These are always the first part of a suit to wear out and purchasing a second pair at the outset will even out the wear.
If a suit is the building block, then accessories are the important finishing details. However, this doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy every tie and pocket square under the sun. Instead, take a considered approach, looking for subtle patterns and colours that will work across multiple suits. This gives the illusion of an extensive wardrobe without the accompanying investment.
When selecting ties, explore different weaves depending on the season and how ‘corporate’ you need to be in the office. While silk grenadine is a classic, knitted silks and even cashmeres can be an interesting way to break up the everyday.
Of course, it would be remiss not to also touch on shoes. Capable of making or breaking an otherwise perfectly good outfit, these are important and worth investing in. For a start, a pair of oxfords in chestnut brown and black will hold you in good stead. Look at the likes of Cordwainer for well-constructed, high-quality options. Brown business shoes are also extra versatile and can be worn casually if styled correctly.
Dressing down your work wear
Come 5 PM (or if we’re being completely honest, it’s probably more like 7), it pays to know how to dress down corporate suiting for some post-work reprieve. A go-to option is to simply to remove your tie and unbutton your collar. Pair the suit and open necked shirt with a smart pocket square for an ensemble that can easily transport you to after work drinks or even a relaxed cocktail soirée. A fresh shirt will also make a world of difference so think about swapping out a regular white button down for something with a subtle pattern or interesting colour. For example, a blue and white striped shirt with a navy suit makes for a classic after-work ensemble.
Mixing and matching for casual occasions
For more casual occasions, a suit can sometimes feel overly formal. In these instances, think about splitting your suit, treating your jacket more like a sports coat. On a weekend, a navy suit blazer with a pair of beige or light grey cotton trousers and a pale blue shirt makes for a classic yet elegant outfit. Think about pairing this with a pair of tassel or penny loafers to complete the look.
If you’re after something slightly bolder, bring your patterned suit into play, experimenting with a patterned jacket and block coloured trousers. This can be a great opportunity to dress more loudly than you might normally – just remember, the key is keeping it simple. If you opt for a windowpane jacket, pair back everything else, sticking with plain grey trousers, a white shirt and black loafers.
Building out your wardrobe with quality separates makes casual wear all the easier. For a foundation, it pays to invest in beige, navy and charcoal trousers. These are versatile building blocks that will work with most jackets. To round out your wardrobe, also look at 2 or so sports jackets in a navy and a paler colour.
Despite common misconception, investing in the right tuxedo will pay off in dividends over time. Far from their off-the-rack, hired counter parts, a classic made-to-measure tuxedo will go the miles and is a true marker of sartorial nous.
The trick lies in opting for a timeless style that is unlikely to date from season-to-season. Sticking with black or the traditional inky navy and classic finishing details like a satin peak or shawl lapel will ensure that this is a suit that can be pulled out for that annual gala without so much as a second glance.
As with all simple styles, the devil is in the details. Invest in a quality studded dinner shirt and matching cufflinks. Onyx or pearl are both excellent options that reek of understated elegance. Top everything off with patent leather dinner shoes – kept well polished, these are a sure-fire way to ensure your black-tie look remains crisp.