Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How to Dress Business Casual: The New Dress Code

One of my good friends sent me this question yesterday: "I have a meeting this Thursday, and the dress is business casual. This event, however, is usually exclusive to MBA students. In other words, a professor vouched for me, a brilliant undergrad, and I don't want my professor to regret the decision.  How do I optimize my first-impression potential?"  Well first off, it's a good sign that you're putting some thought into how you'll dress to the event.  Not only for your own benefit, but to ensure that someone who put their neck out for you will be glad that he did.  First impressions count and people will be judging you by the clothes you wear, whether you (or even they) know it.

The rules of business casual have changed in the past 20 years, sometimes not for the better.  While some people consider it appropriate to wear a polo and jeans or even a t-shirt (yikes) to work every day, upgrading your style is the first step towards upgrading your career.  Unfortunately the fact that business casual has no fast rules means that it can be difficult to decide what is really appropriate.  I'm going to show you three great options for a "business casual" dress code that make you look like a professional without going for a suit.

The Navy Blazer

A navy blazer is essential to any man's wardrobe, but to really pull off a great business casual look you'll want to make sure it is tailored well.  Make sure that when you button it up it tugs slightly around your waist, the sleeves should show about a half inch of shirt cuff and make sure it is not too long.  Notice that the man in the picture below isn't wearing a tie, but he still looks professional.  They key is in the details: brown leather shoes, a white pocket square and smart grey wool slacks make this look impeccable.
Navy Blazer with Grey Slacks | GQ

The Business Sweater

If you haven't had the chance to invest in a well tailored navy blazer yet, a merino wool v-neck sweater is your next best option.  Go for a muted color such as navy or grey, you can get a little bolder with the shirt underneath as all that will be showing is the collar and cuffs.  Notice the similarities between this picture and the previous one.  Once again, the keys are in the details.  It's imperative that you pay attention to all pieces of your outfit, particularly shoes.  Fashionable, well-made shoes that will last for a decade or more are a worthy early investment and should be part of your wardrobe as soon as possible.
V-Neck Sweater with Grey Slacks | GQ

The Chino Pants

Khaki pants get a bad rap thanks to poorly fitted options that flood the marketplace but chinos with a trim fit and proper break over the shoes are a great piece for business casual.  Go for something that has a flat front (no pleats), slight to no break over your shoes and a crisp crease on the front.  If you're not willing to throw a blazer, sweater or vest over your shirt you should probably throw on a tie.  Layers are sophisticated and signal that you take the time to consider your appearance rather than just throwing on whatever is available to you.  Don't forget that a leather strapped watch is the best looking accessory you can own.
Khaki chinos | GQ

As usual, the imperative of great fit is more important than anything else.  Note that all the options shown fit the man in the picture perfectly with no bunching, folding or rolling on any of the fabric.  Ensure that your fit is perfect and all else will fall into place.

Thanks for reading.  As always, be dapper.
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Sweaters to Keep You Warm and Stylish This Winter

Sweaters have received a bad rap for a long time as the less sartorially inclined have only considered the crew-neck sweatshirt their only option.  However, a sweater is one of the smartest and most versatile pieces of a man's wardrobe for fall and winter.  Today, I want to show you three stylish sweaters that you'll want to add to your lineup immediately.

The V-Neck Merino

This is an absolute necessity for any man.  Really, if you don't own one yet you need to make sure you buy one today.  Don't go for the cotton option, they're a little too thick to use all year round (which you can with merino wool).  The v-neck merino sweater will become your go to layering option, especially for the office.  Pair it up over a shirt and tie and you will be amazed at how much your look is elevated.  Also, throw a blazer over it as well.  The great thing about merino wool is that it is thin enough to have additional layers over the top without turning you into a fountain of sweat.

Extra-Fine Merino Wool V-Neck Sweater | Banana Republic

The Cardigan

Equally appropriate at work and at home, the cardigan is a great look for a guy who is looking for something that makes a bit more of a statement than the v-neck.  While some would not consider the cardigan a professional look, I dare you to don a shirt and tie below one and ask yourself if you don't look good enough for the office.  Don't be afraid to go with a bold color if you already have a few other more subdued options in your wardrobe, cardigans are a great way to pop some color into your winter wardrobe.

Tom Ford Cardigan Sweater | GQ

The Shawl Collar

More of a casual look but still stylish, the shawl collar is very much in style right now.  While there are many options for a shawl collar sweater, I like to go with something a little thicker.  Layering over the shawl collar can get a little too busy around the neck so I prefer this style stand on its own.  You can go for a pullover, but I like the look of a buttoned front (really it's still a cardigan but the style is so different it deserves separate mention.)  If you go for something thick, you'll look equally appropriate chopping lumber as you would out for an evening stroll.  By the way, the sweater below is only $19.95.  What are you waiting for?

Shawl Collar Sweater | H&M

Thanks for reading. As always, be dapper.
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