How to assemble a winning work look
Sometimes it takes something extra to stand out from the sea of suits flooding the foyer, the lift or the boardroom.
Whether it's experimenting with textures or contrasting old-school style with contemporary accents, stepping outside your style comfort zone is a great way to get noticed – in a good way.
Louise Edmonds, the founder and style director of men's lifestyle portal MenStylePower, believes one of the strongest statements a man can make is with his sense of style.
"It's incredibly important to align your talents, skill set, position and personal brand with your attire," Edmonds says. "Within a 20-second time frame you are judged on the way you look and how confident you are in what you're wearing. I've always called the boardroom the modern-day battlefield, and knowing what armour and ammunition you bring in is vital."
Taking the first step towards becoming a fashion savant is the hardest, so we've compiled a guide to help you pick out some winning looks of distinction.
Pictured above, on model, left: Linen Patch Pocket Jacket by Uber Stone, Oxford Print Shirt by Sand, Cotton Chino by Paul Smith; on model, right: Baker Jacket, Flamingo Print Pocket Square, Fraser Check Shirt, Voltaire Chino, all by Thomas Pink.
Begin with the basics
A contrasting blazer and trouser combo is the simplest way of experimenting with your daily work gear. It breaks up the linear aesthetic of more traditional suiting.
Glenn Elliott, career and luxury menswear buyer at David Jones, says this tried-and-true formula is a great way to create a more playful, layered look while keeping it strictly professional. "Over time a lot of businesses have adopted a more relaxed approach to corporate dress codes," he says. "We are seeing a lot more men rushing to the office in the morning wearing a pair of chinos rolled up at the ankle … with a casual button-up shirt and blazer."
The trick is to team items that, while each contributing to the overall look, aren't all competing for attention.
For example, a modern-cut blazer, such as a navy check from New Zealand label Joe Black, teamed with the simple elegance of grey wool pants from Ted Baker will create a pleasing juxtaposition.
For a more sophisticated statement, try a double-breasted jacket teamed with trousers of the same hue to produce a chic tonal effect; such as Italian label Lab by Pal Zileri's jersey jacket in navy and English label Paul Smith's lightweight cotton chino.
Pictured above, on model, left: 'Jack' Suit Jacket, 'Birdseye' Shirt, 'Jack' Suit Trouser, all by Uber Stone; 'Marcel LCR' Sneakers by Lacoste; on model, right: Jersey Jacket by Lab by Pal Zileri, Paisley Print Shirt by Sand, Cotton Chino by Paul Smith, Brushed Calf Driving Shoe by Emporio Armani
If the shoe fits
It wasn't long ago that the idea of wearing sneakers with a suit was tantamount to sartorial treason. Except in the most traditional workplaces, those days are behind us.
Loafers, drivers and, yes, sneakers have now become a regular fixture on the feet of the world's most stylish men, often worn in contrast to traditional suiting.
When it comes to the office, your average runners won't cut it so instead try a pair of minimal white trainers like those from iconic French label Lacoste
. Paired with a crisp, slimmer-fit suit such as Uber Stone's 'Jack'
and no socks, they exude a fresh, youthful vibe that can make Mondays that much easier.
However, if you're not convinced of this particular trend's staying power, try the simple luxury of a driving shoe like those by Armani for a more louche aesthetic. Add a slight roll to the hem of the pants for a look straight out of the Pitti Uomo playbook.
Pictured above, on model, left: Wool Tonal Check Suit, Cotton Diamond Dobby Shirt, Silk Stripe Tie, all by Sand; on model, right: Tonal Check Suit, Bengal Stripe Shirt, Polka Dot Silk Tie, all by Paul Smith London. Styles available in-store.
Contrary to popular opinion, sporting patterned shirts in the office can be a good thing. They add vibrancy and colour, and can give your everyday corporate look an injection of creative ingenuity. Just don't go overboard.
"Too many patterns in an outfit is perhaps the most common mistake men make," Edmonds cautions. "These textiles are quite difficult to combine if they are loaded with complicated hues in the pattern. Keep it simple to start."
Begin by choosing a shirt with a subtle-yet-distinct pattern, such as Danish label Sand's paisley paired with lighter outerwear like Uber Stone's linen patch jacket.
A carefully chosen patterned shirt can also be a fun way to offset the formality of a three-piece suit. Opting for a colourful check such as those from Savile Row label Hardy Amies
offset against the more formal appearance of Paul Costelloe
's traditional tailoring creates an eye-catching juxtaposition.
Pictured above, on model, left: 'Nailshead' Jacket, 'Nailshead' Trouser, Check shirt, all by D'Urban; Silk Tie and Pocket Square by Gieves and Hawkes; on model, right: 'Sovereign' Suit Jacket, 'Sovereign' Suit Trouser, 'Jacopo' Shirt, 'Chitcha' Silk Knitted Tie, all by Ted Baker
The finishing touches
Accessories are the punctuation to the structure of your wardrobe. They add depth, create nuance and offer an outlet for expression when more traditional dress codes are required.
"Accessories should be complementary to the outfit, right down to the cufflinks," Elliott says. "A common mistake is over-accessorising the outfit. An example of this is using a tie bar with a three-piece suit. The waistcoat serves the same purpose as a tie bar and is not required."
A simple way of adding detail is to start with pocket squares and ties, which can provide colourful accents to any outfit without too much fuss. To give your favourite navy suit additional flourish, try a silk burgundy pocket square from British heritage label Gieves and Hawkes teamed with a matching tie.
Taking risks with your wardrobe can have both short- and long-term benefits. The confidence that comes from knowing you are looking your best and the impact of a great first impression can't be underestimated. It's also the only way to develop you own sense of style.
"To develop your personal style, you need to take risks," Edmonds advises. "But there is a way to do this and not stray into faux pas territory. Don't throw out your good taste. Maintaining a sense of 'classic' will be a good measure in this risk-taking exercise."
This article originally appeared in Executive Style.
Images by Scott Ehler.