No. Try Snapchat.
Closet full of dub monks.
I wrote this post about six months ago and it’s been languishing in my “Drafts” folder ever since. That’s because it’s not perfect and I kept telling myself I was going to fix it, but obviously I never did. It’s mostly on point, though. To identify some of the shortcomings: I think you can do lot better than Bonobos… But they are still a good place to start, especially because of their impeccable customer service and return policy. Also, I have no advice for tall bros, because I don’t know anything about being tall.
Have you ever been to a bar or lounge in a financial district between 5 and 8pm on a weeknight? Then you’ve seen them in their overly long pants, billowy shirts, and square-toed shoes. Perhaps more important is what you don’t see: nary a tie nor jacket in sight. They are the Business Casual Bros, or Biz Cajj Bros,1 for short.
They don’t look very good, and they probably don’t have very interesting jobs. I should know, because I am one. That said, it’s probably easier to improve your style than speak interestingly about being an accountant, banker, or corporate lawyer.
So I thought I’d offer a few tips for looking stylish and respectable in an American business casual environment. These aren’t the kind of tips that are going to get you featured on The Sartorialist: you will look like neither a mixologist nor an Italian dandy, but rather an ordinary guy who cares about his appearance.2 Without further ado…
Buy clothes that fit. Duh. Try stuff on before you buy it. Know your measurements if you plan to shop online. Of course, most of us aren’t built like mannequins, so nothing will fit perfectly. But as long as you nail the shoulders of shirts and jackets and the waist of pants, you should be good. That’s because you should…
Get stuff tailored. There’s really no excuse for overly long pants or sleeves.3 Addressing these issues will instantly place you in the 90th percentile of men, and should only run you about $10 per garment. Aside from that, the only other alterations you should consider at this stage are having the sides taken in on shirts and jackets and back darts on shirts. Back darts are the best way to address the dismal problem of shirts billowing outward in the lower back area. If you need any more alterations, it’s going to be pricey, and your time and money is probably better spent searching for clothes that fit better off the rack.
Invest in some decent shoes. Just buy some Allen Edmonds. If I were you, I wouldn’t even bother with black shoes unless and until you absolutely have to have them. Yes, black is more “formal” than brown, but a dark brown is appropriate (and looks better) at everything except funerals and black tie events. I would recommend starting with a plain cap toe like the Park Avenues or Fifth Avenues, then picking up a split toe like the Delrays, and moving on to heavily brogued options like the Strand or McAllister only if you’re confident that you can pull them off.4
Wear wool pants. I like Bonobos. No, they’re not cheap: their dress pants start at $165, though sales and discount codes are easy to come by. Why do I insist on their wool dress pants versus their cotton slacks or chinos? For starters, I think cotton is a bit too casual. Wool, on the other hand, in addition to being more formal, is lighter, more breathable, and comes in a greater variety of interesting textures and patterns. Furthermore, they’re low maintenance. “Won’t I need to take them to the dry cleaners every week?” you might ask. No. You’re working in a climate controlled office, not digging ditches. Your pants aren’t getting dirty after one or two wears. If they’re cotton, though, they are getting wrinkled. But if they’re wool, and you hang them using clamping trouser hangers, you can pretty much wear them for as long as the hold their crease (and you don’t spill anything on them). Start with a solid charcoal and solid navy before you branch out into pinstripes, plaids, and other colors.
Stick with plain shirts with button-down collars. If you don’t plan on wearing a jacket or sweater, stick with simple shirts: white, light blue, subtle stripes and checks. The reasoning behind this is that if you’re not wearing a jacket, you’re giving a lot of real estate to your shirt fabric. If it’s a bold color or pattern, it will probably overwhelm your coworkers. Accordingly, for the love of God, whatever you do, don’t wear solid bold colors. As for the button-down collars, it looks odd to have your collars flapping in the wind. So if you’re not going to throw on a jacket and tie, the next best option is to button them down.
Throw on a sweater every once in a while. A well-fitted sweater can go a long way in helping you look put together if your shirt game isn’t quite on point. Wrinkles? Floppy collar? Blousey midsection? Throw a nice merino V-neck on top and no one will notice. A sweater also affords you the opportunity to experiment with bolder colors and patterns on your shirts, since the diminished visible area makes them less likely to overwhelm. Here is a helpful guide to buying quality sweaters.
Buy a navy jacket. Wool. Slightly padded shoulders. Notch lapels. Two buttons. Not brass, you’ll look like a sailor. They literally say this in literally every issue of GQ, but this is the most versatile piece of clothing you can own. It goes with pretty much everything except jorts.
That’s all I can think of for now. Like I said above, following these steps won’t turn you into a style icon, but it might stop you from looking like a dweeb. Anyway, this is all pretty entry level stuff—I could probably write two or three posts this length about each of the enumerated subjects above, but I won’t, because I never really update this blog anymore. So let me know if you have any questions or anything.
Why isn’t there a good way to type the phonetic abbreviation of “casual”? ↩
The bottom of your pants should just hit the top of your shoes. (Make sure to bring a pair of dress shoes to the tailor.) Your sleeve should hit the base of your thumb when your arm is hanging by your side. ↩
This isn’t just a factor of self-confidence. While this should be acceptable in more or less every office in America, this might not be. Best to wait until you have a solid grasp of both your personal style and your office customs before investing in styles like the latter. ↩