A Vest for Life

A Vest for Life

Q. My business-casual office is over air-conditioned, but outside it’s particularly warm most of the year and I don’t want to bring extra clothes with me each day that I’d have to carry. I could keep one jacket and/or sweater there, but also don’t want to swap them out constantly or look like I’m wearing the same thing every day. What do you think would be the best thing for me to keep there?

A. Since your office is business-casual, I presume that means that suits are not the usual and that blazers and sports coats are often worn, but not required. So, you have a good bit of leeway and can sometimes dress in a jacket, sometimes in a sweater, sometimes in shirtsleeves, with or without a tie. With that much left up to your personal preferences, you have many options.

Yes, keeping one jacket and also one sweater at the office seems to make a lot of sense. Still, you may not want to give up something you like a lot from your wear-to-work clothing rotation. Also, and this is an important concept, you are right not to want to choose something that is particularly memorable (such as a bright red sweater) to be your item to keep at work. Instead, what you choose should be classic and versatile in style and neutral in color.

SWEATER: A thin cashmere or a lightweight wool or cotton sweater would be good choices. The best styles might be a zip-front or button-up cardigan. But, if a cardigan style seems too grandfatherly to you, then consider either a sleeveless V-neck sweater, a long-sleeved pullover, or perhaps an outerwear vest. Be certain it is one that fits comfortably over your shirts.

As to color, choose a solid color, not a stripe or pattern, preferably in a neutral color, such as navy, gray, beige, black, or burgundy rather than more noticeable colors that can serve nicely as part of your regular rotation, such as bright blue, red, yellow, or white. Don’t choose a stripe or a busy argyle pattern. They are too easy to remember.

BLAZER OR SPORT JACKET: The same principles apply. Versatility is your goal. Choose a classic style in a neutral color. Obviously, either a navy blazer or a tweed sports coat in some shade of gray, brown, or blue are best bets. Even better, you might keep the blazer at the office for a while, and then switch it off with the tweed jacket. They both go with most pants from dress trousers, to casual khakis, and even jeans (depending upon just how casual your office’s business-casual is.

If you have recently upgraded your navy blazer to a fine quality navy cashmere or wool/cashmere blend, it would be a wise choice to move your old wool blazer from your home closet to a drawer in your office.

While I won’t presume to know the security of your workplace, because these would be a leave-at-the-office jacket or sweater, you may want something less valuable. A great source can be a local thrift shop or neighborhood tag sale. You would be surprised at the quality of things you might unearth: at a nearby church thrift shop, I found three Hermes neckties ($185 each in retail stores) for 50 cents apiece and a handsome Paul Stuart teal blue/green blazer ($1400 and up) for $10. Needless to say, those were unusual finds. Still, it is worth considering.

Since I am a big fan of color and what it can add to a great appearance, I suggest having some bright, colorful, or (positively) noticeable shirts, ties, and sweaters in your regular daily wardrobe to draw colleagues’ eyes away from the repeated neutral jacket or sweater. You might enjoy the compliments you receive so much that you end up creating your own style with those bright looks.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

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