The core of a man’s business wardrobe

The core of a man’s business wardrobe

 Q. I’ve recently changed jobs from a fairly traditional office, to a very traditional one. I have a good pinstripe suit that I’ve used more for weddings than work and another gray suit, but beyond those, I have relied on blazers. What do I need in a basic business wardrobe?

A. Three to five suits and a navy blue blazer. Add to these, a pair of gray dress trousers and a pair of camel or khaki dress trousers. For years these have been the core of a man’s basic business wardrobe, though not necessarily purchased in that order. But, today, in these more-casual-dressing-times, that formula has changed a bit.  

The specific suits that I once suggested, but that are currently not necessary for your wardrobe, were: 

First suit: Solid dark blue wool. It can be the natural-shouldered traditional look or the updated suit with a slightly built-up soft shoulder. Everyone looks great in dark blue. A dark blue suit is usually the first choice of movers and shapers of business. 

Second suit: Solid dark gray, natural-shouldered wool or the modified soft-shouldered look that is a slightly more fashion-forward cut.

Third suit: Dark gray wool with a pinstripe or shadow stripe.

Fourth suit: Navy blue wool with a pinstripe or shadow stripe. 

Fifth suit: A choice among three different types – a summer tan suit in cotton poplin, a cotton seersucker in light-blue-and-white or gray-and-white, and a subtle glen plaid suit in either medium-blue or medium-gray wool. These are all slightly more casual and refreshingly different.  

When I wrote my book, “Dress for Excellence,” I wrote “No matter what “they” told you in HR or in books you’ve read, the navy pinstripe should not be your go-to suit. It is the most formal daytime suit a man can wear and is just too dressy for most occasions.” That is even more true today when all the world is dressing “down.” I no longer recommend that a man even needs a pinstripe suit. Instead, these days, I would definitely exchange the two dark striped suits in the third and fourth categories for something more versatile and more casual. Include the First suit, Second suit, and Fifth suit selections from above. 

Although it’s not precisely a suit, an essential part of every man’s core wardrobe is the less formal navy blazer you have relied on plus a pair of gray and a pair of khaki-colored dress trousers. Another nice option might be trousers in a small, not-too-wild, pattern, such as a tiny check or herringbone. 

A step even less dressy than navy blazers are patterned sports jackets. They have a hierarchy of their own, ranked chiefly by texture and the absence or subtlety of their patterns. The smoother the fabric and the smaller the pattern, the dressier.   

With your closet brimming with these wise choices, you are ready to add accessories that will help you project your individuality and your personal good taste: shirts, ties, belts, and shoes – all carefully chosen to coordinate with your collection of tailored items. 

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