Adding color to the mix is standard fare for most women. The flexibility of layering it on while still maintaining a professional or at least classy level of style is a distinct female advantage. For many men, it’s a trickier gambit; how to imbue one’s look with a bit of vibrant personality without looking cartoonish?
While this discussion will cover several areas, right now let’s focus on a favorite option of mine – ribbon belts and watch straps. These flexible and relatively inexpensive accessories are a great way to tone down the formality of office attire while still offering the world a little flash of your personal style.
Ribbon watch straps are an incredibly easy way to change both your look and your outlook. Inherently summery, you’ll be amazed at how a preppy grosgrain or NATO strap can change the whole feel of your favorite wrist watch.
Additionally, these straps give your timepiece a breezy, hand-me-down feel which is popular right now. A casual observer might think that your dad wore that vintage looking Omega back when he was studying archeology at Yale – don’t bother to correct him.
Just make sure to measure the watch’s “lug width.” That’s the distance between the two horns which hold your watch’s strap in place. Typical widths fall in the 18-20 millimeter range and you will want to try and get a strap in the matching size. And avoid chunky watches, they look and feel out of proportion to the thin strap.
English company Smart Turnout makes some of the best ribbon straps I’ve ever worn. Most of their offerings are 18mm. With striped bands representing British military units and England’s venerable colleges – even a few American Ivys – you can easily find something that fits your personal style.
They are easy to swap around, so keep a drawer full and match your watch your watch to your mood. If needed, invest in the little tool that allows you to remove the pins which hold most watch bands in place – it makes life easier.
Ribbon belts are another simple way to add color to your look while falling well within the bounds of great practical style. Lightweight and casual, they are a great option for adding a bit of punch or distinctiveness to an otherwise plain outfit. An overly dressy belt is one of those things that can drag a summer/weekend outfit down, even “casual” leather belts that are better suited to jeans.
Ribbon belts are also an inexpensive way to give your style a little seaside punch. Companies like Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, J. Press and Vineyard Vines offer stripes, critters, solids and plaid versions that make choosing one an easy exercise in personal messaging. These patterned options are well matched to the traditional summer solids of navy, white and khaki.
It’s also a creative way to throw a subtle sartorial curve ball in the workplace. On occasion, I’ve worn my J. Press blue and white narrow striped ribbon belt with an otherwise typical gray business suit. It’s a neat little twist and frankly, some people don’t even notice.
Solid ribbon belts are a great choice if you want a casual touch but still like the idea of keeping it a bit more subtle. Solids also work best when you don’t want to compete with another key article of clothing – madras short or a patterned shirt for example.