I have written about shirting before, but this time I want to cover a couple of different categories. Not everyone wears a suit or even a jacket to work every day, and that’s fine. How you wear your clothes matter just as much as what clothes you happen to be wearing. So, as always, the real goal should be to look your best – whatever you have on.
While men now have more options when it comes to dressing for work or just going out in public, always remember to pay attention to how you want others to see you. A key wardrobe element that guys don’t always appreciate is the shirt. Shirts are really the visual anchor of your wardrobe; they set the tone for your entire outfit. Other elements all play off the shirt: pants, jacket, vest, belt, and tie. Change the shirt and you can alter the overall tone of what you have on in ways that other pieces can’t.
It’s still pretty warm here in D.C., so let’s say you have on a nice well-tailored classic khaki poplin suit. If you have a busy day on the Hill, it can easily be dressed up with a deep blue end-on-end, full spread collar, double-cuffed shirt and classic tie.
Give yourself an Ivy League look instead with a soft roll button down and barrel cuffs; pink is about as Preppy Handbook as you can get. Pair that with a repp tie or try something different. A bottle green tie embroidered with, say, dogs, martini glasses, or sailboats, will have you looking dressed up but not too serious.
Take it down another notch to dressy casual with a vintage style dress shirt; J. Crew has perfected this hybrid quite well. These are essentially formally styled dress shirts washed and “aged” so that they have the worn-in appearance of a lifelong favorite now retired to the role of dressed down alternative for when a polo shirt is still too casual. While the cut and styling of these shirts is meant to suggest a tie, it really looks best without one.
Next comes polo and golf shirts. Take the same suit and add a pima cotton polo shirt and you have an excellent balance for an afternoon cocktail reception right from the office. I personally prefer to pair tightly woven “dress” polos with a summer suit, like the poplin example above, or sport coat for two reasons. First, their smooth fabric just looks more finished than the rougher hand of a pique shirt, and second they are less bulky and therefore sit better under a jacket.
Golf shirts are a tough one for me. As a general rule, I think they should stay on the course so I’m not really a fan of wearing them in the office. These shirts are often billowy and have questionable color combinations, not to mention some of the hideous logos stitched across the chest. That said, as a codicil, when paired with some nice khakis and a blue blazer they are acceptable for conference receptions and dinners where golf is often the focus anyway.
Apart from a polo collared cashmere or merino sweater, most polo style shirts really don’t work well with regular business suits. Their inherent informality is at stylistic odds with the nature of the business suit and few guys can really make it work well.
Footwear for these outfits should match the overall feel. For the first three looks almost any dress shoes will work, glossy cap toes to suede wing tips. When it comes to polo shirts, your shoes should match the inherent informality of this style of shirt.
Slip-ins like loafers or nicer driving shoes work well to keep the look dressier. Topsiders or camp style moccasins are another alternative, but really only for the khaki/blue blazer look. For a cool alternative that shoes you have a little edge, wear canvas tennis or deck shoes.