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So I have to wear a suit...do I have to lose my edge?
September 8, 2011 4:15 PM   Subscribe

So I have to wear a suit...do I have to lose my edge?

I started working a corporate job around 5 years and bought a couple of suits off the rack thinking that I wouldn't be around for long. Turns out I'm actually quite good at it and I've risen to be a somewhat high-level executive.

The job is in the financial sector and in continental Europe and I'm surrounding my very conservative (and generally quite rich) professionals from old families.

Now I'm married with two small kids and it's becoming clear to me that I'm going to be in this job for a while and won't be heading back to East Williamsburg any time soon.

It's also becoming clear that I need to update/improve my wardrobe because I'm going to be wearing suits for a while...

I'm a bit reluctant to just go out and buy expensive suits, shirts, etc. to look more professional. I don't mind spending the money but I would like to wear things with a bit of character, a bit unique. But also if I could pay less that would be nice (remember I mentioned the two kids).

Obviously I can't trend so far as to make Gordon Gecko cringe but I think I have some liberty to buy from more independent designers and perhaps with a bit of design sense.

Any ideas? Suggestions?

As mentioned, I am in Europe but can get things shipped from the UK or the US (plus I travel to both places regularly).
posted by BigBrownBear to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
The breakdown for your dresscode as far as I've been taught is:

Office drone? Do whatever you get away with.

Low-level executive? Dress moderately nicer than your employees.

Mid-level executive? Off-the-rack suits are ok, but make sure they fit properly. Don't wear stupid ties.

High-level executive? A fitted suit, made for you is what you are after. You represent the company to other companies, you have to look the part and don't get to be unique. That's part of your job.

Owner of the company? Do whatever the fuck you want.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:23 PM on September 8, 2011 [16 favorites]


Classic advice from Dress for Success: Pay twice as much. Buy half as meny. Buying the best quality you can afford pays off in the long run. The suits look better and last longer.

As far as style, I can't help you.
posted by Bruce H. at 4:23 PM on September 8, 2011


Find a tailor that works in a style you like and get one made to measure. The second part is easy, the first part will be really hard. I'd suggest asking anyone you see in a suit you like.
posted by GuyZero at 4:25 PM on September 8, 2011


Wear a well tailored traditional suit. If you need "edge" then limit it to your choice of watch or cufflinks. Variations on the traditional suit do not stand the test of time, you'll look like Chandler from Friends c.1994.
posted by fire&wings at 4:28 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you looked at style blogs? The Sartorialist is often very elegant. The selection there is varied, scroll a couple of pages back if you don't find anything at first. You'll get inspiration, and they often mention brands and such.
posted by krilli at 4:28 PM on September 8, 2011


Variation is fine :) Just keep it all in context, be subtle, and don't chase fads.
posted by krilli at 4:29 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Read (and I'm on my way out the door, so I leave teh googles to you) the blogs Put This On, A Suitable Wardrobe, Men's Flair, Permanent Style and Most Exerent (yep, like that) until you have a lively sense of what suits you might like - especially if you're running with a European crowd. I'm partial to the Shoe Snob but his shoe choices are a bit, hm, lyrical. There are many book recs buried in the back pages of Put This On.

My personal feeling as a dapper butch type person is that the more classic the better with suits - beautiful materials beautifully handled, subtle choices with ties, etc. If you really have a lot of money, you could get yourself some Edward Greens and distinguish yourself thereby. Oh, yes, better a meh suit and dazzling shoes than the other way 'round.
posted by Frowner at 4:36 PM on September 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


You can be edgy with accessories, and they're easy to swap out to match the situation. Watches, cuff links, socks, belt buckles (and belts!), dress shirts (fun colors, patterns), ties (go crazy classy, not silly), etc.

Those are all cheaper than a suit which you'll be embarassed to wear in a year.
posted by jpeacock at 4:37 PM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


You are a sell out, yes, but you do not need to lose your edge. I find dressing very sharp, very tailored but a little bit quirky, with my own style, goes over just fine.
posted by Salvatorparadise at 4:37 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The things is that nice suits can be fun. Getting into fabrics and having stuff tailored to you is fun (if you can afford it). And you're in Europe, where they actually still do that stuff!

And if you apply the "buy fewer & better" rule you ... well, you won't save money actually. But you might not be spending as much as you fear in the long run.

What I would not do is get in a sartorial arms race with a bunch of old-money Europeans. Take it slow. If there are coworkers you trust and whose suits you like, you might ask them for tailor tips. Gently. Otherwise, do some scouting of men's fashion blogs (e.g. Put This On). Learn a bit. Figure out what part of all that craziness sounds interesting and which parts sound annoying. Be open to Nice Men's Clothes but pay attention to what actually resonates with you rather than just what's expected / fashionable, and then stick to classics for everything else.
posted by feckless at 4:37 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Buy high quality bespoke clothes from a respected tailor if you are now at the level where you can afford this. Otherwise, buy fewer but better and make them all look different by changing the accessories. The name of the game when you have money is to learn the rules of this conservative mode of dress well enough that, eventually, you can bend or break some of them as you develop your personal style. Largely, though, your personal style will have more to do with your own sense of (good) taste and ability to choose colors, patterns and shapes that flatter your particular body shape and color.

You might consider picking up a primer or two on this subject. I like:

Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion (Alan Flusser)

Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion (Bernhard Roetzel)

Flusser talks more about choosing colors and matching patterns, etc. Roetzel overlaps in this somewhat, but also discusses various reputable brands by name, and identifies some of the more well known tailors, especially in the UK.
posted by Hylas at 4:47 PM on September 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Now I'm married with two small kids

Any edge you think you had has fallen by the wayside. Embrace yourself. I really like the Brooks Brothers Black Fleece collection, but you need to be sort of skinny.

And read the FT Power Dressing column.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:56 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Edge is in your Mind. Clothing is Costumes.
posted by ovvl at 6:20 PM on September 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm with ovvl. I'd disregard the 'sell out' and 'you've already lost it' posts.

It sounds like you're not much into fashion so I'm guessing your edge is intangible to begin with. Stick with that - but take the advice of the poster who mentioned situational attire. Keep with that theme on the intangible side as well.
posted by aca.int at 7:27 PM on September 8, 2011


Go with a well-tailored suit and you really can't go wrong. Though men's shoes are generally kind of dull, a pair of oxblood shoes matched with the right suit looks sharp and has an edge that isn't going to make anyone think you're trying to be trendy or out of style.
posted by xingcat at 7:30 PM on September 8, 2011


I agree that your best bet is to go for classic well tailored suits and make them all look different by changing the accessories.

If being 'edgy' in fashion is really something that you see as important part of your personality that you don't want to lose, could you go for more daring looks on the weekends?

This way you could still invest most of your money in classic well made suits, and buy trendier and less expensive things to wear outside of work.
posted by seesom at 8:24 PM on September 8, 2011


These shoes. The perfect blend of edgy and traditional. If I had money I would own several pairs already.
posted by Acheman at 9:23 AM on September 9, 2011


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