What would James (or Jane) Bond wear? (versatile enough for ANYTHING)
April 19, 2014 11:32 AM   Subscribe

How can one dress (men or women) in the morning and be prepared for ANYTHING. Any given day might unexpectedly include very active outings or very formal appointments? Sure, a change of clothes is handy -- BUT THERE'S NO TIME, Q!

What type of clothes are so versatile that one could rough and tumble excessively before striding into a formal event? Are there suits flexible enough that you could crawl through a hot, dusty ventilation system, get out, dust yourself off, and be presentable enough for a meeting with a top government official? How about a business casual outfit that one could wear throughout a day that includes mowing the lawn, driving a car, taking client meetings, jogging in 100 degree heat, and riding on public transportation?

Styles? Fabrics? Stores? THANKS!
posted by GPF to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (5 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Check out this thread on the Blue. The keywords you want to search for are "tech ninja".
posted by asterix at 11:40 AM on April 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I was about to come into this to recommend the techninja thread (which I still go back to today when I get a clothes horse itch). I was a Nau and Outlier customer before that thread emerged, but can say that I am very happy with them as being versatile menswear. My personal commuting outfit is stuff like the Outlier Pivot dress shirt + their OG's + Nau's Riding Jacket or their Highline and I can take that on a damp 5 mile bike ride and show up in an office looking presentable. The stuff is cut to move easily with you, so you can be active without feeling like your clothes are limiting you, the materials shed dirt and water relatively easily, it breathes well so that you don't get too sweaty, and also dries quickly so that if you do get a bit damp (from rain or sweat) it won't matter after 10 minutes in a dry environment.

With that said, I think that the question is a wee bit silly in that there's very narrow overlap in the Venn diagram above. Every fabric has its tradeoffs, and anybody who really cares about this stuff will notice. Cotton looks great on shirts and pants, but stains easily and holds in water, so it isn't a stellar choice for rough outdoor wear. Whereas nylon and spandex hold up well as a technical fabric but don't work as a formal garment at all. You'll want a nylon blend of something that is predominantly cotton and looks cotton, but has some nylon to provide resilience, but anybody who really cares about formal attire will look at a nylon blend as akin to wearing tennis shoes to a black tie affair. They will know when you're cheating. And, in certain cultures like California dot-com corporate environments, this is a non-issue. I mean California is where abominations like dress pant sweatpants exist. Washington DC? Different story.

In some cases, formal attire is just as much about signaling that you aren't the sort of bloke who gets their hands dirty as anything else.
posted by bl1nk at 12:03 PM on April 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

I've come across clothes designed for travelers that are usually intended to accommodate both sprinting through an airport to catch your connecting flight, and also allow you to show up to a business meeting after disembarking from that same flight, so that might be a good search term.

I would also think that much of the old-timey formal men's accessories like suspenders and sleeve garters and such were partly for this purpose, if the look isn't too outré for you.

I don't know about mowing the lawn, though. That usually leaves me covered in dust and grass fragments and green grass juice, which I'm not sure any set of clothes is going to be able to shrug off.
posted by XMLicious at 12:06 PM on April 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

but, yeah, one of your other keyword searches should be "bike to work" or "bike commuter" gear. There's been a large surge over the last couple of years for commuting gear that doesn't scream "cyclis" but is practical for a bike-heavy lifestyle. Even if you don't own a bike, your goals align well with office bike commuters.

Other brands in that realm (that I haven't worn / can attest to) but I monitor from time to time

Makers and Riders (formerly Nonetheless)
Arcteryx Veilance
Rapha City (more bike oriented with an urban/commuter sideline)
Ibex(much more outdoorsy but sometimes pulls out an interesting urban piece from time to time, but overall is my favorite source for wool clothing)

plus, on the old-school outdoorsman tip (because duck cotton and canvas do look classier than fleece and polypro): Filson and Barbour.

I am a bit sad that the Outlier Blazed Cotton Pivot long sleeve has been discontinued (I mean, seriously, it a fantastic secret agent formal men's shirt). The current Merino Pivot is a nice idea for fall/winter but I am skeptical of its utility for summer wear. The Rapha Long Sleeve would be my next go-to for a technical men's shirt, but it's a bit dear.
posted by bl1nk at 12:18 PM on April 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a big believer in a durable sportcoat as everyday wear. I've currently got a L.L. Bean Town and Field blazer, and it's made of durable (yet presentable) canvas, with a nice collection of well secured interior pockets. I also have a Duluth Trading sportcoat in "firehose" canvas that's sadly now too big, and would recommend that in a heartbeat as well (plus it's machine washable, unlike the L.L. Bean). These items shrug off abuse that would leave typical wool or linen coats in tatters.

Carhartt and Weatherproof make Nigh Invulnerable khakis, and Duluth Trading and L.L. Bean both make industrial grade oxford button-down shirts that can take it. A belt is easy, any full-grain belt from a reputable retailer. Ties are trickier, but Bull and Moose make woven wool ties that are plenty tough, and naturally wrinkle resistant. (Bow ties would probably need less maintenance, as there's less of it to get stained, creased or caught in something.)

Put it all together, and you're presentable enough for dinner and a show in the city, and hard wearing enough to hack your way through the jungle to get there.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:34 PM on April 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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