One of the USPs of NeueHouse is that it deliberately and effectively blurs the lines between business and pleasure. (Recently I’ve even heard people use the portmanteau ‘bleisure’.)
In today’s fluid and creative business environment, working and socializing often happen at the same time – or they can certainly segue from one to the other. This can present dilemmas for the man about town. Such as: “Can I claim this back on expenses?” and “What should I wear?”
I’ll leave you to work out the former; but as for the latter, the key is to create a versatile wardrobe consisting of pieces that you can dress up and dress down as the diary dictates.
For men who are used to wearing business suits this means dressing down a rung; for men who normally hang out in jeans and t-shirts this means dressing up a rung. The sweet spot is somewhere between the two: deconstructed tailoring.
What’s that? It basically means a jacket with some of the stiffness and formality taken out of it. The shoulders are softer and less built up; the fabrics generally have less of a sheen. And these jackets can be worn as a suit or as ‘separates’ with slim-fit chinos, cords or denim.
You will doutbless be familiar with J. Crew’s Ludlow suit. In a similar ballpark, look at the likes of Oliver Spencer, Folk, A.P.C, Y.M.C, Margaret Howell, Gant Rugger, Officine Generale, Rag & Bone, Alex Mills. I’m not just coming up with these brands off the top of my head; I’m reading them off the list of designer on MrPorter.com, for whom I am the US Editor.
Below I’ve devised 10 style commandments for the NeueHouse man to be read in those 10 minutes between your next business meeting and social coffee. Good luck with the expenses.
1. Fit is the fundamental factor. The size on the label matters more than the label itself. Make sure everything in your closet fits you properly and have it professionally altered if it doesn’t. A baggy $2000 blazer will look cheaper than a $200 blazer that has been tailored to you. Shirts should be fitted not billowy. Pants should not puddle on your shoes.
2. Give yourself an upgrade. Edit your closet of whatever is doing you no favors and replace where necessary: that tent-like dress shirt, the boxy suit, the off-white t-shirts, the threadbare socks. People notice these details and judge you on them.
3. Make wise investment purchases. Spend money on items that have the most impact and from which you will derive the most value over time. These typically are: a smart overcoat, good quality shoes, a leather bag and a fine watch. These are the items that a) people often see first; and b) if you buy wisely, could last you 10 years or more. So buy the best you can afford across the board.
4. Present a strong business case. A hard-shell briefcase is often too formal; a backpack can be too informal. A soft-shell leather briefcase or a leather and canvas tote will work for most scenarios.
5. Match your leathers. There is one commandment when it comes to leather: thou shalt not mix brown and black in the same outfit. Wearing black leather shoes? Then you can’t wear a brown leather belt or carry a brown leather bag. Brown leathers are more versatile so while black leather can be smarter, you’ll get more wear out of brown.
6. Choose well-rounded shoes. No square toes at all, and beware of anything too pointy, especially if they turn up at the end. Rounded-toe shoes are most acceptable.
7. Pass the jeans test. Denim can be worn in a smart-casual environment if it is black or indigo with minimal wash and no distressing. Jeans should be worn with a belt (denim ‘gives’ so will loosen during the day) and the fit should be slim rather than skinny – and certainly not baggy. Selvedge denim can be turned-up but three is the maximum number of turns. And black dress shoes with blue denim? Never looks quite right.
8. Ties that don’t bind. A silk tie can often feel too formal – especially in a social setting. A knitted tie, however, worn with a button-down shirt, is smart without being stiff. A shirt worn buttoned up without a tie can also a cool option.
9. Keep co-ordinated. One way of making sure everything works together is to stick to a fairly standard color palette of blues (especially navy), greys, browns, black and white. Sounds a bit ‘safe’ but these are the colors that suit everyone and it means that you can easily mix-and-match your look and thus get more wear out of the same wardrobe staples.
10. Accessorize with a pop of color. Pocket squares, socks, cufflinks, scarves – these are the places to bring in brighter tones to enliven your outfit without overdoing it. Because you can’t be all business and no pleasure.