Warning! This is a very opinionated post. I am suggesting rules on what men should never wear to work. You can say “mind your own business”, or “what does she know?”. If you worked really hard you maybe able to show me an acceptable, stylish version of each of these “rules” being broken. But Fit and Flare is meant to make you laugh, think and question rather than requiring obedience. You choose what you wear. All I can do is indicate how it might be received.
A short sleeved shirt (and especially not with a tie)
This man is an actor in the satirical programme The Office (US version), but wearing a short-sleeved shirt with a tie is far from funny. You can see this look in offices around the country – especially in finance teams. I really hate short sleeved shirts on men in the workplace. I associate this look with men in the housebuilding industry who live in the “home counties” and have non-working wives who pack for them. What is the point? To stop your cuffs dangling in industrial processes? To keep cool when the AirCon fails? I find it faintly indecent, especially when the man has hairy arms. I will admit short sleeves, perhaps in linen, look fine at weekends and on holiday (without a tie, obviously), and I accept that T shirts and Polo shirts have short sleeves. But for work, in my opinion, shirts should not only have full length sleeves, but should also ideally have double (French) cuffs, with tasteful cufflinks (see below). If you really cannot stomach the double cuffs then single cuffs are fine. Another alternative, if it is summer, is that you can carefully fold up your long sleeves to make a short sleeve.
Wearing a suit that is too small, or too big
Why does someone as famous, rich and good looking as Daniel Craig wear a teeny-tiny suit? It is two sizes too small. The shoulders, torso, sleeves are too tight, and it is also a little short. Believe me, wearing clothes that are too small for you doesn’t make you look slim. Skin tight clothes are not sexy – they make you look fatter than you are. And I have no idea why Daniel felt the need to wear a waist coat. It is not adding anything except more bulk to under the poor solitary button. He can hardly be feeling the cold.
It is not a bad suit in itself although I would have put him in a lighter tie (green, blue or pink) given his generally light-cool look.
But although a too-small suit is faintly ridiculous, a too-large one is clownish. What was he doing? He looks like he is wearing someone else’s clothes – a boy in a men’s sizing. Or perhaps he is dieter of the year and is wearing his “before” outfit. But no, this man is a serious sports commentator on US TV, and there is no explanation for this outfit at all, except that he enjoys lots of “room” in his trousers. The trousers would have hit the floor if he didn’t have his hands in his pockets to hitch them up. The colour and accessories are nice.
Getting a suit in the right size is not rocket science. Measure your chest, waist and leg length or ask the assistant to do it for you. Jackets and trousers are available in a variety of sizes and lengths off the peg. The most important place for the fit for a man is across the shoulders. Bear in mind that men with broad shoulders and an angular look need a different cut (Continental) to straight (English) and contoured (American) figures. Buy the shape that suits your shape. If the sleeves are too long then pay for an alteration.
Trousers that are too long or too short
Wearing trousers that are too long is the look I see most often in the workplace. Men buy the longer leg believing themselves taller than they really are. Then they just leave them, thinking they will make them look taller. Wrong. Baggy pants and pools of fabric at floor level just look silly, and actually emphasise your lack of stature. Buy the right size and have them taken up so that they break on your shoes in the proper way.
Trousers that are too short is becoming a bit of a fashion statement. Women have been doing it for years (Capri pants, or 7/8 length). It can look OK so long as it is deliberate and paired with the right shoes, and no socks. If you are tall and your trousers are just short because that is how they come off the production line you will look like an overgrown school boy, ie a bit sad. Get a long pair from a specialist outfitter if you are 6’6” or whatever.
Clunky shoes with a suit
Please. If you wear a suit for work wear a conservative pair of shoes with it. Brogues or Oxfords caps are nice. Laced up and elegant. Don’t wear a shoe that looks like a weekend walking shoe or anything remotely like sixth form wear from Tuff or Bata. Steer clear of square toes, elastic, slip ons, velcro, thick soles that protrude etc. Just keep it neat, tidy, polished and unobtrusive.
Good grooming is essential. Dandruff, dirty clothes, unkempt, overlong hair, dirty finger nails, shoes that need attention, stains, unpressed pants, smelly jackets. No, no, no. Most men need their hair cutting every six weeks. Suits need taking to the dry cleaners after around 20 wears. If you have an outdoor jacket or coat that you travel in have it cleaned. If you have weekend jackets or outdoor wear that can’t go in the washing machine they will need dry cleaning too.
I know men hang on to their well loved items. Below is a shirt that my husband has had for at least 20 years. He won’t part with it. What can I do? But it must not be worn on formal occasions, and ideally just for gardening. Check you don’t have any wear and tear on your collar or cuffs. Pulls on your tie mean “dusty bin” please. Any holes or any shabbiness, shiny trousers or worn hems – just put them out with the rubbish – the charity shop doesn’t want them either!
A matching set
How hard is it to match your tie with your shirt? Not that hard. Matching a tie with a shirt and a suit is about the only act of creativity allowed to men at work. Choosing the right colour, and matching patterns when relevant is what stylish dressing is all about. Make the choice so it expresses you personality. Personality that doesn’t come out of a box on a market stall, or from M&S. Therefore don’t buy, or give, a shirt and tie combo to your son, dad or partner. These items are just horrible. Imagine feeling obliged to wear one of these sets. Just say no. I suspect “gift sets” are made to appeal to mother’s who feel their son needs a bit of help. The ties are invariably made of Polyester as well, which brings me to my next rule.
Never wear polyester work wear
This fabric is entirely unsuitable for suits, ties or jerseys. You are looking for wool, silk, cashmere, merino or cotton. End of. This suit is from Primark and only cost £35. It’s not funny. It will produce static, it will make you sweat and will be identified as cheap and nasty by everyone who sits near you.
Wearing a belt and shoes in different colours
This photograph is truly horrible. The trousers are too high in the waist, the shirt cuff looks stupid, the shoes are clunky and to top it all the shoes and belt don’t match. If you suit deep or brighter shades black accessories are great. Otherwise brown (deep for cooler colouring, yellow- or red-brown for warm) is better. You don’t need both. That way if you get dressed in the dark or a hurry you can be assured that your shoes and belt will match. And the buckle should not be obtrusive or clunky. Thank you.
A tie that is too long or too short
OK, this is a joke picture, but the schools round here are full of young people who make their ties ridiculously short as a rebellious statement against the wearing of school uniform. Many men get this wrong and I see versions of it daily. Your tie should end at about your waist, where you belt should be.
Doing up all the buttons on your suit jacket
Young men, and men who lack confidence do this a lot. They think well this jacket has two/three/four buttons – what are they here for but for doing up. Wrong! With a two button suit, just the top one. With a three the two top, or middle only. And in most settings you can undo the button when you sit down. With a dinner suit (tuxedo) or double-breasted keep it done up. The man below reminds you of a hotel receptionist doesn’t he?
I absolutely hate the idea of socks, ties, cummerbunds (yes, really), bow ties, jumpers with something “novel” on them. The only thing funny about these items is that some people think they are meant to be worn. They are just a joke like the one in the Christmas cracker. Smile and put in the bin when you clear up on Boxing day. While, luckily, most men understand this, there are some men who wear these items thinking their kids will love them more. If you really want to wear your My little Pony socks, or a Dopey tie, you can wear them at weekends, but please don’t go out in them.
Which brings me to cuff links. I like a double cuff, even on women. I think they look distinguished and polished. But they are not that common. Men who wear them occasionally panic because they don’t have any cuff links. Except maybe a pair that say Hot and Cold and look like a tap. Or maybe rugby balls, or union jacks or batman masks. These hateful items are given to the best man at your wedding or by work “mates” in the Secret Santa game. Also in this category are any items that crafty wives have loving made – pottery cufflinks or hand painted ties, and jumpers (as a rule). So if you want to wear a double-cuff shirt then you need to also buy some nice plain cuff links. In gold or silver to go with your colouring and watch. Or vintage can be nice. The silk knot type are OK at a push, as are homemade button ones. Here you sew together two very nice vintage or great quality pearl buttons, with a strong button thread and blanket stitch (like a loop for a hook and eye).
A plastic watch with a digital dial or similar
Oh my – who would wear one of these to work? Or even at weekends? You would be surprised – I see them most days. Adolescent, cheap and geeky – popular with IT teams and people who do retro. Wear a leather strap to match your shoes and belt (ie brown or black). Men have so few chances to make any style choices so a nice watch is good idea. You don’t need to know the time to the nearest tenth of a second, or a luminescent screen.