How I dress now: The jacket/trousers uniform

Wednesday, November 21st 2018
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Eight months ago I quit my day job as a financial journalist in order to dedicate myself to Permanent Style. (Many heartfelt thanks for all the messages I’ve received since then.)

This prompted an interesting question from readers: How would I dress?

I'd written previously that I thought working in an office every day kept me grounded. I was an editor with a team to run. I had to be professional. I met lawyers and bankers in their glass offices every day.

I couldn’t indulge in the sort of historical fantasy that leads young fans of tailoring to wear loud checked suits, sock suspenders or bowler hats.

So how would I dress now - with no constraints, no colleagues, and only the need to meet fashion brands, rather than lawyers?

At the beginning, I have to say I went a little crazy.

Out came the Liverano purple jacket, otherwise reserved for special occasions. On a Wednesday - just because I felt like it - I’d wear battered canvas sneakers and a kimono-style sashiko jacket.

I was experimenting. Often thinking the night before about what I could play around with the next day, and laying it all out, ready.

I also wasn’t cycling to work all the time, as my new workspace doesn’t have room to keep clothes in a locker. So that restriction was gone.

But after two or three weeks, things began to settle down.

There were a few long days in the office, and some early mornings trying out the free gym classes. There wasn’t time or quite the motivation to experiment every day.

I also got a little tired of making sure whatever I wore would suit the next day's appointments.

That might be a fitting with a tailor, where I’d want to be wearing at least a shirt and proper shoes. Or it could be a new brand, where it was important to project the right image of Permanent Style.

Everyone has some kind of uniform - men in particular - and I think it’s often for these two reasons: that it suits the various things the day might throw at you, and that what you wear is not always the most important thing on your mind.

For both these reasons, I began to fall back to the same rough uniform I’d worn in my old office: a jacket, trousers, open-necked shirt, smart shoes and sometimes a pocket handkerchief.

It’s a combination that still has plenty of room for expression. The shirt can be a Friday Polo or a polo-collared sweater, rather than a dress shirt. The trousers can be cream cavalry twills or just charcoal flannels.

And there’s also a large spectrum of formality – from a white shirt, navy jacket and black shoes, to a chambray shirt, tweed jacket and suede boots.

But most importantly, on a day when I’m getting up at 6:30am to go to Pilates - and everyone else in the house is still asleep - I can quietly grab a blue button-down shirt, grey flannels, any jacket and any brown shoes, and tip-toe out of the door.

It takes no thought.

I also find that it’s helpful to work within a uniform or fairly narrow wardrobe in order to slot slightly experimental things into it.

For example, a first consideration with a piece of suede outerwear will be whether it works with the standard shirt, flannels and shoes, just replacing the jacket - so nothing else has to change (example below).

A new shirt must have sufficient collar to sit up and proud inside a jacket. Most knitwear has to be thin enough to go under the jacket, or thick enough to replace it. And outerwear usually has to work over it all.

The result is that you can decide between the conservative navy overcoat or the extravagant Edward Sexton one, but you don’t have to start changing everything else underneath.

It’s a similar principle to a capsule wardrobe, which I know always make popular posts. Just with bolt-on extras.

While this is the default uniform, I will still wear a suit and tie on days when I’m seeing somebody important, or going to a nice dinner.

It remains – in my view – a compliment to the host and the occasion; and it helps that I really enjoy wearing those things.

It’s also nice that after perhaps two long days in buttoned-up tailoring, I have the freedom to come into the office on a quiet day in jeans, sweatshirt and leather jacket. Before enjoying tailoring again the next day.

It’s similar perhaps to working at home. I couldn’t do it every day - I’d go stir crazy. But it’s lovely as a break from the routine.

The office/club I now use - in which I have a shared workspace - is full of entrepreneurs in everything from property to health.

They can largely wear anything they want. But if anything is lacking I feel it’s a uniform like this that feels comfortable yet presentable.

Some say that without the dress code of an office, it’s easy to default to the most comfortable and casual thing. Which is usually jeans, a shirt and trainers.

Partly, I think this is because for decades, men have either worn a suit and tie, or this very casual attire at the weekend. There’s been nothing in between.

There is little awareness of what a sports jacket or an odd jacket might be - let alone the conventions around combining it with other things.

Hopefully that’s the kind of thing Permanent Style can help with, in its small way.

And for those that would never need or want to wear tailoring, there’s still plenty in understanding how much better jeans, shirts or knitwear can look with better fit and quality.

Interestingly, I find my old/new uniform gets compliments from both ordinary and menswear people alike, I think because of its versatility.

A young tailor might be interested in how someone else wears bespoke tailoring without it looking stuffy.

And a friend might be equally interested in how clothes can look well put-together without being too smart.

Perhaps another post similar to ‘Which office are you’ would be good, showing the range of looks within this uniform.

And it might be interesting to do something similar showing how good outfits can look without (shock, horror) a jacket all day.

As ever, I’m interested (and I’m sure other readers are too) in what you find becomes your uniform every day. Thanks.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson, except Liverano fitting

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JJ Katz

Well put, as always. If anything, in these more casual times, I find I tend to wear a tie for my own enjoyment / socially more often than I do for reasons of professional decorum.

Simon

Hi Simon,

I really enjoyed reading this post. In my line of work, the uniform used to be navy suit, white shirt and navy tie. However in recent years, with the democratization of the office uniform, I would say that the office uniform took a pretty bad turn. All of a sudden the uniform became something in between weekend casual and street wear almost. As such, I have found my uniform changing as well. It is now grounded almost exclusively in grey flannels, sports jacket and a open neck shirt (preferably in denim or oxford). There is just something reassuring in having a uniform that fits your lifestyle and that is dressy enough for most occasions while being casual enough not to be taken too seriously.

The one question that remains is why people ditched the jacket in their daily uniform. While a well fitted shirt with well fitted trousers can look sharp without a jacket, there is just something about wearing a jacket that just enhances your outfit.

Cheers,

Simon

Bobby

I think you’re wrong. It’s because of the rigours of the typical modern urban commute (and, possibly overheated cities). Overcrowded carriages, added to the grime and dirt of your typical city, the distances most of us have to travel and walk, global warming, and the sheer bestiality of today’s urban populations (round my way, you can’t even sit on benches for the gobs of spit, chewing gum and sticky sugary drink spills) are extremely hard on tailoring. So most people resort to cheap casual wear for fear of destroying their expensive investment. I wish it were otherwise, but that’s that hard truth.

C.

Re ‘extremely hard wearing tailoring’ – presumably you are referring to hard-wearing material Simon?

Please can you give some good examples? Presumably tweed, cotton twill, covert cloth – what else comes to mind?

Thank you

Roger

Absolutely correct. I have several pairs of 16oz flannels I wear in winter and they are more-or-less what my own grandfather and father wore. The trouser wardrobe of the average man has shrunk to: jeans, jeans and jeans.
A tailor I used to make for here in the Netherlands makes a minuscule number of suits compared to odd-jackets for the ‘jeans and a jacket’ crowd. They even advertise it as one of their specialties, since it has become the uniform here; somewhat like the “California Tuxedo”. Many a customer was willing to drop a large amount of money on a jacket, only to wear it over appalling trousers, or jeans rather (which presumably weren’t cheap either).

Robin

Why the jacket was ditched ?
I think it lacks the necessary useful purpose in inclement weather i.e. chest exposed to the cold , neck completely uncovered (unless the collars are turned up which changes the style) etc.

And whilst indoors its difficult to reach for things whilst working at the desk and possibly too warm to wear in centrally heated offices.

And because we are evolving disgracefully !

Paul

I think it’s easy to forget that quality tailored clothing often costs substantially more. I’d have a lot of great sportcoats if I could afford them. You can buy a quality sweatshirt, bomber, or some other casual wear at a fraction of the price. Getting something to fit well, too, costs a great deal, too. If society is allowing for a more affordable wardrobe, then that works, economically, for most.

Lastly, for better or for worse, it seems most people’s role models today, those seen in the media, as well as other cultural icons, are often viewed wearing street wear and casual clothing. I don’t think that is an insignificant influence.

Anonymous

In the first photo there appears to be a second buttonhole on your lapel just about level with the top of the breast pocket.

Too high to be button two roll three.

Is it an optical illusion?

AJ

How often do you find you leave your sports coat jacket unbuttoned? I feel like you see this more often recently not just from people who don’t know otherwise but also as a method to look more relaxed.

Anonymous

The dilemma of the too tight jacket…… Having had a uniform very similar to yours for several years, I unfortunately had to adapt it recently when my tweed and summer jackets became too snug to button (hopefully a situation I will rectify.) To your point this does no favors for the silhouette. My solution was to always add knitwear and limit it to either a cardigan sweater or cardigan vest in a light-weight wool or a cotton/cotton blend for warmer weather. In my view, the cardigan adds a second “v-line” to the jacket, which theoretically is slimming.

My strategy is to make sure the knitwear is a neutral/dark gray, navy, or dark brown to provide as little contrast with the jacket as possible (the goal is for the cardigan not to be noticed) and no light colors. The shirting can be whatever type/color you would like; however, if you contrast it with the cardigan, it will draw attention to your face and away from your waist. Perish the thought, but as I never remove the jacket, I have even been known to wear a short sleeve polo with a cardigan vest as no one is the wiser.

Anonymous

I’m onsite with our long term client most days and before July this year they were a “suit minus tie” type organisation but in July they declared the dresscode was changing to casual (and just casual, not smart casual or business casual). 4 months on, almost everyone wears the same clothes as they did before.

A tiny proportion immediately switched to jeans, t-shirt and trainers, a slightly larger proportion now do dark chinos, shirt and jumper/jacket but still the vast majority are coming in with in their suits. It’ll be interesting to see how the dress changes over time; most have said their wardrobes simply don’t support wearing “home clothes” 7 days a week – unlikely an issue for you. Similarly if you remain with the mainly same uniform as you’ve reverted too or if you too given full freedom do end up drifting towards something else.

Bernd

In my office (creative industry) jeans and sneakers are the standard. And I’m talking about badly cut jeans and outworn sneakers.

I’m trying my best to dress up smartly without being too flashy (sometimes it’s just fun to be a little over the top, though). It’s hard to consider every morning what would suite the day. So, thinking about what is my standard uniform is sitting in my head for ages.

Truth is, only since I buy higher quality and tailoring I feel like I should consider my whole wardrobe as a system of elements that can be combined to a noticeably individual style.

David

In my very casual office, even wearing a sports jacket received comments – some positive, some incredulous. In the summer (NYC), I experimented with a linen / wool Teba (dark-green check Justo Gimeno), and it was not noticed at all either way. I really enjoy how it bridges the casual / formal divide, and it’s definitely one of the most versatile jackets I own. It definitely helps to mitigate the whole “worsted trousers with dress shirt” and no jacket or tie, which is a bland and somewhat awful look, but hard to avoid in a hot summer.

Alex

Appreciate that this is tangential to the primary topic of discussion, but having also moved from working in an office to being self-employed, I’m discovering that working almost exclusively from home is a challenge, and I fear Cabin Fever may begin to set in. I always questioned the value of shared workspaces, but no longer.

In terms of the impact my change in lifestyle has had on my wardrobe, if anything I feel freer now to dress more smartly. My previous office was very casual – most employees wore ratty t-shirts, jeans and trainers (regardless of age), and even the most senior figures that did dress in suits did so with such disdain they needn’t have bothered if the aim was to display a sense of professionalism. Striking the correct balance of smartness without looking out of place in that organisation was nearly impossible.

Valentine Hayes

As a woman who wears jackets daily, I appreciate this thoughtful post.

Peter K

I wear a similar uniform most days. Without a tie in the summer and with one in the colder months.

You’ve often written about dressing within the context of where you are and who you are meeting Simon. It look like this uniform manages to bridge your informal shared work space and the offices, factories and shops you visit.

Harry

There really is no excuse Simon for not wearing a tie with a jacket or as I often do these days,wear a roll neck.I think you are just trying to fit in with everybody else….who are proberbly more badly dressed.I heard the actor Timothy Spall on the radio recently describing himself as unprepossessing and then went on to describe most people similarly. Not everybody can be James Bond or Steve McQueen but they can still be cool.It just takes some thought…not money..to dress well.You have so many splendid clothes,the bridge coat is a tour de force,very elegant but it’s a mistake,if I may say so,to cut corners and dress like most people.

JB

A jacket hardly requires a tie these days. I agree a suit without tie (unless a roll neck is worn) looks downright sloppy most of the time, but there’s no need to always wear a tie, which I think Simon demonstrates very well above.

Oskar

Have you ever considered a Teba jacket? Seems to be a more tangible option now in your new environment. I just looked back at your post about Burgos and their part in a previous year’s pop-up store. Between their updated “blazer-teba” and the more classic one, which one would you rather go for given you’ve seen both live? Any other makers you’d look at? Thanks

JB

I work in an office with a very fuzzy dress code. It basically says one should look neat and clean, and men should not wear shorts and sandals. I think this is a common theme across most office, banks and law firms aside, based on my own experience.
On most days, I tend to wear tailored trousers (cotton/linen/flannel) a shirt and some knitwear or a jacket, paired with suede shoes, Alden longwings or simple sneakers. Sometimes I throw in a boot for good measure. I recently got rid of a big chunk of my wardrobe, once I have some more jackets commissioned, the jacket wearing ratio will increase.

Ben

I work in an environment that would absolutely described as casual. Most men will wear polyester polos with jeans or chinos. It seems to be the uniform du jour for sales-people in the manufacturing/industrial sector, if trade shows and industry conferences are any indication. I find the polyester polo to be so odd outside of the golf course or any racquet sport. There are a few exceptions among my colleagues, both more smart and those more casual. There are a handful of individuals who wear the odd-jacket and trousers (although usually chinos). And there are some that wear sweat pants and t-shirts, but not even at an ath-leisure level of smartness.

For about a year, I have been wearing suits with no tie (even a three-piece on occasion) three days a week and odd-jackets and smart trousers the remaining two days, occasionally I’ll wear a sweater, chinos, chukka boots, and a waxed cotton jacket when I’m feeling lazy when I wake. And if it’s bitterly cold, I’ll break out the down-filled parka, sweater, and flannel trousers.

The “are you going to a funeral” comments have stopped and now most people are complimentary. I have even noticed that handful that already wore odd-jackets and trousers are now stepping up their game. The only problem is there occasions where we’re in meetings in facilities in industrial settings, so grease and general dirt can be an issue. I have ruined many trousers simply sitting in a conference room where grease was hidden under the table’s ledge.

Fortunately, I’m on the team to determine our facilities renovations. I’m pushing for more “clean” spaces that are not utilized by the production staff. It would be terrible to ruin a customer’s executive’s wardrobe while trying to close a deal.

Andrew Hill

How about a post on versatility… how the staples of the ‘uniform’ can be mixed and matched to create different looks?

TOS

Simon,
Thank you for another insightful article.
I’m an NHS GP and we’ve had infection control strictures placed upon us which greatly limit scope for creative expression. For example ties and jackets are supposed to be forbidden as we’re told we must be ‘bare below the elbows’. Even watches are a contentious point…
So it’s shirts, trousers and shoes which represent my uniform and my opportunity to express whatever style I have!
Best wishes.

Piers

Ah, surgeon’s cuffs of course – elasticated ones?

lee

great article. I too work at home and do the school run. Takes a lot more effort to dress well when you do not have to (and no one else is!)

Eugene Sobolev

Thank you for this article!
My everyday attire – brogues, jeans, ocbd, wool sweater and tie (tie is only because of reading your posts regularly)). Or derbies, flannels, navy blazer (or other sports jacket) and ocbd or dress shirt- with or without tie. Anyway its all very similar to what you described – as though taking place in Moscow?

Paul W

“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life, so you bought some sweatpants.” – Karl Lagerfeld.

I dress most formally on Mondays, because it is the workday least apt to unfold as previously scheduled. Formal dress helps create an impression, at least to myself, that I retain some command of circumstances.

Failing that, I’m appropriately dressed if summoned by my masters.

Peter O

1. A guy who writes in such friendly style as you do, Simon,
cannot be imagined other than as a decent nice person.
2. Your observation that now after you’ve resigned your daily office job your clothes selection will be influenced goes beyond my praise your new life will enable you to concentrate better – you transcend my utilitarian value of efficiency because now you view this new life situation as experiment. You are now scientific in your anesthetics! Next escalation: Aesthetic in your science!

Yosef777

Any pics of the kimono-style sashiko jacket.?

Rafael Ebron

sweet spot topic. Jacket is still too formal for a lot of companies and definitely too formal in tech. A level up from polo shirts and jeans/khakis would be nice and it’s too warm in the bay area for jackets/blazers usually. I can hang with the best of them on the formal end (not so great on the low end, my low end is pretty bad). This in the middle part – elevated or better business casual/uniform. Jeans can work, but what else.

Robin

I suppose one thing to ‘casualise’ the uniform would be to drop the tie and go for soft tailoring.
Personally I prefer Boglioli suits with jackets that I’ve literally slept in .

Anonymous

Simon
How often do you get it wrong? How often do you have days that you look back on and say , maybe that just didn’t work?
I have them all the time and hope you are fallible too!

Anonymous

Quite interesting to see a bad outfit – for comparison!

Kevin

I think the idea of another “Which office are you?” article is an excellent idea.

And two questions:

The first is general: now that things have “settled down” and you are in an environment where you have complete autonomy to attire yourself as you wish, has the desire to increase the number of pieces in your wardrobe increased or decreased? (this could be anything from shirts, to knitwear, to casual trousers etc)

Since you really don’t have any constraints on your clothing choices in your new space and with Permanent Style as your full time job, one might see the temptation to requisition any number of rakish creations or perhaps load up on your favorite basic staples.

The analogy I’m of thinking of here is like when you were little, the idea of eating ice cream for every meal was appealing, but as an adult, cookies and cream or rocky road for breakfast just doesn’t sound as appealing as it once did.

The second question is specific: since moving to your shared workspace, how much use have you gotten out of your pale yellow Ferdinando Caraceni double breasted cotton? I ask because it is one of my favorite pieces and am curious to its versatility etc.

Anonymous

Love this thoughtful article Simon, one that gently goes to the heart of the challenge in modern menswear – balancing fit, fashion and style against the casualisation of dress codes – wherever the office is. Had to smile at the sequence of events (purple jacket etc.) beautifully told in a personal way. I used to work in media and followed a similar ‘uniform’ via practicality and environment. There are many insightful comments but I found that Robin’s hit the spot re. one of the challenges: in temperate weather the jacket fails without outerwear and indoors becomes unecessary. The Teba is a good suggestion. It is also worth having a look at Pierre Cardin’s attempts to modernise menswear tailoring in the late 60’s. He ditched ties and moved to an ultra-modern, no frills format. Contemporaneously to this Huntsman was making jackets using zips as fasteners instead of buttons. Beyond this there remains a gap for an item that remains smart, yet practical, that can double with a tie or a more casual ensemble without becoming anachronistic or ill-fitted to cool temperatures.

Anonymous

Simon, in relation to your thoughts outlined above it might be worthwhile exploring the role of the tie against this background. You use the word stuffy which, in context, is often associated with, but not exclusive to, tie wearing. It is now common for ‘leaders’ in all walks of life to dress down to be ‘at one’ with the audience or associates. I therefore question if, over time, the tie, when not worn as part of a retail or corporate uniform, is seen as a symbol of unwanted heirachy or formality? A year or two back I attended a Christening: I was the only one wearing a tie (worn out of respect for the celebration). Which raises the question – what does it represent that makes it so rejected? I wonder; in the move to a gender-free secularism whether the tie, so seldomly worn by women, ultimately represents a form of old fashioned, regimented masculinity that is no longer acceptable outside of the very formal arenas of law, banking or senior corporate life?

Sam

This essay about ties by David Graeber is worth reading: https://thebaffler.com/salvos/dickheads

Richard

Thanks so much for this post Simon, and may I also add my belated congratulations on your career move!

Reading back through the site, I have greatly appreciated your “style advice” posts – please don’t be put off by the inevitable critiques or debates that turn up in comments. More technical posts on bespoke or materials, for example, are very well complemented by well-reasoned discussions of “how to wear it”.

This post, I think, really opens the can of worms of how to turn tailoring toward the reality of how people dress today. Your previous posts on working in an office have started down that path, and now a lot goes to the “levels of formality” you’ve outlined. To give two examples, many friends are still working in formal offices, but as the norm has become tieless suits, they’re aware that separate jackets would be more appealing. It’s clear, though, that they still want quite formal jackets and trousers; effectively a suit in parts, but working better without a tie.

Meanwhile, I’m now working in a university where the environment is more casual, but a jacket uniform is well established (and I even wear a tie when lecturing). But certainly the materials and styles of these jackets are quite different from the formal office (think corduroy!). Much as I like blue, say, a navy blazer can seem too strong; whereas the tones of the jackets in your post are perfect. It will be great to hear more from you about managing this kind of uniform – maybe jacket/trouser coordination, and colours and kinds of cloths to ask for?

Anonymous

I like your commentary on sartorial experimentation. Something, I suspect, we readers occasionally try. It would be interesting to read an expanded version of the process – as a guide to seeking creative but previously unthought-of outcomes. Personally, if done for fun, I find that it can lead to some interesting results. For example: a Liverano-like purple jacket, matched with a denim shirt and claret rough-silk tie. Odd, even slightly out of synch, but strangely complimentary as the denim pulls down the purple whilst the rough silk acts as a textural foil to the denim. Perhaps a minor outcome in the scheme of things but undiscoverable without experiment.

CliffC

Office job here. My default is a suit with tie “just in case” I get an outside meeting (consulting). However, TBH, I probably get 3-4 outside meetings a month. It feels good to dress up! Gotta love cool spring/fall days where its 50 or 60 degrees and all suits are available to wear. On summer hot days, I will wear nice slacks and shirt/tie. Have a navy blazer in the office in case I get an outside meeting.

Justin

I’ve arrived at a similar “daily uniform” that allows for experimentation and variation. Mine is simply shirt+tie+trousers. There is then a huge range off of this in terms of formality. For example, white shirt grey flannel trousers will then drive relatively formal shoes, etc., whereas off the peg corduroy pants and a knit tie push it the other way.
Depending on the day, mood, weather I’ll add a jacket, knitwear, or nithing. It works for me in providing structure and room to experiment as well.

Joseph

Living in a culture that has only borrowed its notion of what’s “dressed up” from other (mainly Western) cultures, people sometimes comment that I’m better dressed than coworkers of similar or even higher status in the organizational chart. I’ve yet to identify why, but I suspect that it’s because I stick to the rather smart ensemble of jacket-shirt-trousers. This means I’m almost always wearing at least two layers, and shirts that have collars. The colors must play a lot into that, as well.

Joseph

Oh dear, I forgot to add what I was going to ask you, Simon. Might as well say it here in a reply.

1. Something that I started to wonder about after reading your first few paragraphs in this post: When Permanent Style first came into wider recognition, how did your coworkers at your (now former) workplace react and engage you on the topic of the website? Was it always common knowledge among them that you were working on PS, or was it a discovery for them?

2. What are the most extreme things (in your opinion) that you couldn’t try weaving into your uniform back when you were formally employed, but that you now have all the freedom to?

Joseph

Thanks, Simon. I can imagine it has been an amazing one-of-a-kind journey for you and PS. The varied reactions only make such journeys more eventful, I would think.

I’m always amazed that cream trousers can be considered extreme in a professional sense these days, when they traditionally were worn in some of the smartest ensembles. An evolution of man’s perception of darker colors as smarter, perhaps.

Simon Miles

Great article, and so relevant to modern dress, where the challenge is how to dress well without looking overdressed, stuffy or contrived. You make it look effortless, as all good menswear should, but I have always thought this is the hardest trick to pull off well. More like this please!

Adam

Simon, sharp looks, as always.

Just a quick question: your loafers in the 4th picture, where are they from?

Cheers.

A

JohnnyDeVore

My Uniform is quite boring by now, but I love how simple dressing became. Each day I only have to choose the jacket and the shoes. This is after experimentig beetwen lots of combos, colors, styles and so on. And I stick to only one tailor.

In Winter:
– Grey Flannels (By now I have 10 pairs, all in the same fabric)
– Blue Oxford Shirt ( (By now I have 30 shirts, all in the same fabric)
– Brown Sportcoat (Herringbone, Cashmere, Tweed, a few checked ones)
– Brown calf or suede Shoes

From time to time I add a Cardigan or wear a Turleneck instead of a shirt

In Summer:
– Beige Linen Trousers (By now I have 10 pairs, all in the same fabric)
– Blue Oxford Shirt (By now I have 30 shirts, all in the same fabric)
– Navy or Blue Sportcoat (Wool, Bamboo,…)
– Brown Suede Loafers

When weather is bad, I wear grey Crispaire Trousers.

Anonymous

Just one word ….. WOW

Tung

Fantastic article, Simon, as always.

Initially, I was so enamored with the beauty of classic menswear and tailoring that I wanted to wear a coat and tie any chance I got and would get jackets made in attention-grabbing fabrics that I saw on Instagram. Eventually, I decided to get real, focus on what I wear the most and acquire the tailored pieces that complement those items.

For example, I used to have pants made in all sorts of funky fabrics and button configurations, and in the end I found myself wearing jeans almost exclusively. So now when I order a new sport coat, I made it a point that the cloth has to work with denim (textured wools, linens, mixes). My daily uniform then would be jeans, loafers or Chelsea boots, open necked shirts some kind of rugged looking sport coat. As far as accessories go, I have a couple of Drake’s square that goes with everything (ecru with a dot pattern & some tonal squares to go with jackets of the same color). It is so liberating to have combinations that you can confidently come back to, and wearing them every day helps to get that air of ‘sprezzatura’ (hopefully!).

Sometimes I entertain the idea of acquiring pieces that I adore – tight-waisted Oxfords or aggressively chiseled double monks. But once I come to grips with the fact that they will not be worn often, if at all, I scrap the idea altogether and save up for a nicer pair of loafers or boots.

I think it also helps to have a retailer who gives you thoughtful and honest advice about your wardrobe. Ethan Newton of Bryceland’s is someone I firmly count among these sartorial gurus. On my last visit to the store, I was so set on ordering a tweed sport coat that looked exactly one of his, and after learning that the weather in my country only permitted the jacket to be worn 1-2 months a year, he immediately talked me out of it and pointed me in the direction of lightweight wools and linens. Such forth-coming advice is so valuable these days.

Russ

I’m typing this sitting in a traditional St James’s club. I and all I see around me are wearing smart suits, shirt and ties. It’s relaxed here because everyone knows and has to abide by the code. It’s comfortable for men to have rules. But outside todays dresswear rules (or their absence) are confusing.

I’m a lawyer who now works from home, doing consultancy work. It’s good to get to the stage where you don’t have to answer to a boss. So I understand what it feels like suddenly to find yourself with your own business needing to please no one else save for the wife and the clients. The problem these days is when I do go to a meeting – do I wear a suit? Many clients don’t. Shall I wear a tie? Most clients don’t. Will I make the client feel uncomfortable if I go traditionally attired to my meeting? It’s easier if the client is female because ladies don’t need to compete with men’s attire, and often prefer a man in a suit. But if the client is a man? I find myself erring on the side of caution – yes to wearing s suit, but do I wear a tie? Sigh of relief if I go without one and the client has none either.

Inevitably, Simon. you’ll find your more traditional clothes spend longer in storage as you’ll be working more on your own and probably defaulting to what’s most comfortable and convenient. But outside the personal office, at meetings, I find there’s a real dilemma about whether one will be perceived as over or under-dressed. The fact that menswear is a multi-billion pounds business shows there is as much interest in looking good as ever there was, but I find there is a real hiatus between enjoying ones clothes as an individual and when with family and friends and understanding what to wear to fit in when with clients and business associates.

Brian

Would working from home (if one can!) not be easier? Don’t have to worry about locker space etc…

Brian

Thanks, Simon.

I presume “non clothing” reasons you mean the boredom of home offices and various interruptions?

John

Hi Simon,
I’ve enjoyed reading this post!
A good idea thinking about “another post similar to ‘Which office are you’ would be good, showing the range of looks within this uniform.”
I just wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to add what you said in this post so that it would be more comprehensive:
https://www.permanentstyle.com/2017/05/seven-levels-of-formality.html
A great deal of posts in sight!…
Suits to dinner? To me, unless a dinner is anyhow a business-like occasion, I would instead choose a blazer first and then work around it according the attendees.
John

Guy Graff

Simon………………….I’v enjoyed your blog for some time now. In a way you have included me in your trials and experiences with various tailors and accessory brands. Although I’ve engaged bespoke for quite some time prior to reading PS, your posts have pressed my button as to considering other options vs my past. I thank you for that.

What has struck me about your blog is it is not about pushing your products or incorporating advertisers products in every presentation you make. When you include those it’s infrequent and at low volume. Again, thanks for that as well.

Please take this the right way, one’s income is a private affair but in terms of this blog, leaving what I consider was a good career situation for PS……………what does that say for the future of how PS is offered? I’m thinking of higher commercialization of PS.

Wishing you the best in this transition!

George

This article is very well timed. When I joined my company, suits ties and oxfords were standard, since then the dress code has relaxed. Now I would normally wear flannels paired with a tailored shirt and either a sweater or a blazer. I find my suits are now rolled out infrequently which is a shame. As much as I struggled with the initial formality of wearing a suit every day I rather miss it, particularly now that I can afford something better cut. I’ve recently been thinking about having a new blazer made but am thinking this time I want something softer and a bit more relaxed, making it more versatile. However I’m finding it hard to work out where best to spend my money. I’d love to try Anderson & Sheppard with their softer shoulders and famous cut but my budget sadly does not stretch to it (or at least I don’t think it does, they haven’t actually replied to my email). Could you recommend another tailor who might be a good alternative? Or do you think it really is worth jumping in the deep end?

ANM

Simon,

Are there any rules when choosing a jacket, or suit if a tie is never going to be worn with it, or is it not a consideration?

Fabric? Cut? Lapel width? Vents? Surgeons cuffs?

ANM

Simon, thanks for the reply…

Interesting….half of Hollywood wears a suit sans tie…..Clooney, etc…even Tom Ford if I am not mistaken…

I think I have a combo that I believe would look off – double breasted jacket without a tie…at least to me..

LD

Hi Simon, do you think you might have commissioned your last suit at this point? Would be a shame to lose this aspect of the blog but you probably have a fair few by now and not much call to wear them. All best with it.
Leo

Patrick Truhn

I had a similar conundrum five years ago when I retired from a thirty-year diplomatic career with a wardrobe full of navy blue and grey three-piece suits, many of which I will readily admit to still liking, and indeed still wear to the hundred or so opera and concert performances a year which have become my new “job,” but clearly they would not do as a daily uniform, especially in laid-back, anything-goes Berlin. I settled into a routine of sportcoat (usually tweed, sometimes cashmere, linen in summer), waistcoat ( tweed, silk, or linen according to the season), and jeans. Occasionally I replace the jeans with corduroy or even flannel, but most of the time I stick with denim. The waistcoat recalls just a touch of formality from my former life, but also adds a bit of whimsy and individuality, and on warm days I often get rid of the jacket and just keep the waistcoat). Berlin is, on average, too wet to wear suede shoes as often as I’d like, but they alternate with calf. The most dramatic change has of course been the color palette, from navy and grey to tan and olive, although one of my most loved pieces is a black velvet jacket which can be dressed up with flannel but just as easily dressed down with jeans. One of the specific challenges I’ve faced is my neck; after wearing a tie every day for thirty-five years, I’m prone to catching a cold if I go with an open neck. In the coldest months I tend to wear cashmere rollnecks, and in the warmer months an ascot or scarf.

Anonymous

Great range of comments. I was reflecting on some of the sentiments and wondered about the modern suit. Historically (pre WW2 esp.) men’s formal wear often centred on separates such as a ‘Stroller’ or Stresemann, combining charcoal/black jacket with striped trousers (descended from the morning suit). The modern lounge suit (same or uniform cloth) was seen as modern and less formal (hence the name). After WW2 Strollers were seen as old fashioned and lounge suits took over with ‘sports’ jackets worn more for weekend wear. I therefore wonder if things have altered again – separates now seen as more acceptable again (with more informal cloth and cut) whereas lounge suits are now seen as formal (due to uniformity of cloth?), and in some surroundings a little old fashioned?

Giles

Simon

On the subject of the formality spectrum, what are the rules regarding shoeings? I struggle with this as I never know how to match my shoes to my outfit. If I wear formal trousers with a jacket and proper shirt, should I wear a laced shoe, and if so an oxford or a brogue? Or is it acceptable to wear a slip on style, such as a loafer? Equally, with jeans and a tweed jacket would it be against the rules to wear a laced shoe ever?
Your guidance here would be very helpful.

Anonymous

When I was a student in the late 1970s I looked at more expensive suiting in department stores like Aquascutum even though I did’nt have much money.I could find none that were in anyway tempting. The same situation exists today except there are even fewer menswear shops around offering suits for sale.So no wonder men are put off suits.Nevertheless I persevered and eventually discovered a first rate traditional tailor in the provinces that made suiting and court dress.Sadly, he died a few years ago.
Apart from the lack of tailors men are put off by the sheer costs involved.Not many people can afford bespoke suits,T&A shirts,C&J or Edward Green shoes etc.Most people are struggling to bring up families,(cars,holidays are expensive extras).In the end I can indulge myself but most cannot.

James

Simon, since you mentioned working from home – any thoughts on dressing (well) when doing so? I can’t bring myself to wear denim around the house and tend to live in old chinos, plain tshirts and lambswool shawl-collar cardigans at the moment.

Kelvin.C

Thanks for sharing, Simon. I agree that there’s more to dressing better between suit & tie and the weekend casual. Men in general needed more inspiration.

Also, staying with a basic uniform (and adding sth experimental at times) seems more effortless and enjoyable on daily basis. Thinking too much on what to wear will become a chore.

anonymous

Simon,
Great post. One of my biggest personal complaints about dressing down in a more casual work environment is giving up wearing ties – ties that I love, are beautiful and I’ve spent a lot of money accumulating over the years. Many days I probably don’t “need” to wear a tie, but I hate seeing all of those ties hanging there unused.

Quick question on the button down collars you are wearing – do you have those made with a front placket?

Anonymous

Hello Simon

Long term reader but first time poster.

I like your site because of the mix of postings, from those who clearly know their stuff, to those who seemingly couldn’t get out of the door in the morning if they haven’t checked with you to see if its okay to wear a belt with their jeans.

But I do wonder, based on how totally daft some of the posts are, if people send in spoof or wind-up questions to see if you will actually post and reply. The one on here about “shoeings” is a case in point. What exactly is a shoeing?

Do you ever think there may be spoof postings?

Regards

Jim

Richard T

I totally sympathise about the trend for eschewing ties. Unless it’s a really casual suit – linen or cotton of some kind – business suits worn with a dress shirt and no tie really don’t work for me.
As I read this post, I’m watching international rugby on the television. Each of the panel of pundits is wearing a navy suit and an open necked blue shirt. They look almost identical. The absence of a tie (or even a pocket square) means that there are no distinguishing features and they look as if they’re wearing a uniform – and a colourless, bland one at that. I love ties for the little touches of individuality they bring to the inevitable navy and grey suits that dominate menswear (for reasons I understand, to some degree, – most of my suits are navy or grey too!). I resolutely refuse to conform to this trend towards blandness and, as a mark of defiance, have just purchased another tie (or yet another tie, as my wife would put it) on-line.

Mike

Hi Simon, thanks for your article about options around the office. Here in the States, ‘casual’ has deteriorated to sloppy – be it office; air travel; or even weddings and funerals. I feel it’s a matter of respect to dress for the occasion. But on the days I’m not in a suit, I still enjoy a jacket and trouser combination (flannels this time of year) and often with a tie although it might be a silk knit or wool club tie. For a more causal effort maybe 4-wale cords; slip-ons; and a button down short or submariner sweater.

TL

I’m an attorney and recently made the move to working mostly out of my home. My work is transactional, so I generally do not go court, and most of my clients are tech companies who hire me without actually caring about meeting in person.

I miss my ‘uniform’, which was the same as that described in thus blog post. Now, I only get to dress like that infrequently. I also go a little stir crazy at home. Perhaps the worst part is that I have a large selection of quality dress shoes that mostly collect dust now.

Nevertheless, I have found a silver lining in all this – it has made me focus on my casual clothes in a way I never have before. When in casual attire, I am now far better dressed than I used to be, having taken the time to find perfect fitting jeans, chinos, sweaters, henleys, workwear inspired items, etc.

Rob Grant

Hi Simon
This piece indicates to me you may be starting to lean a little more towards a smart casual wardrobe than you have in the past.
I would be interested to know how many days you wear a tie to work just because you feel like it. I understand you wear suits and ties when appropriate for some meetings and nice dinners but do you now tend to wear ties less when there is no real need and just stick to a tailored jacket, pants and good shoes more frequently.
I suppose I am trying to get a feel for how someone heavily invested in high end tailoring sees the relevance of ties these days – outside the obvious occassions when they are appropriate.

BespokeNYC

It’s a sad fact, but I find a tie is one of the hardest items of clothing to wear without drawing unwanted attention (usually in the form of questions about whether you’re going for a job interview) and, judging from the comments, many PS readers face similar issues.

Even in relatively formal environments the norm for many executives seems to be the tie-less suit. As a PS reader I much prefer to wear something more akin to your uniform (and am extremely happy to PS for the guidance!)

However, I do occasionally see examples of tie-less suits looking pretty cool (usually when worn by a good-looking Hollywood A-lister) which leads me to my question; are there any circumstances in which it can look good and/or would you ever wear a suit this way? (Assuming none of us is George Clooney!)

Fionn

Hi Simon great article!

I just wanted to ask are there any autumn/winter casual wool trousers besides flannels and cavalry twill.

I’d like a casual trouser that drapes better than cotton and I’m not sure if something like a cavalry twill/whipcord/covert trouser would “go” with a sweater and a button down.

Fionn

Thanks for the response I’ll take it on board and try and find something more textured.

Christian

Great post, and again congratulations to being able to have your hobby as your job. Rather envious of you. 🙂

I often bemoan the lack of sartorial standards in modern life, but one upside is that one gets alot of praise for simply wearing a nice suite, because people aren’t that used to it.
Back in the days, no one would think anything of it, but today you get the extra attention.

Chris

I’ve grown obsessed with your Oxford shirts with the high collar. Advice on where I might find similar would be very helpful.

Douglas

Thanks from a new reader. Your blog has opened a new world into dressing. Particularly, I enjoy your more casual wear (i.e., non suited) as I am early retiree in a casual location. I note that when you wear a button down, it seems often to be one without a front placket. I assume if the case that is intentional and I wonder what sort of shirting makes you more or less likley to use the french front? Also, on the spread collars you seem to favor most, how extreme is the spread and is it a higher than 1 inch band height? Thanks again.

Douglas

Simon, no need. Just curious if you favor higher collars or wider spreads. I have a longer neck and always have felt that a slightly higher collar band/longer point looks better on me. Discovering the option for MTM shirts and sportswear has made it more practical for me to “up my game”; I have a hard time with OTR, given a lean and muscular build. (Apparently mfgrs have to assume all 15-16 necks have 32″ arms and a 38″ chest…) again, love the web site.

Stewart Bone

I think you have developed a great style and appreciate lovely textures. I am presently living in China, Ningbo, but often travel to Shanghai. The bespoke shoes are great (Ben Zhou shoes at 90 Nanyang Lu, Jing’an District, 2600 RMB a pair) and the bespoke shirts (Eleganza Uomo: 59 Maoming S Rd, 600RMB each, suits 3900) fit like a glove. You can ask for what you want in terms of personal style and adjustments. It is very affordable and great service. It is trickier on a short visit to China but I can now order by WeChat. There are many options here if you look around. Prices vary but much better than Copenhagen (my old abode). The South Bund market will copy an EA bespoke shirt for 400 RMB if you ask for better quality (in all aspects) and come with a clear design/style in mind. Most tailors have a range of quality but many customers opt for cheap prices so you get the fused suit, collar, cuff and lapel issues. Pocket squares, cuff-links, belts etc are at very fair prices. Always ask. Silk is a superb option in Hangzhou. However, Chiang Mai in Thailand offers similar prices and excellent quality. I highly recommend exploring possibilities in both these countries but it takes a little research in Shanghai. I will be in Phnom Penh soon and then Laos to research a little. Every city has its options. It would be interesting to have an article or two on asian city options such as Vietnam, PP, Vientiane and Louang Phabang.

Nicholas

This is a fantastic piece; I too wear a ‘uniform’, allowing me to always be comfortable and situation-appropriate. Doing this also allows me to put minimal thought into matching, as all items generally ‘work’ with each other. For the most part I wear chinos, an Oxford and tie, and a jacket or knitwear.

Nicolas Stromback

Dear Simon,

What would you consider be the best choice for a second sport coat, my first being a classic navy wool?

Best
Nicolas

Nicolas Stromback

My thoughts exactly. A muted olive green may be my choice seeing that I mostly will combine it with cream, stone and light grey trousers. Im thinking spring/summer/fall and less formal.

Nathan B Guest, Redland, Bristol

Excellent article. It’s the classic English gentleman abroad look which has so much to recommend it. It’s David Niven, Stewart Granger, Nigel Havers. The “sports casual” look to which I aspire.

vas

It is an intersting idea to stick to the uniform of jacket/trousers but adding the tie as a constraint. At the beginning it will feel odd and restrictive, but believe me, after a while it will get to feel nice! It can be one tie (navy knit) or any tie! The latter is obviously more fun!

TSLon

Hi Simon,

Just wondering who you would recommend if one had to build an affordable capsule collection of jackets in the £500-£1000 price range either off the peg or MTM?

Thanks

TSLon

Thanks for the suggestions. Would you not recommend any MTM brands in that price range? Or does the quality of MTM just not compare to good quality off the peg?

Anonymous

Hi Simon,

I recently ordered a jacket in this fabric and am struggling on what to pair it with. The shade is slightly lighter and the checks are louder in reality. Can you give me some advices?

https://www.instagram.com/p/BvjE3kvH9iY/?igshid=1zao9uyi7vhp

Simon

Hi Simon,
As someone who will shortly be going from wearing a suit every day to whatever I like, I’m about to purchase some flannels for the smarter days – what would you consider more versatile, light or dark grey? With the exception of one hopsack patch pocket jacket and one corduroy jacket (which I’m not sure will even go with flannels), I don’t really have much of a collection, but figure some flannels will be a good starting point. So mostly they’ll be worn with a shirt, knitwear and outerwear.
Thanks

Simon

Thanks Simon!

Anonymous

What is your opinion on a muted burgundy sports jacket in linen or wool/silk/linen?

Would a muted green be more versatile?

I think both could look good with navy, cream or beige trousers.

Mark B.

Dear Simon,
Could you share your view on this?

How do you view combing slightly different textures. For example: 2ply VBC high twist trousers with a 4ply VBC high twist/Finmeresco jacket?

9oz linen in the trousers with 13oz linen jacket?

These are suboptimal but I do believe sometimes there’s quite a bit of difference in the cloths. My query originates from available pieces in my wardrobe which I try to combine. My first concern is seasonality, second colours and then the final is textures (I do not have many clothes in my wardrobe for now, even though it has been built quite extensively for the last 18 months.) Some have been great style and fit RTW trousers I have bought and I combine them with the bespoke jackets I have.

Best,
Mark

Mark B.

Dear Simon,
Thank you for your feedback. I feel the high twist trousers are too sharp for a linen jacket, I do wear them together but sometimes I wonder. I agree that a high twist is better suited to suits or trousers but it was a tailor recommendation a long time ago before I knew better. I had come in asking for (and actually bringing a sample of) a hopsack I had liked and the tailor simply looked at it and gave me a VBC 4 ply. I don’t think it turned out all that bad to be honest. It’s bluer than navy and somehow in a Neapolitan cut works well. It’s gotten a lot of use and travel. These are mistakes we learn from but I still like the jacket and the style works.
I don’t mean to cause any trouble but given your aversion of high twists for jackets, what is your opinion of the Fox Journey?
Best
Mark

Anonymous

Hello Simon, can I ask where the denim shirt you’re wearing on the last picture is from? Is it the one from Niche?

Thanks in advance!

Gazman

“I was experimenting. Often thinking the night before about what I could play around with the next day, and laying it all out, ready.”
I’ve been reading your blog for years and recently started watching your videos. I’ve learned a lot from you, and clearly you are a very dapper gentleman.
But do you ever feel a bit silly devoting so much of your time (and hard-earned) to clothes?