As a proud member of generation X, I spent the better part of my youth sporting flannel shirts, long hair and faded jeans. It worked for me -- at least I had no reason to think otherwise -- but when it was time to get serious about my career, I had to clean up my act. I got a haircut, bought a couple of suits and a handful of ties, and headed out into the world none the wiser.
It was not long before I found myself at an industry conference, where I met a group of very nice, extremely well dressed colleagues at a social event. After I struck up a quick conversation, one of the women boldly told me that it was obvious that I was "new." I acted coy, figuring it was my boyish looks. I asked why she thought so.
"Because your suit is too big, and you are wearing an Iron Man Triathlon watch to formal event," she said.
Turns out that I was committing a fashion no-no. Who knew?
Maybe this was a little pretentious, and it certainly did not kill my enthusiasm, but she was right. I never paid attention to what I wore nor ever thought it mattered that much. Her words stuck with me, however, as did the lesson I learned: In business, what you wear is important.
Of course, fashion is as fickle as the weather, and style is highly dependent on your industry and company culture. So, for men at least, how do we stay stylish and contemporary when stylish and contemporary is not our regular focus?
One way is to leave it to people whose day job is style, such as the experts at Trunk Club, a clothing subscription service for the busy professional man. Subscribers are paired with one of hundreds of trained professional stylists who each month send a box (“trunk”) of clothes, shoes and accessories. These selections are made by matching your preferences and profile with over 80 well known brands to meet your personal style.
You get stylish wear selected by people who are much more stylish than you.
Trunk Club is incredibly convenient, and the selections are awesome, but they are not cheap. If you are operating on a budget and care to go at it yourself, Tom Ballentine, a senior stylist with Trunk Club, offers these tips as we head into the summer.
Patterns always look great on guys, however, it is time to break away from the plaids and into the florals. You can still look masculine while rocking bold floral prints in deep solid colors, but stay away from lighter pastels. To tone your floral print down, pair it with an unconstructed hopsack blazer and denim or a lightweight summer twill pant.
Green is in this year. Try a rich rainforest green or a lighter dusty green. Stay away from pastels and jewel tones. Pair powder green with caramel brown, or a darker watermelon color with khakis.
Not feeling green? The quintessential summer combination will always be white and khaki.
Summer too hot for business suits? Consider these options to look sharp and stay cool:
Khaki sport coats are lightweight and neutral, so they can handle any color combination. If you opt to go with a full khaki suit, it is almost impossible to screw up -- as long as its impeccably tailored.
Lightweight sport coats and “statement” blazers with defined patterns and brighter colors make for great outerwear.
Bamboo or hemp jackets are amazingly lightweight, ideal for humid summer days, and they are both sustainable, Earth-friendly textiles.
Avoid casual blazers with grosgrain (edge) detailing. And unless you are 15 years old, stop wearing a hoodie under the suit with athletic shoes. Stick with a simple T-shirt and consider pairing your suit with a Car-Shoe loafer or monkstrap instead.
You can never go wrong with dark wash, indigo blue denim jeans. They are the most versatile choice and can be worn with anything from a T-shirt to a henley to a button down or sport jacket. As the weather gets warmer, you can also lighten it up a bit with hand-aged treated denim so it looks and feels more broken in. That said, do not wear jeans with holes or that have been acid washed -- you will get confused as an extra from Dukes of Hazzard.
One of the cardinal sins of style is sloppy collars, whether on a button-down shirt or polo. When choosing to not wear a necktie this summer, use magnetic collar stays for a crisp, clean look. On a related note, always wear a fantastic pocket square in your jacket, especially when going without a necktie.
Lastly, ditch the backpacks. Man up and find a classic briefcase with handles. Not only will you ensure the longevity of your jacket (a backpack wears on the shoulders), you will appear more elegant and well dressed.
So there you have it. Simple style tips to look good and stay cool all summer from a guy who really knows what it is to be stylish. If you are like me and still have a closet full of clothes that you hope will swing back into style, stop waiting. Bolo ties and pleated pants are not coming back -- nor should they.
Want more? Check out the Trep-Attire for Men section from Entrepreneur.com on Pinterest for more great tips.