Monday, December 4, 2006
When most of the customs about what to wear evolved, the automobile was in its infancy. Men might live in the suburbs, but they dressed for the city.
The past fifty years have seen the rise of suburban centers of employment like Oakbrook, Tyson's Corner, and Stamford in the United States, and Maidenhead, outside of London. Silicon Valley is an agglomeration of suburbs.
Classic dressing in the suburbs deserves its own consideration. Most country clothes don't look quite proper in suburban offices, and the city's navy pinstripes are usually equally out of place.
Men working in the suburbs have the same need to make a good impression as their peers in the city. The most effective way to do that is to wear a suit or odd jacket, or in very informal environments a cardigan sweater, with dress trousers and good shoes. A jacket gives you a more finished look as well as pockets for your stuff, so you don’t have to wear your cell phone on your belt.
Suburban clothes should usually be no more formal than the least formal city clothes, or what the English call Friday or town suits. That means single breasted two or three button suits or jackets that may have sports detailing such as ticket pockets or patch pockets.
The suburban setting also lends itself to mid range colors and less formal fabrics like flannel and gabardine. That doesn’t mean anything goes, however. Reserve your loud plaids and bright colors for resort or country clothes. Good suit fabrics include:
-Air force blue flannel
-Black and white houndstooth
-Black and white glen check with a blue or red overcheck
-Tan nailhead fresco
If you choose to wear an odd jacket and trousers they should be classically conservative:
-navy hopsack with mid-gray gabardine trousers (no brass buttons please)
-Black and white herringbone jacket with dark gray flannel trousers
-Tan, gray and cream glen check with brown flannel trousers
-Lovat Harris tweed with mid-gray flannel trousers
Shoes for the suburbs are colored any shade of brown as well as burgundy. Good choices include monk straps, derbies, and brogued oxfords with single leather soles. Plain city oxfords are too formal, but brown suede semi-brogues come into their own. Slip-on casual shoes such as tassel loafers may also be worn, however they are less suited to extended walking than lace-ups or monk straps.
Closing the Neck
In many suburban environments a necktie can be out of place. The popular way to deal with a tie-less look has been by omission, which is to wear a dress shirt and leave the collar unbuttoned. Unfortunately, this leaves the collar leaves flapping and looks unfinished.
A better visual presentation results when you wear a sweater with a turtleneck or mock turtleneck, or a crew neck with a button down collar dress shirt underneath.
Classic dressing without neckties cries out for a sleeveless crew neck sweater to wear under a jacket but of course you can’t find one anywhere.
That’s not to say that neckties are out of place in the suburbs, although the most formal ones are. Choose Irish poplin stripes, for example, instead of silk Macclesfields and Spitalsfields.
The suburbs are mid-way between the formal city and the informal country, and classic dressing for the suburbs should be the same.