The term “Business Casual” that started as an initiative to lose the suit and tie and promote informality in the workplace has gotten out of hand. While common sense should be the prevailing guideline when it comes to workplace dressing, it often isn’t. Business casual has translated to “Business Sloppy” across corporate America. As an executive at a company, one should dress the part. Those who aspire to leadership have to think hard about what to wear. Executives are in the business of influencing. Clothes can help or hinder those goals.
Dressing the part:
Every executive should own a few well tailored suits. A solid navy, charcoal, brown, a blue or grey with pin stripes. An outstanding example of an executive who knows how to dress is Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle. In a classic blue suit below, Mr. Ellison has the executive look down to the dimpled knot on his silk tie and cuff links. Power dressing at it’s best!
In the next image, Mr. Ellison is dressed in a classic grey suit … a staple item that should be included in every executive wardrobe.
Ties not common place in the workplace? That’s okay – the suit look without the tie is still polished.
Achieving the tailored look:
Far too many executives think that just putting on a suit and tie automatically means you are dressed up. Not true in most cases. Mr. Ellison’s look above is one you can rarely acquire off the rack in a department store. The right fit is key. In general, off the rack clothing rarely fits most men as seen below.
The problem with this look? The jacket is too wide in the shoulders. The trousers are too long in addition to projecting a baggy silhouette. The look is essentially boxy and sloppy. Another commonly overlooked problem is sleeve length. The rule of thumb is for a quarter inch of your shirt cuff to be exposed under the sleeve length of the jacket. Executives should eschew three-button suits; a ’90s trend that is not flattering.
Prince Charles is arguably one of the world’s best dressed man. His look is not accidental. It is steeped in classic Savile Row tradition with a rich heritage of crafting finely tailored clothing. Made to measure or bespoke tailoring may cost more but it’s quality worth paying for!
Completing the look:
Got the suit, jacket, pants part right? Great! It doesn’t stop there. The look of a well tailored suit can be marred by not getting the rest of your ensemble right. The shirt, the tie, belt, cuff links, and shoes and your watch are equally important in achieving the complete look.
I will use the the shirt manufacturing company Ledbury’s take on shirts because they say it perfectly … “Typical brands use excess fabric in the waist and torso, which creates a formless and baggy look. We think our slim fit collection solves that problem with the ideal fit. And slim fit is not just for the slim; it’s a tailored cut that is flattering on most men.”
Please watch this video:
It’s pretty simple with neck wear. Quality silk ties can project beauty, power, and elegance, and enhances the overall look of any suit. French or Italian makes are best. Look for the classic clothiers – Hermes, Ferragamo, Burberry and you can’t go wrong.
When it comes to belts, you should buy one size bigger than your pants. A 34″ waist means a 36″ belt. The buckle’s notch should fit into the center hole of the belt (usually hole number three; most belts have five holes). The tail of the belt should end just past the first loop on your pants. The edge of the belt buckle, the row of buttons on your shirt and your fly should all line up vertically. It is important to match the color of your belt to the color of your shoes. Black with black, brown with brown. Belts below by Ralph Lauren Purple Label.
And the ubiquitous silver tipped golf belt? Definitely does not belong in the board room or anywhere outside the golf course.
Cuff links for the executive represent a very attractive, dressed-up look. They frame a suit quite nicely. Quality is important so choose and invest in a few pieces that are well constructed. Stick with the specialists like John Hardy, Konstantino and David Yurman. All cuff link images below courtesy of Paul Stuart.
A watch is an accessory that speak volumes about an executive. iPads, cell phones and your laptops all tell time but a watch isn’t just about telling the time. Watches are about history, style, engineering marvel and objects that heirlooms are made of. Classic luxury Swiss and German horlogerie houses like Patek Philippe, A Lange & Sohne, and IWC invest countless hours of research and development into high-grade watch movements, employing the finest mechanical engineers in the world. Their watches are about craftsmanship and style, not just about telling time. Before you say that a Timex can keep time as well as a Patek, remember that if life was that simple, none of us would own anything of quality be it clothing, transportation or housing.
They say the shoes make the man, and with good reason … they’re among the first things people notice. Invest in classic styles and be prepared to spend. Like a good suit, you get what you pay for. Items below courtesy Mr. Porter
Boots at work also work well – with laces or the Chelsea variety … courtesy Leffot.
CEO’s … does your executive team look like this?
Or more like this …?