Office wear can be a notoriously tricky subject for writers to approach. The vast number of professions, dress codes and budgetary restrictions to cater for means that finding middle ground is often difficult. Today we’re attempting just that.
Hopefully by breaking down the subject into various scenarios and codes of dress, a point of interest can be found – or, if not, a solid foundation for personal interpretation – for every individual who identifies as a FashionBeans man.
Spring/Summer Office Wear
Now, we all know the basics of office wear. Our colleagues, the employee handbook and ‘the powers that be’ have all agreed the conventional guidelines as to what (and what not) to wear in and around the workplace.
However, with the spring/summer season now in full swing, the office wear conundrum is beginning to get a little more cumbersome. With the mercury on the rise from this point on, the question of how to tackle the growing heat, coupled with less-than-effective air-con, is certainly a tricky one. This is hampered evermore by strict dress codes – restricting your choices to the most formal of pieces in your wardrobe.
What To Avoid
Now there are many obvious options that will help tackle the heat, like the short sleeve shirt. Shirts of the shorter sleeved ilk have been on the rise recently, with a rejuvenation of sorts bringing them firmly back into the mind of the modern, fashion-conscious male.
However, short sleeves and a tie for the boardroom or a corporate office? Really? The combination smacks of a fast food chain worker or Dave from IT. The only accessories you’ll need with that combination are a name-tag and hairnet. Not to mention that it’s seldom an option to cover up your lack of sleeves with a jacket or knitwear due to the heat. With all this in mind, short sleeves are definitely not the quick fix you’re after.
Linen is another great (and obvious) solution to combating the heat. Except it has too much going against it when it comes to applying the fabric to the ‘rat race’. The wrinkles and creasing that offer so much natural charm and appeal simply look scruffy for an office that demands a smarter appearance. The impression of an un-pressed suit is not one you want to give, especially when you’re supposed to be looking as sharp and put together as possible.
Finally, absolutely do not simply carry over your suit from last season. We like to think it goes without saying (although we fear it doesn’t) but polyester or wool variations will be a nightmare in the sun. You will not be doing yourself (or anybody around you) any favours by sticking with them. Office wear is certainly one place where having separate wardrobes, theoretically if not literally, is an absolute must.
What To Embrace
Start by remembering that natural fibres are your friends during spring/summer. This applies to every aspect of your wardrobe and not just your work wear. We’ve already discussed why linen in the more formal of environments is something to steer clear of.
Nonetheless, when blended with, say, cotton it becomes a saviour. These blends offer the positive properties of both materials whilst restricting the drawbacks. A linen-cotton blend suit will be a much lighter and airier option than full cotton or wool equivalents, and yet it also negates the appearance of wrinkles and creases, especially if you opt for a timeless dark neutral such as chocolate or navy. Silk blends are a luxurious option worth considering if your budget will stretch to it.
A cotton suit is certainly something you’ll want to ponder working into your work wear rotation. This variation has really progressed over recent years and a well made one is definitely office worthy and well worth considering for its more breathable merits.
Consider ditching your jacket if your dress code will allow it; opt in favour of a waistcoat instead for a cooler option. Despite its reputation, the waistcoat is a credible and viable option for your office wear attire year round – as long as you’re wearing it the right way and the fit is spot on.
As with your suits, keep your shirts lightweight. Lighter weight cottons and cotton-linen blends are the road you should unquestionably be going down to keep you from overheating. If you have a propensity to perspire, consider an undershirt to absorb any sweat that appears during the day.
The lookbook below features a wide range of formal looks from recent SS13 campaigns. It just goes to prove that breathable, spring/summer appropriate tailoring can look as sharp and refined as its autumn/winter counterparts:
Dressing for any situation that requires you to be totally on point proves to be a tricky affair come the warmer weather. Swapping your full wool suit for a more breathable equivalent, supplemented by lighter weight shirts, is the best change you can make.
Colours and patterns have been kept to a minimum in this look. Dependent on your own personal style and dress code restrictions, you could experiment and inject these as and when you see appropriate.
Footwear can be equally awkward when it comes to summer. Loafers are a contentious subject. However, if your office dress code stretches to them then they present a less structured alternative to the brogues featured here:
- Reiss Drive Small Collar End On End Slimfit Shirt Ice Blue
- Burberry London Wool And Linen-blend Suit
- Reiss Christie Plain Jaquard Silk Tie Bitter
- Asos Tie Bar
- Topman Off White Pocket Square
- Grenson Kingsley Brogues 147354
Smart Dress Codes
It is important to note that SS13 lookbooks will often create looks without socks in order to emphasise the season, but again this is something you need to determine whether appropriate for your own place of work:
An office that adheres to a smart, but slightly less stiff, dress code opens up a variety of options. These include (but aren’t limited to) integrating classic patterns, prints and pops of colour into your look. Again, for the purposes of keeping it broad and wider reaching, these have been somewhat restricted in the example outfit below.
The double-breasted blazer has been a prominent piece over the last two years. A well fitting version is certainly worth investing in, as the style doesn’t look likely to be retreating anytime soon. A white shirt and a spring/summer-patterned tie bring personality whilst remaining smart and office appropriate.
Mix up your tailoring with some separates; contrast a dark blazer with some lighter trousers, all the time keeping the fabrics weather appropriate. Footwear is again a ‘play it by ear’ case, much like the above. Where the rules are relaxed, perhaps look for some on trend contrasting soles:
- Richard James Cotton-poplin Shirt
- Reiss 1971 Broadgate Double Breasted Blazer Indigo
- Asos Gingham Tie
- Zegna Cotton Chino Trousers 153432
- Topman Blue Chambray Pocket Square
- Florsheim Doon Oxford Leather Shoes In Brown
Of course, the large majority will not have the disposable income necessary to curate a completely separate spring/summer and autumn/winter working wardrobe. In this case, just a few key pieces will ensure your formal collection remains versatile and weather appropriate all year round:
- Reiss Rushby Three Button Notch Lapel Linen Suit Airforce Blue
- J.crew Ludlow Cotton-oxford Suit Jacket
- Asos Slim Fit Blazer
- Topman White Double Cuff Long Sleeve Smart Shirt
- Brooks Brothers Seersucker Stripe Shirt 146617
- Esprit Oxford Shirt
- Alfred Dunhill Check Mulberry Silk Tie
- Reiss Christie Plain Jaquard Silk Tie Rose
- J.CREW MICRO-STRIPED COTTON TIE
- Jeff Banks 24:7 Pure Cotton Twill Trousers
- Allsaints Javal Trouser
- Reiss Bradley T Micro Check Cotton Trousers Stone
- Churchs Firbeck Oiled-suede Wingtip Brogues
- Allsaints Conduct Shoe
- Bass Weejun Larson Black Loafers
Office wear is a perennially difficult subject to tackle, yet it is one that is relevant to many readers. From as early as spring, appropriating your wardrobe for both the office and the weather can stump even the best of men. Hopefully this article has offered an insight into tackling stricter dress codes when the heat begins to make its mark.
Tomorrow we will break down more smart-casual and creative orientated dress codes. Contrary to popular belief, these can be equally as problematic. However, as always, we’ve got it covered.
Let us know how you have begun to adjust your formal wardrobe for the warm weather we have been experiencing lately, and your personal tips for staying cool but looking sharp in the comments section below…