Tailoring in winter is easy: wool, dark colours, done. Spring, on the other hand, poses a problem. It’s bright(er), it’s warm(ish), and suddenly winter’s wardrobe looks a touch funereal. But because you’re not Alessandro Michele, turning up in head-to-toe florals might precipitate a trip to your boss’ office, for a disciplinary.
However, just because the big man didn’t catch Gucci’s runway show, you don’t need to mute your look entirely. With some deft adjustments to not just what you wear, but how you wear it, you can shift your office uniform into something that’s equally as appropriate in the beer garden once you’ve clocked off.
Make A Subtle Statement
British men exist in extremes: by winter, clothes so dark even a Vogue editor might cry out for a touch of something colourful; at the first sight of sun, an explosion of turquoise and canary and crimson to shame the Dutch tulip industry. But these extremes sap each aesthetic of its impact. Elements shine in contrast, so before unveiling your cyan suit, reach for accessories instead.
“Go for a pop of colour in your tie, your shirt, your pocket square, even your socks,” says Sally Samuels, designer at the Savile Row Company. Against winter’s navy and even charcoal suits, bright hues pop, so you stand out without going OTT.
Try a checked shirt with a white or navy background and bright accent colour. Then echo it in your tie or hankie, if your office’s sobriety guidelines allow.
Live In Linen
It’s not just fabric’s weight that dictates how much you sweat. Manmade textiles often aren’t breathable, which is why polyester suits leave your thighs slick even in midwinter.
In summer, the air-circulating A-grade goes to linen, which is hollow and readily absorbs moisture, keeping your skin cool even when the mercury’s bubbling. But this comfort comes at a cost; linen creases quickly and easily, so you look like you’re finishing work before you’ve even hit your desk.
Thankfully, the joys of air conditioning mean that unless your office is in colonial India, you’re unlikely to require head-to-toe linen. “Go for shirts that have linen blended with cotton,” says Samuels. Because the fabric is against your skin, it wicks sweat, which accelerates cooling. “But the shorter, softer, better behaved cotton fibres keep its wrinkly ways in check.” Style and substance.
Chill Out Your Look
It’s not 1950, so you shouldn’t stick to the buttoned-up uniform year-round. Depending on how much leeway your office allows, restyling your suits can make even winter tailoring right for balmier days, according to Graeme Fidler, former creative director at Bally, whose new brand Several; excels in relaxed tailoring and well-crafted staples.
“A classic white tee worn under an unlined jacket and teamed with a smart jean will keep a look sharp, but still cool enough for summer,” he says.
To avoid sweltering, look to shed as much jacket structure as possible; ditch padding and linings for something more akin to a blazer-shaped cardigan, then pair with denim below 13oz to ensure your legs don’t suffocate. Ideally, white jeans, adds Fidler, if you can get away with it. And boast a constitution strong enough to weather the Wham! jokes.
Learn To Shine
When night outlasts day, your fabric choices should gravitate towards texture. Knitted ties, flannel suits and cashmere pocket squares are your winter wardrobe’s most well-worn pieces, adding depth to any outfit even without bright colours. But the sun is best enjoyed with some shimmer, so as it creeps out, your wardrobe should swap texture for sheen.
There’s no need to ditch wool, though – swap your matte suits for mohair, which offers shine without straying into football pundit territory. You can punch up winter fabrics too by adding silk (or at least silky) accessories; glossy ties and pockets squares catch the light and accentuate those brighter shades.
Style Up Your Shorts
Where other cultures understand the practicality of shedding fabric below the knee, British men have avoided shorts ever since Hardy Amies proclaimed a man should never wear them unless he was actually standing on a beach. But then, Hardy Amies also thought you should wear a shirt and tie whenever you were in town. Clearly his commandments didn’t predict the rise of athleisure.
The key to wearing shorts to work is in recognising you’ve picked a statement piece, so muting every other element. “You can’t go wrong with a palette of crisp white and sandy beige,” says Fidler.
Though designers have dragged hemlines groin-wards this season, stick to a slim-fit silhouette that tapers to end an inch or so above your knee. Chino fabric is always smarter; cargo pockets undo that good work. “Team them with a blazer worn over a striped shirt,” says Fidler.