Resident style consultant and founder of men’s style blog The Chic Geek, Marcus Jaye answers the latest batch of readers’ questions in this month’s FashionBeans Q&A…

What’s Your Pleather?

“I know you guys tend to promote the use of faux fur over real fur on moral grounds, but what about leather? Where would I be able to find quality pleather menswear?”

Tyler, via contact form.

Pleather, faux leather or ‘leather look’ material – whatever you want to call it – has always been seen as a cheap alternative to genuine leather, but over time, as leather has become less expensive, the gap in quality has narrowed between the two.

Choosing pleather over real leather is now more of an ethics- or aesthetics-based choice, rather than a purely financial one.

Take, for example, newly launched cult Japanese brand The Fourness, who are producing a masterfully constructed PU leather jacket for autumn/winter 2015 that’s set to retail for just under a thousand pounds – if that doesn’t prove pleather’s style credentials, we don’t know what does.

Anyway, back to the here and now, I don’t know of one particular brand that specialises in stylish pleather (potentially a gap in the market), but there are a few designs from big name brands and retailers to look out for this season.

Swedish label Cheap Monday has this classic biker silhouette for £100, which would look on point worn with a pair of slim or skinny jeans and a well-cut T-shirt:

Alternatively, for something that manages to tone down that tell-tale pleather shine, go for a textured style like this one from Topman (£85):

Most high street stores and affordable brands now sell pleather jackets, but it pays to be discerning when choosing pleather over leather – you want it to look unique, rather than like a subpar quality imitation.

Leather/Pleather Jacket Lookbook Inspiration

Below you will find some lookbook imagery to help inspire your own outfits, once you have invested. Note: it shows a mix of genuine leather and pleather products.

Zara Editions AW13 H&M SS15 Mango Man SS14 CCC AW14 Mango Man SS14 AllSaints SS15 Vince SS15 AllSaints SS14 Zara SS15 Pull & Bear Black Label SS15 Tiger Of Sweden AW14 GQ's Fall Fashion Preview 2014

Jacket & T-Shirt Layering

“I like to wear a navy bomber jacket or shawl cardigan over a white or grey T-shirt but when I wear a navy or black T-shirt instead, I realise I don’t really have anything to layer over them.

Can you recommend any key colours or particular pieces that I could wear over my navy or black T-shirts?”

Will, via contact form.

Black, white, grey and navy are classic colours that make up the majority of men’s wardrobes. The reason for this is that they all work together. They are masculine neutrals, if you will, and can be used as a base on top of which to incorporate, or play around, with other hues, patterns and prints.

Personally, I think your navy bomber would look perfectly fine over the darker colours you mentioned. Why? Because when layered over a navy T-shirt, you could use your jacket to pull off a head-to-toe navy tonal look. Also, on the whole black with navy issue, we’re sticking to our guns – there’s nothing wrong with wearing the two together.

That said, there are colours which some would argue would work better over your navy and black T-shirts (grey, beige and shades of white, for instance) but that would mean buying several jackets or knits just to suit your tees.

If going down this route, our recommendation would be a beige or grey shawl neck cardigan, which will complement all of your neutral tees and can be used year-round, and perhaps an off-white/cream lightweight blazer or bomber jacket for the warmer months, depending on whether you prefer to dress up or down.

Navy & Black T-Shirt Layering

Zara SS15 Reiss SS14 Mango Man SS15 Massimo Dutti SS15 Massimo Dutti May 2015 Zara SS15 Bensimon AW15 Massimo Dutti May 2014 Massimo Dutti SS15 Selected Homme AW14 Bohemian SS14 J.Crew SS15 H&M AW13 Massimo Dutti AW14 Zara SS15

A Smart-Casual Jacket

“I have a navy wool blazer, navy cotton unstructured sport coat, navy lined blazer and navy Harrington jacket. What should I invest in next for a smart-casual jacket for spring, summer and early autumn?

My budget is £150 maximum and I’d like to wear the jacket with dark denim, button-down Oxford shirts and plain colour polo shirts.”

Rudolph, via contact form.

Thanks to my keen sense of perception, I’m noticing a navy theme here – so let’s stick to it with a simple navy/indigo denim jacket.

Trust me, when buttoned up, a denim jacket looks really fresh and has something (Marlon) Brando about it. You can wear it with your jeans and a white polo for an on-trend double denim effect or dress it up with your Oxford shirts and slim trousers/chinos for something slightly smarter.

I spotted this dark indigo style in Marks & Spencer’s North Coast range (£39.50), while New Look has a lighter wash version (£25) that will work better for high summer and holidays:

NORTH COAST Denim Bomber Jacket - Click To Buy New Look Blue Basic Denim Jacket - Click To Buy

Alternatively, you could consider a mechanic or trucker jacket – like this one from Jigsaw, which comes in a slightly relaxed fit and is crafted from premium wool and cotton twill.

It’s similar to a denim jacket in its chest pocket detailing but has more of a workerwear feel over all. And it comes in bang on budget too, at £149:

Denim/Worker Jacket Lookbook Inspiration

Banana Republic Pre-AW14 Burton AW13 House of Fraser SS14 AllSaints SS13 Next AW14 Marks and Spencer SS15 Banana Republic Pre-AW14 Mango Man SS15 Burton SS14

Office-Appropriate Summer Wear

“Which high street retailer is packing the best office-appropriate tailored shorts and short-sleeved shirts this summer?”

Lee, via contact form.

Reiss always seems to know how to do ‘summer smart’, understanding that being weather-appropriate doesn’t mean you have to forfeit looking professional. Their aptly named ‘Brighton’ tailored shorts would team easily with a blazer and short-sleeved shirt or tee.

Keep it clean and simple on the shirting front – consider this subtly printed ‘Stark’ design. When buying a short-sleeved work shirt, find one you could wear with a formal tie, even if you don’t actually plan to – that’s the style you want, not an open-collar Hawaiian number.

And watch how many of those buttons you undo – there’s little to be said for mirroring Simon Cowell’s style in the office.


A Quality Laptop Bag

“Can you recommend a high quality, stylish bag to fit my 15″ laptop and a few textbooks?”

Tom, via contact form.

There are few bags better built to lug this kind of stuff than a backpack. While on first thought a backpack might not seem to satisfy your ‘stylish’ criterion, we’re seeing a slew of new styles that are redefining this utilitarian classic.

This Piccadilly leather style from Brooks England is one of the most elegant backpacks I’ve seen, managing to deftly straddle the divide between traditional and modern. The front body fastening is a nice detail and because it’s made from high quality vegetable tanned leather, it will only improve with age.

It’s priced at the higher end of the market but – when compared to designer bags – offers great value for money:

That said, if the need to carry textbooks means you’re shopping on a student’s budget, it’s only right that we include a more affordable option.

ASOS are currently stocking this sleek black leather backpack, priced at £65, which is not only timeless and practical, but also extremely versatile – it would work just as well with tailoring as it does sportswear:

Affordable Printed Swim Shorts

“Can you recommend a pair of quality printed swim shorts for under £50? Nothing too garish, mind.”

Steve, via Twitter

There’s a London-based men’s swimwear brand called Boardies which offers printed styles that sit between cheap high street types and the ridiculous, same-cost-as-a-holiday designer versions.

Boardies’ shorts are about £45 a pop and come in lots of fun 1980s-style prints – I’m a fan of the ‘Disco Ball’ and ‘Paisley’ designs:


Get Involved

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Drop your questions in the comments section below, submit them via our dedicated contact form, or tweet us your queries using #FBQA.