Ask Alan - Spring 2009

With the demise of casual Friday, do jeans still pass muster business apparel in the office?

A good rule of thumb for corporate attire is to dress in line with your superiors and never more casually than your subordinates. Jeans are never in good taste unless you are engaged in manual labor or your boss sports them. Were I starting out to climb the corporate ladder, my style of dress would suggest that I took the job seriously while ready to assume the next level of responsibility. Those sartorial clues can be gleaned from peers who look to be on the upward track, as well as those executives who likewise appear to have their job well in hand.

What’s the correct business sport coat?

As a general rule, a sport coat qualifies as business oriented if it could be substituted for a suit when paired with an appropriate dress shirt and tie. It should be on the dark side with a little pattern and cut in a classic single-breasted two-or three button model. Wearing khakis with a blue oxford shirt and a kelly-green blazer has its moment in the office, so long as its wearer understands that the outfit connotes a casual mien and a fashion orientation colored in traditional American taste.

Why do men wear bright colors in the summer?

The short but more digestible response to your question is that, one, suntans help to balance brighter colors next to one’s face, and second, the fashion pendulum has once again swung toward the American Trad side, which is why Lilly Pulitzer and all lobster patterns in bas relief currently hold stylistic sway. However, the less obvious but more provocative reply would be to first direct your attention to the second chapter of my last book, called “The Power of Color.” The book’s thesis posits that the relevant starting point for all fashion inquiries must always be their relationship to the wearer, not to fashion or to others. If your quest is for something other than this knowledge, you will remain like the person who spends his counting others’ wealth, in this case, poorly dressed.


–Taken from Menswear Magazine Spring 2009