Business As (Un)usual


Most or all of us are working from home these days. Before the entire world changed, I had been looking at some photos on Pinterest and came across a photo of a bunch of men – company or bachelor party, or something to that degree – very posed, and all looking exactly the same. All were wearing slim cut suits with plain shirts and no ties, same haircuts, same pose. I wish I’d saved this photo. I went back to look for it, and I cannot figure out where it was. Point is, this was a look that was popularized around 2010 and has stuck around as the typical business smart-casual norm ever since. I am guilty of it myself, to a degree as evidenced here:

What bothered me most about this look is that it lacks any sort of thought. There’s no creativity. It’s uninspired. It’s boring and typical. In my line of work, I try to sell my company as something different. Looking the same, for me is not an option. So, after seeing this photo of these bros I vowed to step up my sartorial game for future business meetings and trade shows. And when we get back to some sort of normal, I plan to follow some new personally set guidelines. My initial thought is that if wearing a suit, a tie should be worn. And in lieu of a tie, the shirt fabric or pattern should be different, and a pocket square should be worn. When going with separates, a tie can also be dropped, but only if the jacket or pants have an interesting texture/pattern to them. Here are some examples I had in mind…

WITH A TIE

Even something unusual, like wearing a military-style jacket could work in the right setting, and even with a tie. In the bottom right photo, a simple navy knit tie adds a bit of textural contrast. I would wear most of these to a business meeting with a new client, or to a trade show. In fact, I’d rather dress up a little more for a trade show than for a meeting unless I know for sure that the company I’m visiting has a more formal dress code.

WITHOUT A TIE

For me, here it’s all about texture and pattern. Nothing here is overly complicated. It all looks fresh and new. I would wear any of these jackets or combos to more casual meetings or to an informal business event. These looks could also work well when attending a sales presentation, or when visiting my company HQ.

JUST DON’T

The image on the left isn’t terrible, per se. At least the colors work, and the pants have some texture to them. This dude clearly works out. It’s obvious because the pants are way too tight and the jacket is too short, and the lapels are too skinny. The image on the right, again isn’t terrible – it’s just boring.

Anyway, this was something I was thinking about before COVID-19 changed the way we’re doing business. My wardrobe isn’t perfect, and like most thing’s it’s a constant work in progress. Times change. Tastes change. In a few years, these looks may be irrelevant as well. Maybe even in a few months. Hopefully not.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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