I’ve been very casual of late… taking down the tree, shaking everything back into place after the holidays. But, before you start to worry about me letting down the easy and elegant side, consider the elements of a casual wardrobe. Or, as casual wardrobe as I think it should be.
Here are a few easy and elegant elements that will make up the cornerstone of your casual wardrobe:
1.) The polo collar sweater. It can function as a “normal” sweater over a shirt and tie, with or without a sportcoat, or stand on its own. The most luxurious would be of cashmere, but merino wool doesn’t lag too far behind in the refined department. I tend toward solid colours, navy (see the photo above,) camel, olive, grey and black are the most frequently pulled from the closet. But a nice chartreuse, robin’s egg blue, orange, red will liven up the typical man’s wardrobe palette. When worn as a stand alone layer, I find it useful to have a silk, longsleeve undershirt worn beneath to keep me a bit warmer. An even more casual alternative are the “new” half-zip versions or a shawl collar style.
(Isaia via SierraTradingPost)
2.) The v-neck sweater. Not as useful as the polo collar in that I don’t like them worn over a t-shirt only. But they do frame a collar and necktie very nicely. While I have a few sweater vests (better for those in between days,) the long sleeve version is preferable to me as I don’t feel as self-conscious working without a sportcoat. As with a polo collar sweater, I may tuck a silk neckerchief in an open collar shirt as a discreet way to hide my undershirt, if the “v” is deeper.
3.) The cashmere (rollneck) turtleneck sweater. In black or navy it is a fast way to make a pair of corduroys and a tweed jacket look a little more pulled together.
4.) Jeans. Yes, jeans. Straight leg. Dark rinse. No rips. No tears. No “whiskers.” No fraying. Have them drycleaned to maintain them in good order. Corduroys (I like at least eight wale wide) and moleskin trousers are so ridiculously comfortable that you may be willing to trade in your denim permanently. But I am starting to believe that there are some occasions where denim is … expected … and appropriate.
(Levi’s Original 501 Jeans.)
5.) Grey Flannels. The workhorse of the winter wardrobe. Choose single pleats or flat fronts (although you will see double pleats become fashionable again by next year.) Yes, you may wear your flat fronts with cuffs (turn-ups) if you like. I prefer Oxford grey or charcoal. They go with everything. These days, in fact, a gentleman dressed in impeccably cut flannels and a blue blazer, accessorized with a crisp white shirt, sober tie and white pocket square will be well-dressed for all but a black tie affair.
(J Crew for a fashionable fitting traditional trouser.)
6.) Monkstrap shoes. They fall somewhere between dress and casual and so can be dressed up or down. Add a lug sole and they are more casual, but sturdy enough to survive wintery sidewalks. Good alternatives are pebble grained, lug soled bluchers, a paddock boot and cordovan tassel loafers (no kilties, please.) Suede is always elegant, if a bit impractical in inclement weather.
(Monkstraps by Romano Martegani)
7.) The sportcoat or blazer. Not always necessary, but always welcome. Tweeds and checks will let you stand elegantly apart while still remaining casually dressed. Wear them with any of the trousers mentioned above. As a side note, I love a double-breasted blue blazer or tweed jacket (I’m not sure you can find one off-the-rack.) Even jeans look more elegant under them.
8.) Hidden buttondown collars. They stand up like their more traditional brethren, but by virtue of being hidden are more easily dressed up when called upon to stand with the double-breasted blazer. Cut-away collars also work well standing alone, but to wear one casually may require an advanced degree in sprezzatura.
(Haupt via Joseph’s of Portland)
9.) Your Coat. This gets tricky. I’m a big fan of wearing a topcoat, see my posts on the camelhair polo coat, but when the weather turns wet as well as cold, a weatherproof coat made of the Stormsystem fabrics from Loro Piana or a Barbour product will be your best friend.
(Loro Piano’s Martin-Gala Coat)
As Instructor McGuire says: “There’s no such thing as bad weather; only bad gear.” Look good on your downtime this winter.