Pushing the Envelope


It’s very late summer — after Labor Day — and your eyes do not deceive you; I’m wearing linen trousers and an open collared shirt. And it’s a weekday. Many will raise an eyebrow and say that I am pushing the envelope of what is correct wear for the date.

The other evening, Mrs. E. and I were privileged to have a casual supper with our neighbours. They live behind us on Monument Avenue in a house that was constructed for Stonewall Jackson’s surgeon. The house is magnificent. Tall mahogany wainscoating, a spiral staircase, coffered and arched ceilings, bookshelves, stone walls, walk-in fireplaces, French doors, a stained glass window that looks suspiciously like it was done by Tiffany and fifteen foot ceilings take your breath away.

It is also unairconditioned. Well, to be fair, there are rooms, like the library, that are cooled with window units. The evening in question was very temperate and I was most comfortable. The son of the house mentioned that it can get pretty close on certain days… .

Can you imagine what it was like for the Antebellum inhabitants who wore far more of everything than we do today? In a way, we are lucky to have such flexible dress codes.

I struggle with this sort of thing — business casual. This isn’t it. Business calls for wearing socks, at least, and for that extra button to be fastened. In fact, there are those that will tell you, quite rightly, that business casual implies a sportcoat and odd trousers. The tie is optional.

But today is hot: 90ºF/32ºC predicted. Ugh. I have no meetings scheduled, only a phone call. And I have errands to run. I stand firm on the wearing white after Labor Day rule, and GTH/party pants aren’t really at all serious. Seersucker screams summer. That leaves me with linen. I have navy, black, and tan linen trousers that will continue to see the light of day as long as that day is stifling, Africa hot. These were made by my tailors. (Full disclosure: they have just become advertisers on Easy and Elegant Life!)

The reason that I have stayed away from this sort of casual ensemble is that it is difficult to pull off and look at all elegant. Or at least not like a clueless manager interpreting the biz casual rule. Khakis tread that line. Especially when worn with a golf shirt. Choose instead a long sleeve (preferably very lightweight fabric) shirt, and very dressy trousers. Pair with your best polished loafers.

And if all else fails, grab that Hopsack blue blazer, the Gold Bond Body Powder and smile through the perspiration.

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