Going Back to Casual

Photo 49

Wow, it got cold fast. 48ºF/9ºC as I write this at 8:50 am. Hence the scarf. That’s no ascot or neckerchief, that’s my grandfather’s silk scarf from the 1930’s. Silk is good for days like this. Scarves are good for the smart casual look.

I bring up smart casual as I have come to realise that many of my readers live in places that are far warmer year-round than Richmond, VA. With the proper tailoring and a bit of forethought any man can look more elegant in his suit. But what about that tricky middle-ground dressing that predominates in places like California?

That’s a tall order for me to fill. I am a staunch supporter of the sport coat, suit, dress shirt and tie. And don’t get me started on shoes. I also find it very difficult to live in khakis; but, I am what used to be called a clotheshorse. Still, there is a need evident. Let’s try and puzzle it out together.

I’ll start by recommending a polo neck sweater like the one I’m wearing in the photo above. I find it the most versatile of the sweater styles. It can frame a shirt and tie like a v-neck. It can stand alone like a tennis shirt/sweater when worn with a t-shirt. It can layer over an open-necked shirt. This one is navy blue, merino wool. I own similar sweaters in cashmere and silk in a number of colours. For the warmer climes you might find one made of singleply cashmere or a blend of cotton and silk more comfortable. I’d even suggest a stronger colour. I have a Johnny collar version from Ben Jones in a lime green that I love. The stronger colour lets you wrap it around your neck like a scarf when the temperatures rise in the afternoon. And in the warmer states, strong colour isn’t something that has to be shied away from.

Pair your sweater with grey flannels and suede brogues as I did today. If flannel wears too hot (although the flannel jeans I wrote of recently would be fine for days in the 60’s to mid 70º’s F), try a charcoal worsted in a very light tropical wool. I have a favourite pair from Zanella. And if you’re lucky enough to get pair of Mr. Rubinacci’s famous pleated, yet trimly tailored trousers, they should do very nicely indeed. (See issue No. 5 of “The Rake.”)

The key to the trouser is to keep it dressy by keeping it dark. Grey and blue are much nicer than black. I also think that you have two choices when it comes to the fullness of the trouser. I think either will work fine. Just make sure that you have them rigourously tailored to fit. Flat fronts do seem to stand alone better than full cut pleated trousers that pair nicely with tailored jackets. My flannels today are cut with a fuller leg (21″ at the knee and tapering to 18″ at the ankle if I recall correctly), but are flat front with a standard rise and side adjusters.

I’ll be thinking a lot more about smart casual, but would love to hear your thoughts. Women have it a bit easier in this department as they have been mixing and matching separates forever and a day.

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