An introduction to professional fashion
This article certainly doesn’t encompass everything there is when it comes to clothing, but it does make for a great jumping-off point for those who are interested. Three points I didn’t talk about due to length but highly recommend looking into is a good overcoat (A good start being here), and body shape (A good start being here) along with how to dress for your body type (A good start being here). Lastly, this article isn’t just for men, women can take some of the information here and apply it into both formal events and when you are working.
I’m graduating. What am I supposed to wear to graduation?
I’m glad you asked. First, this first part is for anyone who wants to wear a suit. If you don’t think women can dress well in suits, just take a look at Sonya Glyn (@sonyaglyn on instagram) as an example. When it comes to dressing formally like you do for graduation, it is better to have good shoes and a bad suit than to have bad shoes and a good suit. The first thing any man should know is that these events are about discretion. Unless you’re the guest of honor, which in the case of graduation you’re not, it’s better to be a well-dressed face in the crowd. What I’m recommending here is the kind of things you can wear for any formal event where a suit is needed.
Formal dress shoes
A good pair of leather dress shoes will age well if taken care of and last a long time if you get ones that can be resoled. As to how to take care of your shoes, first, you’ll need a shoe care kit, a video of which you can find here. As for how to care for your shoes, below you’ll find multiple videos you can watch that go from what to do when you first buy your shoes to how to take care of it when there’s mud, all of which can be found below. Before doing any research into companies, I would recommend getting your feet sized not only for the length but the width as well.
When it comes to the construction of shoes, I recommend either Blake stitch or Goodyear welt. Blake stitch are not as water resistant as Goodyear welt, which is why I recommend Goodyear welted shoes when it comes to a country where there’s more water such as Canada. Below, you can find a list of shoe companies that make both Goodyear welted and Blake stitched shoes but if you have the money for something more expensive, a few companies I would look into are TLB Mallorca, Carmina or Allen Edmonds (This company has sales semi-regularly so you can check for a less expensive price). In terms of the color for leather, I would look at what color you wear in terms of leather. That watch you can’t take off, that leather bracelet you wear to impress others and even those beaten up boots, what color are they? If they tend to go towards browns, I would recommend a nice dark brown leather and if they tend to go towards darker non-brown leathers, I would recommend a nice black leather.
However, there are tons of types of shoes so what should you choose you may be asking yourself. My recommendation is a nice cap-toe Oxford with a leather sole or, at worst, a thin rubber sole since it is versatile enough formally to wear to your graduation, weddings, job interviews, funerals and if shined properly, to a black tie event or a white tie event, though make sure to switch the laces to dress laces. If you want to look for something that is a little more out there yet still classic and stylish, I recommend a monk strap shoe with either one or two monk straps again in the dark coloured leather that fits you the best. Below, you will find a link to an article created by shoegazing talking about low-priced quality shoes that you can look at with both Goodyear welted shoes and Blake stitched shoes.
Before looking at this section, I recommend reading this article. Once you have a good pair of dress shoes, it’s time to get a suit. First, a definition. A suit is a jacket and pair of pants, sometimes including a waistcoat, a picture of which can be found below, made of the exact same fabric. When you have a waistcoat of the same fabric, it is a three piece suit and when you don’t have a waistcoat, it is a two piece suit with pictures of both below. I would recommend getting a two piece suit unless you plan on wearing your waistcoat often with your suit or separately. A suit is not a tuxedo nor an evening tailcoat with full-dress trousers. Also, if the suit has shawl lapels, it’s lying to you and is secretly a tuxedo. Run away fast or it might make you think you’re James Bond.
You can get either a glued suit, which I recommend only as a last resort, or a canvassed suit. A few places that make decent suits are Suit Supply, which you can go see in person; pier and Mackay, which is mostly online unless you head to one of their measurement shops; and Jaco Uomo, which is in-person. The first thing you may encounter when searching for companies that make suits are ready-to-wear, made-to-measure and bespoke. If you tend to fit into the clothes you find in shops, go for a ready-to-wear suit and have it tailored to you by a tailor. If you tend to have difficulty finding clothes that fit you, go for a made-to-measure suit. As for bespoke, I would tell you to steer clear unless you’re willing to have a few things made by this maker, building a relationship overtime and realizing that you may make expensive mistakes and it won’t be absolutely perfect.
In terms of features, I suggest getting a jacket that is single breasted, that is a suit with only one line of buttons since it doesn’t stand out as much as a double breasted suit, suit with either two buttons or a three-roll two, a notch lapel, flap pockets and ideally a bit more structure in the shoulders. As for the pants, I would recommend something that sits around the hips or higher with slanted pockets but the rest is up to you. Lastly, I would recommend the fabric be either navy or charcoal gray that either has a plain or interesting weave, which is how the fabric is made. Remember that this is the kind of suit that you can wear to any formal event where you need to wear a suit and people don’t tend to notice the plain looking suit being worn again and again.
Once you have your shoes and suit, you can get your shirt and tie. The biggest part about the shirt is the collar. I recommend getting a white spread collar shirt [Picture below] that seems to suit everyone in 100% cotton which will suit any formal event. With the cuff, you can either go barrel cuff or a French/double cuff. With a French/double cuff, you need cufflinks, which a family member might have lying around, or you may have to buy yourself.
As for the tie, I recommend a 100% silk tie that is either solid or has small white dots in navy or black. I will say that it isn’t inherently necessary nowadays since some guys wear suits without ties but I wouldn’t recommend it since a tie just, pun slightly intended, suits the outfit. For anyone who is more gentle with their clothing or is okay with repairing their tie (An article below will show you how to repair a grenadine tie), I recommend a grenadine tie since it can be worn with separates, which is explained later, along with their suit. Otherwise, I recommend a repp tie. In terms of companies, a few decent places for ties are Aklasu, Brooks Brothers and Chipp neckwear. If you want to look more rakish, which in the case of a formal event like this I wouldn’t recommend, you can not put the back of the tie into the tie keeper, a picture of which is below.
For all of these options as well as the ones below, you can always go for vintage but realize that you need to have some expertise on what makes a good product as well as the time to look for the right product.
Once you have everything above, you can look at a few potential accessories, excluding the tie. The two things you have to remember is don’t put the emphasis on the accessories. That is, use accessories like a spice; not too much to overpower everything else but enough to notice. Also, get classic accessories because maybe one day, your future son or daughter will want something to remember you by. For most, except the watch, I don’t really have any particular recommendations but do recommend looking at jewelry stores or secondhand stores for most of these items.
First, there’s the tie bar, which should be about 3/4 of the tie width, should be straight and it should be placed between the 3rd and 4th button. The tie bar is meant to hold your tie and shirt together so that it doesn’t flop in the wind. I wouldn’t say that this is inherently necessary like everything above but it helps maintain the beautiful look you have crafted.
Next, there’s cufflinks, which only apply if you’re wearing a French/double cuff shirt. I recommend getting vintage cufflinks that have some precious stone or something monogrammed with your initials if someone you know doesn’t have one already.
Thirdly is a dress watch. Remember, you’re not James Bond, no matter how suave you may look in your suit. A dress watch has a simple face and the case is thin enough to slide under your shirt for discretion. Two good companies I would recommend are Seiko and Orient, more specifically the Orient Bambino which can be found on amazon (I’ve owned the white face V2 Gen 2 for over 3 years).
If you have any rings that are discrete, wear them, along with any discrete bracelet.
Lastly, there are boutonnieres, which are flowers you wear in your lapel buttonhole, or a pin which can be worn in your lapel buttonhole. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them but if your outfit is pretty barebones and you want something, I would say go for it. One last piece of advice when it comes to dressing well, whether that be wearing a suit or anything else, Coco Chanel said “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” Now, I’m not saying to show up wearing a suit with no dress shirt under nor look too much into her history but if you look at yourself and find some accessory that stands out too much, take it off. You want people to look at your face, not some random accessory.
What happens now that I’ve graduated?
You get a job, of course, but what to wear you may ask. This advice works for both men and women. When it comes to dressing professionally, you should get items that don’t stand out too much. Like a formal event, it’s better to be a well-dressed face in the crowd.
A few ground rules, from Permanent Style’s Casual chic: the art of looking smart without a suit the link being here, are to wear subtle colors and keep patterns simple along with making sure your clothes fit you, they are of good quality materials and are clean.
The first thing I would recommend anyone should get is a navy blazer. This navy blazer is a wonderfully classic yet versatile item. As for details, I would recommend something with less padding in the shoulders like a Neapolitan-styled shoulder, a two or three-roll two button configuration, patch or flap pockets and notch lapels. (Link to blazer guide for more info here). If you want to get another blazer, you can get a double-breasted navy blazer that you wear less often since it’s the kind of piece that will stand out more.
After the blazer, you can, but not necessary, get a sports coat to change things up. A sports coat is a jacket that isn’t a suit jacket nor a blazer. I won’t recommend anything in particular for a sports coat but I would aim more towards something classic and versatile like a herringbone, a tweed or a houndstooth with either a two or two-roll-three configuration with ideally patch pockets.
In terms of casual jackets, if you are allowed to wear them, I would recommend getting something that follows the above guideline such as a chore jacket in a dark color. These work as a less formal version of the navy blazer or sports coat and work just as well when you’re off the clock.
In terms of shirts, I recommend the Oxford cloth button down or OCBD. This shirt is also versatile, sitting in the middle of formal and casual. As for details, there isn’t much I can say except try to get one with a nice S-shape or roll if you prefer the look, preferably 100% cotton and a regular shirt placket which is the front where you button the shirt but I do recommend starting off with white, blue and a blue and white stripe. After getting those colors, you can get any number of colors which will look wonderful so long as they’re classic. These shirts can be worn open collar or buttoned up to the top with a tie. One thing that you can try to look for is an unlined collar, as in having no lining between the fabric that makes up the collar. For recommendations, I would look at getting something custom from a company like Proper cloth or ratio clothing, vintage from classic OCBD makers like Brooks Brothers, J. Press or Gitman bros or something new from a company like Ralph Lauren, Spier and Mackay or Kamakura.
By Kyle Chabot- 5th year Industrial Engineering Student