17 Nov 2015
I was back at work and came home to dinner on the table most nights. But upon his return to work, we found his clothes no longer fit. Consequently we bought him a new work wardrobe – and post-maternity leave, I was pleased to be immersed in a Mad Men-inspired renaissance of fitted suits and shirts, pocket squares, cufflinks and suits without a tie at the office.
"When I first arrived in Sydney in 2003 I saw style atrocities everywhere."
Sarah Imm, Founder, Vélo-à-Porter
And I noticed a significant improvement in the way men were dressing for the office. I was pleased because despite the commonly held belief that we are always at the beach, Sydneysiders are often at the office.
Contrast this with when I first arrived in Sydney in 2003: I saw style atrocities everywhere. Double-breasted suits from the 80s in all colours that were too big or too small, worn-at-heel slip-on shoes, too-small winter coats with label still attached to the sleeve hem, sack suits, black suits, too-short jackets, button-down collars.
I had come from London where I had worked amongst crisp and impeccable-tailored suits, patterned cotton shirts with contrasting ties, brightly coloured silk linings, side-adjust trousers.
I spoke with Joe Ha of The Finery Company, a bespoke tailoring company based in Sydney, about the evolution of men’s style in the Emerald City. He attributed it to the internet and to Herringbone.
In 2008, Herringbone was the only ready-to-wear brand offering high-quality dress shirts. It also manufactured its suits in Japan.
Later, it would end up in receivership (and subsequent rescue by Van Laack) because of an aggressive expansion in Australia and the Global Financial Crisis. Despite this, Herringbone gave men more options to dress well for the office.
Now social media has provided men with even more examples of good style. Previously, we were beholden to magazines and newspapers which prescribed a specific style by season or editor.
Instagram and Tumblr have had an enormous impact on menswear by showing an endless variety of combinations suitable for the office, evening, weekend, holiday.
Fashion bloggers, stylists, celebrities and brands on social media provide an alternative to traditional fashion press and media.
Ready-to-wear clothing (RTW), also known as off-the-rack, is one way to express one’s personal style at the office and is well represented in Sydney by Herringbone, TM Lewin, Rhodes and Beckett, MJ Bale, David Jones and Myer department stores.
However, Chris Edwards, General Manager of Oscar Hunt, believes men increasingly want to express their individuality in the office and boardroom by choosing made-to-measure (MTM) or bespoke clothing.
The primary difference between RTW and MTM or a bespoke experience is service. When men come for a fitting at Oscar Hunt, the tailor spends time getting to know the client and his lifestyle.
What is his profession? Does he perspire a lot? Is he constantly traveling between different climates and temperatures? What are his preferences in material, colour, cut of suit? All of this knowledge, gained from conversation, helps to craft a suit which fits the man.
What’s the difference between MTM and bespoke tailoring? The primary difference is that the MTM suit is cut from a pattern, which is altered to meet the client’s measurements. Bespoke tailoring is crafted from the individual’s measurements and requires several fittings. An initial pattern is made from less expensive cloth and then the chosen fabric is cut for the final round of fittings.
The difference in price is attributable to the customisation and number of fittings required in bespoke tailoring.
Both Edwards and Ha explain the fitting process also includes education of and a consultative approach with the client. Clients have varying degrees of knowledge of style and fit.
Ha told me a story about a body builder client. He was accustomed to shirts which were too tight in the arms. During the initial fitting for a set of custom shirts, his client was uncomfortable. Instead of being too tight in the arms, drape in the sleeve meant that he was able to move his arms freely. Despite this, he insisted on a tighter fit.
In the end, they split the difference and the sleeve had less drape than the initial fit but still gave him room to move. Bespoke tailoring is often considered the work of an artisan. It’s often machine-sewn but hand stitching is also employed to provide detail and effect.
Fortunately, men’s styles do not change as often as women’s. Lapels and trouser hems widen and narrow from time to time but a classic fit will last for years.
The staples of a man’s wardrobe, if he wears suits every day, should include at least five to six suits, one for each work day. Owning several suits will further their lifespan by spreading wear.
Some retailers offer additional trousers per suit which can be helpful as trousers often wear out before the jacket. Suits should be dry-cleaned infrequently. Spot cleaning and airing will also lengthen its life.
If you are fit, consider a slim-fit or tailored style if MTM or bespoke is beyond your means at present. If you need to hide kilos, a classic fit will flatter. A well-fitting suit is meant to give the impression of the body beneath.
White and blue shirts are the most conservative and versatile. However, the broad range of shirt colours and patterns make it possible to express your personality and style with contrasting ties.
The upside down triangle of lapel, shirt and tie frames the face. Choose colours that work for your complexion. Consider French cuffs. The shirt cuff should be visible beneath jacket cuff. Not too much, not too little.
Menswear is elevated by subtle detail. A classic watch with a simple clean face. A ring and/or wedding band. Beautiful cufflinks. A waistcoat for the winter. Sleeve buttons which overlap slightly are all a sign of elegant tailoring and will not break the budget.
For those not-meeting-client days, French cuff shirts in subtle patterns complement classic trousers. Again, if you are fit, consider slim-fit shirts while classic fit shirts will hide a few kilos. A great look can be achieved with flat front trousers and a belt.
Be careful of pleating in trousers. They can help and they can hurt. Keep the chinos, khakis and jeans for the weekend. Invest in shoe trees to keep leather shoes with laces immaculate and to prevent lines from emerging in the leather. They can be maintained with the help of a good cobbler like Coombs in Strand Arcade.
Most of all, find someone whose style opinion you trust. Not all of the photos on social media will flatter your frame, personality and complexion.
My husband, an economist, and I share a joke about my personal impact on the financial markets. Every time I make major purchases overseas, the Australian dollar gains in value.
In 2007 when I was away on maternity leave the Global Financial Crisis hit. I’ll let you know the next time I decide to make an impact on the credit markets.
Sarah Imm is the founder of Vélo-à-Porter, a lifestyle brand based in Sydney, Australia. She had a nineteen year career in investment banking with Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and UBS in New York, London, Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two children and writes about fashion, bicycling and bicycling with kids on veloaporter.com. Follower her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebookand LinkedIn.
The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.
17 Nov 2015
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