Friday Dressing, All Week Long

The executive of today doesn’t conform to dated wardrobe rules. EXEC shows you how to channel the laid-back vibe of casual Friday, without compromising on professionalism.

Right from the crisp collar and wrinkle-free suit, to the tips of perfectly polished shoes, the typical executive of two decades ago was dressed to impress. At the dawn of the new millennium, cracks began to appear in this sartorial mould. Steve Jobs shed his Armani suits for the black turtleneck and jeans the world came to recognise him by, and the so-called ‘accidental billionaires’ never really shook off the campus-casual code for the boardroom, and the business world had to loosen its collar to work with them.

For the executive from the new school, looking sharp is still at the top of the agenda, but personality now plays a big part. The modern executive takes classics and adds to them individual flair, redefining business casual, and letting the practice of Friday dressing spill over to other days of the week. Is professionalism compromised in the process? Not by a long shot, if the right balance is struck between ‘corporate’ and ‘cool’.

The suit is, and will always remain a classic. We’ve paid homage to its versatility in these pages before – one can wear it slim, loose, pinstriped, single or double-breasted, and even with a tee. Teaming tee shirts and turtlenecks with a suit is a look that manages to be professional, yet on-trend. It works best when the suit is slim and in a solid, neutral colour, like black, beige or navy blue. The tee should be equally detail-free – wild prints and witty sayings are best reserved for the weekend – and be round or v-neck. It should be in a hue that complements the suit, but white is a deal breaker, as it gives the impression that one has slept through the alarm, and hurriedly pulled on a suit over a vest.

In those situations where a suit isn’t an absolute necessity, the jacket can be replaced with a sports coat or a lightweight blazer.

In most work-related situations, the big D is frowned upon. Whether denim is acceptable in the workplace is a debate that began several decades ago, and both sides are in no particular hurry to come to a conclusion any time soon. A concession seems to be ‘formal jeans’, a pair of jeans in a dark rinse, cut to resemble trousers, sans embellishments. These jeans can be worn with a crisp shirt, and a waistcoat and skinny tie, for additional pizzazz. Those born with oodles of confidence can team casual jeans with a well-cut blazer and shirt. For the ones who aren’t quite sure about donning a pair of jeans for work, khakis, chinos and cargoes do the trick as well. However, a cardigan or cashmere sweater should be included in the ensemble instead of the vest.

Accessories are probably the best extensions of one’s personality in the corporate world, and give a lot of freedom to the wearer for experimentation. Ties can be funky, in bold patterns and prints, or in adventurous shades, in place of the old checks and stripes. Shoes can be lace-up, or loafers in materials other than leather, like suede. Loafers worn without socks add a bit of rakish appeal to the look – European men have been successfully pulling it off for years! Belts, on the other hand, should be kept simple, as most that do not adhere to the classic parameters tend to fall on the wrong side of professional.

The way the world looks at work is changing, and work wear is following suit. Regimented wardrobe rules are now giving way to a more relaxed aesthetic. It doesn’t mean weekend wear is going to start making appearances in the boardroom anytime soon though, the key to mastering the new corporate dress code is to dress professionally, look pulled together, yet relaxed and expressive.

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