Welcome to the second edition of Uniforms. This series explores the core staples of men's wardrobes - the five or six pieces that constitute the uniforms of the men that wear them. This isn't about the brands, it's about the form and the function of the pieces that you keep going back to time after time.
In the first edition of uniforms, I covered my off duty setup of well-worn waxed trials jacket, sweatshirt, denim and boots. Now we're all back on duty following the Christmas break, it's the perfect time to step up your menswear game and set yourself apart from your colleagues with a little attention to detail and some sharp separates.
I work in an office, but like most other modern office environments there's no requirement to wear a suit everyday. I'll wear one if I've got a serious board meeting that I need to be sharp for though. After all, dress for the job you want not the one you have, right? While 'business casual' has been eating away at office dress standards for the last 10 years, there are still some ways to make a lasting impression without over-dressing and still maintain that vital element of sprezzatura.
For some reason, call it tradition, I just don't like an open shirt collar with a blazer. It might just be too 'new media'. The tie is the ultimate accessory to show a bit of personality in your workwear and to complete your look. I keep returning to this crest tie by the now sadly defunct Rugby Ralph Lauren. It's pretty unusual and gets a lot of compliments, plus you just don't mess with someone wearing the skull and bones. I like ties that run slightly long so the front blade just about covers your belt buckle. I always use a nice and tight, but slightly asymmetric four in hand knot - I find it hard to believe that 'footballer' knots are still a thing in 2017.
The first returning piece from my off duty uniform is the blue oxford shirt. I have to admit, it's rare to see me in anything else. The oxford is such a versatile piece that my preference for them is sending my wardrobe spiralling into Patrick Bateman levels of organisation and repetition. An oxford immediately brings a hint of Ivy League style to any smart-casual outfit and it's never out of place. This one is by Gant and the slim fit is perfect for tucking into trousers for keeping things trim.
For work I usually throw on a blazer - either a tweed jacket or structured sports coat. Along with the tie, it's the one other piece of clothing that says "right, it's business time". I'll never break up a suit though - I'm a firm believer that a suit jacket should never be worn with anything other than the matching trousers. You can always tell it's a suit jacket. This unlined cotton blazer from Zara is a welcome break from the grey and navy tones that populate most offices, it also sits better with chinos than other fabrics and helps keep you cool when the pressure is on during that big presentation.
I tend to shy away from standalone formal trousers, maybe because I've never found any that I've been 100% happy with and maybe because they always look like one half of a suit. I much prefer slim dark jeans but as it's currently #NoJeansJanuary, I've been giving these Paul Smith Red Ear chinos some regular outings. I'm a big fan of OD, or Olive Drab for the uninitiated. The tone is similar to the tan blazer but different enough to ensure it doesn't look like I'm trying to reverse engineer a suit. The olive green sets off my Oliver Sweeney derbies a treat.
Speaking of which, yes they're camouflage. But camo is pretty on-brand for my day job and I guarantee no one else in any office is going to be rocking them. The hand-made construction, goodyear welt and lugged sole mean they're going to last a lifetime and wear well if looked after properly. I rotate these with a pair of tan brogues depending on the formality of the day ahead. The camo usually wins out though.
If you're a regular reader you've probably seen a lot of the watch I'm wearing. The Legend Diver is a re-issue of of one of Swiss watchmaker Longines' most famous super-compessor dive watches from the 1950s. It's a classicly stylish piece that can be dressed up or down by simply changing the strap. I love NATO straps for their comfort and durability, here I'm running it on a red, white and blue version that picks out the colours of the Gieves & Hawkes pocket square and Ralph tie.
I've written about it before but the Filson 256 has been my bag of choice for almost three years now. Built like a tank with Tardis-like capacity, it swallows up everything I throw at it for a day at the office or on the road. It also keeps getting better with age, I can't wait to see it 10 years down the line. Also, it looks a damn sight better than the nylon laptop bag/rucksack combo most commuters seem to prefer.
I think the key to making any uniform work well is versatility and the ability to transition into different looks using the same core pieces. Sometimes versatility breeds repetition, as is evidenced here with the shrit, watch and bag. But finding something that works for you across a host of different environments is a rare and precious thing, so make the most of it. If you do it well, switching up your workwear is guaranteed to get you noticed in the right way.
These are the things that keep me together and get me through the worst the working day can throw my way while hopefully looking good. Remember - We're not defined by our uniforms, our uniforms are defined by us; we make them what they are, they mature over time and grow with us and they're part of our story.
- Keep listening.