Spring is just around the corner and it’s time for every businessman to think about a wardrobe update. Top level executives understand the importance of investing in a few fashionable pieces each season to keep their professional images on the cutting edge – and that is especially true in these challenging times. Buying just the right items can enhance your entire wardrobe without deflating your wallet. More importantly, a few carefully selected pieces will set you apart in a way that exudes confidence and success during this difficult economy – and those are valuable attributes that make a strong positive impression on board room decision makers and clients.
I recently reviewed all the current men’s fashion magazines, browsed around on GQ.com, and peeked at the new spring collections in department stores and finer men’s specialty shops. While taking style notes and highlighting emerging trends, I distinguished between the professionally polished looks and the high fashion menswear runway items – which are way too dramatic for today’s business wardrobe. Then I distilled it all down for the man who wants a distinct fashion style and statement that builds trust and credibility in the business arena.
Here is my advice on the latest colors, prints, and top five trends that every businessman should watch for this season and incorporate into his wardrobe and personal image:
Spring into the Power Spectrum
This season the spectrum of power colors revolves around neutrals like navy, gray, pewter, olive, tan, black, and white. Most men already have plenty of black in their closets, so to stand out in style and be more memorable take a break from dreary old black and step into springtime with a colorful new palette. Start by adding a suit or new sport coat in colors like charcoal gray, navy or tan. Many of my high level clients love to elegantly project a look of “selectively famous” for their target markets – especially those specializing in fields like finance, banking, and law. If this is the kind of visual brand image you want to embrace, consider wearing monochromatic tones from head to toe. That means pick a color, and then add various shades of that same color in different degrees and intensities. But remember to add some texture to this particular look so you appear sophisticated and nuanced – not boring. Try wearing a navy suit, for example, with a light-blue herringbone dress shirt. Then top it off with a paisley tie that sports three different shades of blue.
Want a pop of color for your business casual wardrobe or feel like adding some brighter colors to wake up your necktie collection? Add a dash of brighter shades like green, yellow, pink, or blue – if you resonate with those colors and they feel like an authentic complement to your overall style and professional work image.
Stamp Out Boredom with a 2010 Print
Sometimes men become bored wearing solid shirts every day for work and casual dress. But this season you will have your choice of lots of fresh new prints to help you spring fashion-forward in 2010. Choose a few subdued prints to add to your tailored haberdashery look while you give your suit, sport coat, or casual attire greater versatility and comfort. Look for new interpretations of classic prints including windowpane, multi-striped, checks, and gingham. The new checked shirt is really capturing the spotlight this season. While we will of course still see tried and true striped shirts, they will not be as important in 2010 as they were in years past. So a wonderful and inexpensive way to add some fashion flair – and draw the viewer’s eye up to your face, which is your main communication center – is to check out some new checks. Here’s a tip: If you are on the heavy side, you will want to look for smaller, more subtle checks, because these do not make you appear heavier like the bigger and bolder ones may. Or skip the trendy checks completely and wear a beautiful striped shirt, because the vertical lines help to visually slenderize your torso.
Top 5 Must-Haves for Men
1) Tailored Suits and Sport Coats
We are seeing the return of the double-breasted suit and sport coat this season in navy, soft gray, charcoal gray, or the classic pinstripe. It’s great to see this old classic style reemerge, but remember that with a double-breasted jacket it only looks top-notch when you keep it buttoned. Take that into account and consider whether or not you’ll be wearing it during the warmer weather, and also factor in the scale of your frame and physique – because you may look and feel your best in the new 2-button style.
The 2-button suit or sport coat is very stylish this season. While the new slim cut is best left for the trailblazer executives, you will find that the classic 2-button suit is available in many other silhouettes. This type of suit is a great choice for your wardrobe collection because it is a timeless style that you can wear for years without looking dated. If it’s a 2-button sport coat you need to add to your executive collection, shop for a navy, grey, or black color because they will offer greater versatility.
When you head off to the stores for a few tailored basics you should shop for tropical wools, lightweight Italian wools, or a luxury blend of wool, silk, cotton, and linen. These fabrics have a beautiful drape for a dressier look. Any of these will be ideal for the man who wants to be elegant and feel cool and comfortable at work. Depending on your position, your industry, and your business culture, you may be able to go with the traditional formal suit – but nothing says you mean business like a gorgeous jacket!
2) Dress Shirt Style
Designers this season are taking their clues from the weather report. As we finally thaw out from a long winter and start enjoying more blue skies, you’ll also see beautiful blues on the racks and shelves – especially in sky-colored herringbone and checked styles for dress shirts. If you have blue eyes, you will definitely want to wear blue to highlight that asset and give your eyes a larger and brighter appearance. You will also see softer colors in this spring’s professional shirts – like lavender, soft gray, and muted black and white tones.
3) Tie Your Image to Your Brand
Printed ties are the big new trend and will be in every store this spring. They have accents colors in luscious new shades like greens, sky blue, pink, yellow, navy, and camel. Experiment with these to give your neutral-colored suits a focal point of added texture and color. Shop for patterns like paisley, medallion, stripes, lattice, and grid design prints – and find one or two that really resonate with you. A tie is a great way to exude fashion flair and communicate your personal and professional brand, and ties are the main way for a well-dressed man to express his authentic style.
4) Fine-Gauge Knit Shirts & Sweaters
Entertaining a prospective client out on the golf course next month? You will want to dress to impress by showing up in style in a new fine-gauge polo or golf shirt. You may not be ready to retire, but consider retiring last year’s knit shirts. They don’t last through more than a season or two of laundering and dry cleaning before they start to lose their shape and color. Replace them with this spring’s fresh selections to add a little color to your resort wear or smart business casual wardrobe. Many knits this season are in bright tones like lime green, navy, and orange. But if you love a softer look, opt for the new colors of baby blue, pink, or dove gray. Another idea for your smart casual look is to add a new cardigan – but not your daddy’s sweater.
Go instead for a modern interpretation of the enduring cardigan classic for a stylish new way to layer when the weather is a little chilly. A lightweight fine cotton fabric should always be your first choice, and you can layer it over a great checked sport shirt. Pair those up with dress trousers, a smart looking belt, and suede slip-on shoes. When you dress this way in triple layers you add polish and credibility to your presence. But we aren’t looking to add bulk and pounds, so stay clear of that heavier-weight bulky sweater. It will only add visual volume to drag down your springtime image.
5) Neutral Suede Shoes
Many finely crafted men’s suede shoes in neutral shades – that can be worn with lighter neutral fabrics and colors – will appear in stores as we move into spring and summer. Most of the top designers offer these in both lace-up and slip-on styles. If you already have a great shoe collection, this could be the one new item to add this season for your business casual wardrobe. Or wear them for casual elegant evenings out on the town. You will discover that these neutral-toned suede shoes come in buttery soft colors like oatmeal, tan, and light gray – and they are a great way to add some soft but textured style to your professional look. Every woman notices a man’s shoes – so this might just be your big step in the right direction heading into spring.
As a professional image consultant I am always looking for innovative tips I can use to advise my clients on ways to spot 2-3 trends each season to work into their wardrobes. My recommendation to you is this: every trend, every season, is not for every man. Your professional presence projects your self-brand if you are an entrepreneur – and your corporate brand if you are a top level executive. Incorporate a few of these springtime fashion suggestions into your wardrobe to project a new look that conveys a modern edge with a fresh perspective. That’s exactly what your clients and colleagues are looking for in this new decade.