The business suit: even the name leaves something to be desired.
It's not evocative, like the Nehru jacket (look for the mandarin collar), nor dashing, like the Stetson hat, which reeks of a scotch-downing Indiana Jones.
You want to stand out and be stylish, without signalling to the powers-that-be that it's time for human resources to pay you a visit. But by its very definition, does the business suit equate boring, ho-hum dressing?
Not a chance. For those who must wear business apparel every day, there's a way to look more James Bond than James Bland - as long as you know how to rock it out.
1. Mix it up. Dom Bagnato, he of the elegant, finely made suit label, says that you can weave in contrast with shoes.
"Mix up the shoes in designs and colour - for instance, light shoes with dark suits, and vice versa."
Designer Roger Grinstead says that "contrast shoes and clashing socks can provide an extra focal point. Brown shoes with a navy suit and cherry with charcoal are amongst the favourites."
2. Layer, layer, layer. Says Grinstead: "The concept of layering is now firmly on the radar: a contrast or patterned knit vest with a suit and tie can lift the look to majestic heights."
Bagnato agrees, adding that "a matching or contrast vest is a great way to look well-dressed, even with your jacket off".
The chief executive of the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, Graeme Lewsey, says that "the three piece suit - waistcoat included - is back from the Prohibition era to bring out the gangster in everyone". Which is only good in an office if you stop at the suit.
3. Accent accessories. This is really the secret weapon of the statement dresser. Take the humble navy suit, a staple for the corporate world. Add braces. Really. It doesn't have to look like Leo Sayer on the dance floor (especially since you're unlikely to be combining with purple T-shirt, white pants and a 'fro).
It can look elegant, very Vogue Hommes. Too much? There's the pocket handkerchief or pocket square (which Bagnato declares are "very modern and elegant") although never have one in the same fabric as your tie. Grinstead favours a bow tie for something different, saying that its "recent re-emergence provides perfect opportunity to splash some colour into the mix".
With accessories, even the smallest touches can get big applause (even though the applause might only literally exist inside your head), such as cool cufflinks or a tie bar. The more outré the accessory, the simpler you should keep it. Go crazy with socks, but keep the stars-and-stripes braces for that holiday in Miami.
4. Colour me conference room. Dom Bagnato says that his label's signature style is a "harmonised colour and pattern clashing look."
Translation: choose a shirt such as "an on-trend seasonal shirt for winter 2013 - the micro check in subtle or strong designs and colours," says Bagnato. But, if you're going to clash the colours in a shirt, make sure the suit doesn't make for a jarring combination, or you'll look like the guy who does accounts at a music festival.
Grinstead says that "colour has become a key communicator in menswear ... the once austere offering of navy, charcoal and black now has competition. Bright navy, silver grey and natural tones are credible options and promise deliverance from the comfort zone."
5. Tie me up. Bagnato loves a tie. He can wax poetic on "the power of the tie". He has tie stories, such as the time a client sent his driver to buy twenty novelty ties featuring cartoon characters on them, from Bagnato's store. Bagnato says that ties can communicate your personality, be they trendy and slim, or wider and classic. They can be plain and textured, or feature strong, abstract motifs.
Dolce & Gabbana, for instance, used to produce a beautiful men's tie - whose underside sneakily displayed a Varga-esque pin-up girl where no one could see her. A slight sense of humour in clothing - a subtle, restrained one - can balance the most staid of suits.
Got all that? LMFF's Lewsey says that "a good suit is well-crafted and designed to show off a male silhouette. There's a plethora of styles that are fashionable enough to catch the eye of an eager street blogger. A suit is a great place to start for the newly enthused fashion man who wants to come out of his shell."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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