This outfit I wore last week really tickled me – I think primarily for its combination of T-shirt and tailoring.
It’s also a style I think a lot of guys can explore that want to dress up in an office where no one wears tailoring, and it’s one of three styles that I find now define how I dress: tailoring for smarter occasions, casual chic for the middle, jeans/Ivy for the weekend.
The last context is our idea of a ‘cold colour’ or muted, tonal wardrobe. This outfit adds two suggestions: the idea that black jeans can work well – in much the way as white jeans – and the effectiveness of taupe alongside black.
OK, let’s try and put that casual-chic idea a different way – a more emotional one.
The outfit just felt great. It felt relaxed, but elegant. It looks dressed up, but incredibly easy to wear, to live and work in.
You’re basically just wearing a T-shirt and jeans, with easy loafers. There’s a cardigan around the shoulders that’s as comfortable as a dressing gown (well, maybe one of those short smoking-jacket ones), and then an outer layer draped over the top. It’s all soft and flowy.
You could wrap yourself up simply if it gets cold, by buttoning the coat and popping the collar. Or you could fasten the cardigan and flip its collar too, to coddle the neck. There are no scarves, gloves or other accessories. It’s so clean.
Of course, much of the pleasure of menswear is in accessories. I’m not dissing accessories. However, there is something very lovely about carrying the bare minimum – particularly when I have, perhaps, humped two bags of clothes into town the previous day.
Ok, let’s get back to some details. How is it executed?
A reader in our recent Awards recommended a video series by womenswear stylist Alyssa Beltempo. I’ve been watching a few and love how much women analyse clothes. Men often say women look effortlessly stylish, but there’s usually a lot going on below the surface. Like a swan.
Let’s try and break down these details using some of her keywords.
- Our cold, tonal wardrobe hinges on using muted colours alongside the greyscale (black, grey, white). So the white tee and black jeans really benefit from the colour of the taupe coat and of the cordovan loafers.
- The shade of those colours is crucial; a warmer, yellower taupe or a stronger, richer burgundy would kill it.
- Proportion, silhouette
- The fact the T-shirt is tucked in is key: if it was tucked out, the style would be much more slouchy. It also slices the outfit in two – a top and a bottom – and emphasises the waist.
- The belt accentuates that, creating a focal point and some visual interest.
- The proportions are well balanced. The jeans are not skinny, but neither are they vintage big-boy chinos. It matches the coat, which is roomy but not oversized.
- Those womenswear stylists use terms like ‘playful’ and ‘sexy’. Men are usually more comfortable with plainer language: subtle, smart. But often we’re trying to describe the same thing: how the outfit feels to the person wearing it and to people seeing it.
- To me, this feels relaxed because the clothes are relaxed and draped. Even when the coat is buttoned, there’s volume in the chest and in the back.
- They feel relaxed because they feel comfortable: they’re largely soft, textured fabrics.
- And the textures and the colours are subdued; nothing is hard or bright or shiny.
That was nice. I felt relaxed just writing it.
Other noteworthy things: the collar being down, something we’ve touched in recent articles. Great as a popped collar is, with a scarf or shawl running underneath I also love the clean look of it down.
We all know how flattering shawl-collar cardigans can be, and how much they enhance a T-shirt. Their usual downside is they’re bulky under outerwear – a relatively fine one like this is a nice way to wear it more widely.
And then there are the black jeans: from Bryceland’s, reviewed last week. Although not the dark grey of most washed black denim, I’m finding them surprisingly versatile. Specifically:
- They work with black shoes, brown-suede ones and color-8 cordovan. That’s as versatile as most trousers. Other blacks, such as cord or linen, can struggle with brown suede
- On top they’re great with tonal colours (white, cream, grey), with muted/dark ones (taupe, beige, dark olive, dark brown), with pale pinks and yellows, and OK with navy. Again a wide range
- Despite the popularity of black jeans among women, they remain relatively unusual on men. So they’re a nice alternative to indigo or mid-blue, and not as stark as white.
Below is the outfit from the jeans review. With both of them, I find it enormously satisfying that they’re simple yet look (to me) elegant and distinctive.
With this non-coat outfit my attention goes to the balance between the fit of the jeans – slim but comfortable, a flattering rise – the fit of the Rubato knit – shorter, bigger, tapered – and the little touches of colour that stop it all being monochrome – the colour 8 loafer, rather than black, the navy bandana.
Here’s hoping my feelings have come across clearly and accurately. I’ve certainly taken enough different swings at it.
- Bryceland’s 933 black jeans, size 32
- Alden full-strap loafers in color-8 cordovan, Aberdeen last
- PS Tapered Tee, large
- Anderson & Sheppard lambswool/cashmere cardigan, large (44)
- Rubato lambswool sweater (old size large)
- Rubato black alligator belt with brass buckle
- JLC Reverso watch in yellow gold, with black alligator strap
- Hermes navy silk bandana
- Sartoria Ciardi bespoke overcoat in Holland & Sherry ‘British Warm’ cloth
Photography: Jamie Ferguson