Mens Capsule Wardrobe: Smart edition
Dressing well is a form of paying respect to the people you are around. Where did I get this quote from? I don’t have the foggiest, but I’ve been leading most of my adult life by it and I have taken a great deal of personal pleasure to have been able to share my personal love of style and fashion with you all.
After a ton of requests I have decided to further my capsule wardrobe series but this time concertante on items that you can integrate in to the pieces I have already suggested to create a smarter element to your collection. I would like to reiterate, this is not a full capsule wardrobe, in my previous episodes I have already recommend things like jeans, t-shirts, Oxford shirts, sneakers etc. I hope you enjoy and find this post useful!
The Navy suit
Cotton suit from The Anthology
A suit? What the fuck? I totally understand this reaction, but hear me out peeps.
Indeed, you are totally correct, we are no longer in 2019, in this new post pandemic, tech influenced, work from home environment the permanence and importance of the suit is dwindling.
More specifically, I don’t think the suit is dying, I think the work suit is becoming less popular. We are now seeing the rise of men who want to wear a suit as apposed to having to wear one and they are venturing out in terms of colour, cut and texture.
The work suit as we know it is changing. The suit is moving away from the structured, corporate look to a more softly tailored casual aesthetic.
So when I asked myself the question, what is the one suit that will universally apply to all guys to have in their wardrobe? It had to be applicable in smart causal environments, easy to split up and extremely versatile.
This is why I settled on a navy cotton suit from my dear friend, Buzz Tang’s brand, The Anthology.
Some cotton suits - in my experience - are almost impossible to dress formally and are almost permanently relegated to the casual world, however, this particular cotton suit encompasses some of the more formal details like a more structured shoulder and chest, a robust heavy weight of cotton and being fully canvassed or half lined which allows it to transition between the worlds of formality and casual seamlessly.
I have worn this particular suit with a crisp white Budd shirt, a handsome silver Hermes tie, Deakin Francis cufflinks and black oxfords for ultimate formality but I have also split it up successfully, wearing the trousers with The Anthology knitted t shirt, the double breasted blazer and Chelsea boots. Trust me, you'll get a lot of wear out of this piece.
Single breasted navy pattern sport coat from Clements and Church &
Double breasted pattern sport coat from Clements and Church
Now we have a full suit and some chinos to provide the lower half with some flexibility we now need to offer the torso some pizazz.
The best way to dress up a pair of washed jeans or dress down some suit trousers is with some great sports jackets.
In my opinion, I think for your first two sports jackets it's important to be rather selective with the style, pattern and fabric. Going too colourful can alienate the possibility of dressing more formally but venturing too far in the other direction can destroy any possibility of being laid back. So, what I suggest is going with a single breasted option in a navy check and a double breasted piece in a houndstooth.
I feel the single breasted will grow to be your old reliable, a great piece to throw on over a shirt and jeans or a knit and chinos, but when you need to show a little character and individuality, the double breasted is really making a comeback right now. They both achieve a very similar effect but I believe the sign of a well dressed man is paying attention to how the small details make a big difference.
For those of you who read my week with Omar series you will know I am a huge fan of Clements and Church, if you haven't, please do listen to my episode with Danilo Basile from Clements and Church to learn more about them.
During my search for some awesome sports jackets I of course turned to Clements. The reason I selected the above items are purely due to their compatibility to the other colours in this list, the subtleness of the patterns and the extraordinry finishing and signature cut of Clements. Nice narrow arms with high arm holes, with the perfect fit that makes your waist appear tiny and your chest and shoulders seem wider. As far as I am concerned, this brand offers one of the greatest value positions I have seen in any reputable company, their pieces punch significantly higher in terms of construction and fabric choice.
White shirt from Budd Shirtmakers
Blue shirt from Budd Shirtmakers
In my previous capsule wardrobe episodes I have strongly recommended Oxford shirts, we are now dealing with dress shirts and probably my preferred format of shirting, I find them so infinitely stylish.
There are two brands I would recommend: Thomas Pink for those who want a brilliant shirt but are a little more conscious of the price and Budd Shirtmakers who want the best money can buy.
There are really two shirts every guy needs and you can really create hundreds of outfits with them. One is the classic white shirt and the other is a blue shirt, nothing too dark or too pale, something in the middle.
If you want to step the style up another notch I would recommend going with French cuffs, although they are be a bit of a headache, the extra dimension of expression you get through cufflinks is really something you will find to be really rather fun.
If the French cuff is a bit too cumbersome for you then perhaps go of the white shirt in a French cuff and the blue in a button cuff.
Chinos and trousers
Mid grey flannel pants from Kit Blake
Beige chinos from Kit Blake
I have previously been extremely vocal about my dissatisfaction with the general quality and dismissive attitude most brands seem to approach pants with. It's almost like they approach pants as an after thought, which I have always found rather strange since I view - and I'm sure I'm not alone in this - pants as the anchor of your outfit, if the trousers are off then it throws everything else off kilter.
Well, it seems as though there is a brand out there that values trousers as much as I do, enter Kit Blake.
For those of you who havent heard of them before, this is a true uni-tasker brand, a company, of whose sole purpose is to create the finest trousers possible for the best price possible.
What makes these trousers the best?
Good question, there are a few aspects that I attribute this to. The fabric. They do use some of the best fabrics from Italy in their trousers, heavy weight but yet exquisite, smooth and silky to the touch, this is what I call quality.
The level of engineering they have put in to the waist band is also a massive relief and has been a regular complaint in other off the rack trousers I've owned. Typically the waist band is flimsy and deteriorates rather quality. If you have your shirt tucked in to a poorly constructed waist band will not only fuck up your shirt but also won’t keep it tucked in. The waist band on every kit Blake trouser is not only constructed like a tank, they also feature side tabs rather then belt loops and the buttons on the inside of the waist band that are used for suspenders are actually rubberised to act as shirt grips to keep your annoying shirt tucked in.
This is the level of innovation I expect from brands!
The particular trousers I have from KB also have pleats.
Am I a massive fan of pleats?
In fact, I see them as being a little old fashioned and I think, generally speaking, I do prefer the sleekness of a flat front, but on these trousers, pleats are the only way to go.
Rather than adding bulk around the waist, these have clearly been tailored masterfully to hide all the extra fabric and only expand when needed, this gives the impression of smaller hips while also providing the comfort of the pleats. I'm not a convert, but I wouldn’t have my KB trousers any other way.
I am not exaggerating when I say these are the best off the rack trousers I have seen sub £1000, the only time I have seen quality equal to this are in my bespoke pieces which cost 3 - 5 times what these cost.
The particular pieces I have selected are the beige chinos, these are perfect to pair with the navy blazer from the suit, or any jacket for that matter and a pair of mid grey flannel pants, trust me, as it gets colder, you’ll thank me. These two pieces form the start of a truly magnificently versatile, stylish and unique smart capsule wardrobe.
Black Chelsea boots from Yearn Shoemakers,
Black Oxfords from Yearn Shoemakers
Brown Double monk straps from Yearn Shoemakers
You all have heard me rabbit on quite a bit about sneakers but I have unfornautely neglected to really provide a proper dress shoe recommendation to you guys.
To be totally transparent, I had been using Crockett and Jones for a rather long time, around 6 years and I must say, they have been amazing. However, as a believer and champion of the small, newly established, independents I decided to try and find a brand that is challenging the current premium shoemakers.
This journey took me to China of all places.
Regrettably, China has gotten a pretty bad wrap in terms of the quality of their products, they are known for questionable quality but reliable manufacturing quantity and dirt cheap labour costs. However, out of the shadows there are a few brands emerging that have decided to - almost single handedly - change this reputation Chinese manufacturing has.
One of those brands is called Yearn Shoemakers.
They have a very simple proposition, they don’t claim to offer inexpensive shoes that are decent quality, they claim to create a John Lobb quality shoe for Crockett and Jones prices. For those who don’t know, that is a shoe that is equivalent to £1400 for £400, not cheap but one hell of a value proposition.
To be totally honest, I was initially skeptical, but once I got my hands on them I was blown away, everything about them were perfect, from the sculptured shape of the upper to the flawless sole and the wonderfully comfortable fit, these are a real winner and easily some of the best shoes I have owned.
I have decided on three dress shoes to start your capsule collection off but of course as this series develops as will the collection. But for now I think we have all the bases covered.
The smartest option is palpably the black Oxford, in particular I have gone for the Y07 last shape, a wonderfully trendy and flattering chiselled toe shape that you really only see on bespoke shoes. These particular shoes work well with the full navy suit and a crisp white shirt but also feel at home under a pair of tailored dark jeans, the same white shirt and that magnificent Clements double breasted blazer.
The next item is perhaps a controversial one but it definitly works well for me, it’s a brown double monk strap, again in the Yearn Y07 last shape. Some may say that a brown wingtip would work better but I would have to disagree, I find the unique design and versatility in both smart and casual applications to be far more interesting. I have been wearing double monk straps for 4 years years and they have never failed to gain a compliment.
The third shoe is probably my personal favourite and that is the black Chelsea boot in the Y02 last, an artistically elegant pointy toe. This is a shoe that I have to force myself not to wear too much otherwise I guarantee you I would live in these. There are few outfits, if any, where a pair of black Chelsea boots don’t add an element of elevation, class and sophistication. As far as I am concerned, these Yearn boots are easily the finest I have come across!
Deakin & Francis
Deakin and Francis are hands down the finest producer of cufflinks I have come across in any price range. I own cufflinks from Cartier, Mont Blanc, Faberge and many others but the items I have from D&F, for the price, really are extraordinary. I did a great episode with Henry Deakin, one of the owners a while ago that you should definitly check out, the history of the brand is really rather fascinating.
Cufflinks are really one of the only functional pieces of jewellery a man can wear aside from a watch. For me, as I was starting my cufflink collection I pondered how I could start purposefully purchasing pieces that fit in with the items of clothing I own, so, this is how I decided to structure it.
I felt it was important to go for something minimal, smart and sleek to go with the more formal looks so I went with a beautiful enamel piece in Stirling silver. I then decided that a pair that were slightly less formal but spoke to my personal life would be fun to play with so I went for the bull and bear Stirling silver cufflinks harkening back to my career in hedge funding, these go perfectly with the full suit or a smart casual blazer and chinos look. What you will find is looking for cufflinks that provide an insight as to who you are is really part of the fun. For the last two pieces I felt a couple of quirky options that suit more informal occasions would be quite appropriate so I went for the propeller cufflinks to telegraph my love for flight and I of course picked up the cigar and match cufflinks to wear whenever I get together with my friends at the cigar lounge.
Although cufflinks seem to have a bit of a reputation of being quite fussy and old fashioned, I hope the above information shows that you can really have some fun with them and make the process of collecting a reflection of who you are, who you were and who you want to be.