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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Look book - duds for dudes

While most of my fashion-related articles are women-oriented, I do occasionally venture into the male territory, as I did in my Hopeless Romantic and "sartorially challenged male" articles, to name a couple. Today, I would like to touch upon casual and business casual dressing for gentlemen, because these are the two areas that appear to be in the worst kind of a rut lately. At the office, I am surrounded by khakis or slacks with the eternal blah blue shirts. On weekends, it is the sea of sweats, jeans and t-shirts.

The sad part is that so many guys don't even appear to realize that what they wear is doing them absolutely no favors. Let's face it, gentlemen, humans are very visual beings. Looks matter and what you project with your look matters too. "Dress not for where you are, but for where you want to be" is a very old concept that still works today. So, let us look, what changes can be made to lift you out of the sea of identically-dressed worker ants. We are not talking about anything drastic - sometimes it takes very little to get out of a sartorial rut.

Big thanks to my lovely assistant (and spouse) Gerry Seymour for agreeing to be my model in the past and as we create more look book pages for you going forward. These photos have been taking in the summer but most of these outfits can be adapted for winter by adding a jacket. Interestingly, most of the pieces came from discount stores, like Ross and TJ Max, or from the clearance section of pricier sellers like Travel Smith.

Business Casual

What does the work week wardrobe look like for you? Blue shirt, khakis. Blue shirt. slacks. White shirt, slacks. White shirt, slacks. Blue shirt, khakis. Snoresville... A word on khakis and slacks. Ankle-length tapered pants (for both genders) are the root of all evil. Burn them.

Unless you are supremely fit, do not wear pants with pleats in the front. Some folks think that pleats hide the tummy - in fact, they only enlarge it. Find pants with flat fronts - they are much more flattering regardless of size. The pant leg should cover your ankle and the hem of the pant should be resting on top of the shoe with just a bit of a fold.

Now that we have covered pants, let us consider shirt alternatives. It doesn't have to be blue or white. Other colors do exist. It may seem rather daunting to find the right colors for you, but it can be done. Find things of different colors around your house: file folders, blankets, pillows, towels. Bring them to a mirror and hold them up to your face in a good light. If it makes you look like a character from The Night of the Living Dead, it's probably not a good color for you.

Red is one of the most versatile colors out there. It doesn't suit everyone but most people can work with it. A red shirt paired with your basic khakis looks just as sharp as a blue or a white one and a whole lot more interesting. To add another dimension to the outfit, consider trying an accessory that coordinates with the shirt - in this case, the belt has a cloth inset with some red in it.

If you feel reluctant about color, consider another route - pattern. Just as red is one of the easiest colors to work with, vertical stripe is the easiest pattern. Here we have a combination - pinstripe slacks and a textured pinstripe shirt. The colors are uber-conservative: black and white for the shirt and charcoal for the slacks. Taken separately, they can hardly be called adventurous, but together they create a very classy look that is not at all blah.

You might be tempted to reach for your black shoes and belt, but as you can see - brown leather works quite well here, being paired up with colors that are essentially neutral.

Friday casual

Before you balk at wearing a shirt that looks like this, let's consider it in a reasonable manner. First of all, it's from Travel Smith, which means it is designed to be cool and comfortable. Second, with the fabric designed for travel and a fairly busy pattern, the wrinkles show a lot less, which means you can get away with wearing it without ironing (compromise by getting it hung up straight out of the dryer). Third, the pattern has multiple colors in it but is still fairly structured, making the shirt both manly and versatile - you can match it up with anything.

Opt for khakis instead of the traditional Friday jeans and for your basic slip-on loafers that are a lot classier (and much less stinky) than sneakers. Voila! Aren't you dapper?

If you do insist on wearing jeans, consider doing a little experiment and pairing them up with a dress shirt. As long as it's not a button-down collar - it works. In this case, we have a little bit of both color and pattern: the shirt is black with red pinstripe - to top off a very basic pair of jeans. With a fairly prominent shirt, the belt and shoes are kept subdued in black.

Images courtesy Maria K.

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