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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.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Look book - The Well-Dressed Men Series - Business

I miss the days when there was a very clear line between business and casual clothing. I miss that time when people changed their clothes before dinner. I miss the across-the-board understanding between picnic wear, sports wear and formal wear. Call me old-fashioned.

In this era of khakis and blue button-down shirts or cargo pants and t-shirts, some work places managed to retain the old-fashioned dress code I refer to as business or business formal (as opposed to business casual).

Business formal means a suit and tie. As I mentioned in one of the earlier posts, the rule of thumb for the suits is as follows:

- If you are a larger man overall, go for the suits by American designers. They are looser and boxier.

- If you are slim and trim, opt for European-cut suits. They are much more fitted and run on the smaller side.

- If you have athletic build (broad shoulders, but narrow through hips and thighs), seek out suit separates - many clothiers offer them now. Go for an American-cut suit. Get the trousers that fit your waist and hips. Get a jacket that fits your shoulders, then skip to your friendly tailor and have the waist taken in to fit the rest of your torso.

Here we have a good example of an American-style suit taken in around the waist to accommodate Will Smith's athletic physique in the movie Hitch. The cut works well for the "relaxed and groovy yet well-dressed" vibe that Mr. Smith's character projects. It also helps that the suit is not a stodgy black or another solid - it is a gray pinstripe, with an interesting shirt and tie - both in subdued dark colors, but not at all boring.

While we are on the subject of tailoring... Let's face it, with all the various shapes and sizes out there, it is nearly impossible to find a suit that fits you perfectly. So, find a good place that does alterations and make friends there. Some alterations are very simple and inexpensive: hemming the trousers to the right length, moving a button around the waist. Some are more involved, like placing darts at the back of the jacket to make it fit at the waist or shortening the sleeves. Some are really high-tech - think re-setting sleeves or re-lining an entire jacket or pair of trousers. The point is - it's complicated work and it does cost money. That is where you have to discipline yourself - you will be better off with one or two suits with good, quality alterations than with a closet full of stuff that doesn't fit.

If you can splurge, get a suit custom made. Even if it's just one. It's seriously worth it and there isn't an off-the rack suit that will ever fit you quite like one made just for you. Case in point - Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair. Mr. Brosnan is still in his full James Bond shape here, and the costume designers have clearly gone out of their way to get him from looking great to looking sensational.

The point is to project a man of great wealth without making him look sleazy or flashy. So, the colors are invariably subdued but presented in a sophisticated way - soft neutrals (greys and beiges) with something extra, like a blue pinstripe or a red and white thread worked into the windowpane pattern.

The jackets and shirts are cut to perfection to emphasize Mr. Brosnan's enviable figure - athletic but not in a burly way. The trousers are closer to the European cut - snug around the waist and narrower than usual through the legs. Shirts and ties are conservative, but not dull, picking up the colors from the suit fabric patterns. Perfection!

If you can only get one suit never, ever get a solid black one. Not unless you work for Men In Black. Get a dark gray one and make it a pinstripe. Solids are boring. A gray pinstripe suit will carry you through weddings, funerals and job interviews a lot better than a solid black. Besides, it doesn't absorb nearly as much heat when the weather gets hot.

If you have the budget to split up your cold and warm weather wardrobes, consider lighter-colored suits to wear from mid-spring to mid-fall. And few things say "old-fashioned class" better than an awesome three-piece suit.

Here is the other Thomas Crown for you - Mr. Steve McQueen, who was paler, fairer, shorter and stockier than Pierce Brosnan, yet was fully capable to carry out the same role with just as much panache. Would either of these gentlemen have looked as good had their wardrobes been switched? No. Different coloring, different body types, different proportions, different facial features - it would have never worked. But each is perfect in his own version of the movie, because of proper tailoring and proper selection of fabrics, colors and textures.

Talk about a classic three-piece business suit in action! Sure, Steve McQuinn has to rob the bank, and Pierce Brosnan steals the painting (or two) and escapes pusuit in his perfectly tailored togs. But Morgan Freeman in the movie Wanted has to run, jump, shoot, and go well above and beyond of how badass we think one can be in a suit. But who cares? He looks awesome! So much so that I forgive him for playing a bad guy. That's the power of style for you!

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