Congratulations!… You’ve completed both your foundation wardrobe basics and intermediate levels. Complete this level, and you’ll graduate after this. But before you start strutting your stuff around, realise that you’ve only completed the foundation. Your sartorial journey is merely beginning. How far, and how fast you go from here is ultimately up to you… and your bank account, obviously… But enough of all that wet blanket stuff. Let’s get on and complete your advance level foundation wardrobe.
Advance Level – Your Last Ten Pieces
The previous ten pieces have you covered in most of your professional working attire. In fact, we’ve even touch a little on the less dressy side of things too. And today, we’re gonna have a little fun, and venture deeper into the more casual side of your sartorial journey.
(1) Your First Sport Jacket
As expected, we’re starting with another big ticket item again. Whilst we’re cranking down the formality level even further, we’re still keeping with the overall classic look. And yes, we’re still keeping things business appropriate as much as possible. So let’s start your advance level with your first sport jacket.
Unlike the suit jacket or blazer, sport jackets generally come in coarse texture and/or loud patterns. And this particular example is no exception. To dial the formality level down further, it has no shoulder or chest paddings to speak of. You can literally crumple it up and pack it into your luggage. It won’t suffer any creases like other jackets made with more delicate fabrics. Best of all, you’re still business appropriate. And you can still patronise a jackets-only fine dining restaurant too.
(2) And (3) Expand Your Shirts Range Further
You’ve got a solid white dress shirt, two solid pastel dress shirts and a subtle stripe dress shirt. You’ve covered all your bases for dressy situations. But for your not-so-dressy shirts, you’ve only got an OCBD shirt. Whilst it’s still a “casual” shirt, it sits on the dressier end of the casual spectrum. So it’s now time to bulk up with “less dressy” shirts in your foundation wardrobe. It’s time to introduce more saturated colours and bolder patterns to your shirts collection.
Bright and bold colours, like crimson red, magenta, chrome yellow, forest green, etc. will call more attention to yourself. It’s time to start dressing for the Fridays’ fun-days, and start injecting a little more life into your ensemble.
Likewise with patterns, enough with the subtle and “tame” stripes. It’s time to bring out the bolder stripes or checks. It’s okay to have a bit more fun with your dressing. Just make sure you don’t go overboard. You still need to keep things business appropriate. This is, after all, still your foundation wardrobe.
(4) And (5) Bring In The Casual And Fun Shirts
There will be times when you need to dress it down even further. Say for the office barbecue party, or something similar. And for that, even wearing the bolder shirts from above will still make you overdressed. You may need to venture slightly further away from being business appropriate. It’s time to bring out the “fun” shirts.
We’ve mentioned in Classic Menswear: Casual But Elegant that denim has the magical quality that turns anything it touches casual. Hence, wearing any ensemble with a denim shirt will automatically make it casual. Yes, you can keep things casual and comfortable. Just make sure that it’s not sloppy.
And for the even more dress-down days, consider swapping a shirt, any shirt, for a roll-neck jumper. It’s outright casual, yet maintains a hint of being classy. Try layering a sport jacket over it too. No surprise if you’re still the best looking chap on your Saturday night hangout with the boys.
(6) And (7) Bring In The Staple Fun Trousers
At this stage, you’ve got all the trousers you need to assemble a dressy outfit. Now it’s time to inject a little more fun in your not-so-dressy outfit. It’s time to introduce denim jeans, and the summery white or off-white trousers.
Even denim jeans come in a whole range of dressiness. Generally speaking, the darker the wash, the more dressy it is. Hence, stay away from the light wash, or heavily distressed jeans. So if you still wanna project some semblence of classic outlook, just stick to dark wash jeans. And yeah, make sure there’s no (intentional or otherwise) tears or fades on the material.
Just like jeans, chinos also come in a whole range of dressiness too. Generally speaking, neutral colours are the most classic, and the dressiest. Khaki, olive, grey, navy, and all other “sensible” colours work best. But once you start introducing “wilder” colours, the formality starts to tank. Salmon red, mustard yellow, powder blue, bright orange, lavender, etc. are the usual suspects. Surprisingly, white, or off-white, whilst classified under “wild colours” aren’t really all that unacceptable. Hence, this is the best choice to rebel, and yet, still remain in the good books at the same time.
(8) Expand Your Advance Level Neckwear
You’ve covered all your staple neckwear bases by now. It’s now time to push the envelop farther out. Let’s introduce louder colours and patterns to your neckwear collection. And as a wild card, let’s throw a bow tie into the mix too.
In the previous article on ties, we mentioned that brighter ties are less dressy than their darker counterparts. So to shake things up a little, let’s introduce a bright coloured tie into your neckwear collection. You didn’t come this far just to stick to the convention, right? Then a familiar face, the knit tie. But instead of the solid colour, how about some brightly coloured segments? It’s sure to draw some attention. And to really call attention to yourself, swap the regular tie for a bow tie. Before you ask, no, you can’t wear a pre-tied bow tie. Not unless you’re a seven-year-old, dressing up for his annual school concert.
(9) Bulk Up Your Advance Pocket Square Collection
Previously, introducing pocket squares to your foundation wardrobe was already a wild card on its own. But to push the envelop and qualify for the advance level, it’s time to introduce advance pocket square patterns.
By now, everybody knows about the “power tie”. Yup, wearing a bright red tie is literally projecting the image of a dominant alpha male. What if you still want to project dominance, but less attention grabbing than with a power tie? Is there a more subtle way of projecting dominance?… Of course there is… Swap that power tie with a power pocket square. Next, project your artistic side by wearing a printed motif pocket square. And finally, add in another piece of complex geometric print pocket square too.
(10) Introduce Non-Leather Dress Shoes
Most people associate dress shoes with leather. Yes, it’s true that dress shoes and leather go hand-in-hand. But there are non-leather options for dress shoes too.
Suede dress shoes tend to bring down the formality quite a bit, even for the same style of dress shoes. And then there’s also canvas too, which will crank it down even further. At the end of the day, you’re still wearing dress shoes, not some trainers or sandals. So if you don’t feel like wearing your leather loafers with your jeans, try something like the example above.
Foundation Wardrobe – Complete
Congratulations, you’ve amassed all the necessary pieces of garments to cover all of your professional needs. As a bonus, you’ve even covered a little on your not-so-professional needs too. But before you pop the Champagne bottle (or any other celebratory beverage), realise that you’ve only covered your foundation wardrobe. You’ve only managed to leave a mark in the room, perhaps even made an impression on the people there. But your sartorial journey is far from over. Where you go from here depends very much on you developing your own personal brand identity. This point onwards, everybody’s needs and wants will deviate greatly. If you have any questions, do leave a comment below. Or perhaps you’d like a personal opinion, and for me to take a peek into your current wardrobe. Then feel free to contact me.
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This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.