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Menswear: Dressing Well During A Recession

[ 1 ] January 29, 2009 |

The current economic malaise sure has taken a bite out of consumer confidence.  People are worried especially when, on a daily basis, they are bombarded with news about job cuts, stock market downturns and company shutdowns.  When stalwart companies like Microsoft announce layoffs, well, you know these are turbulent times.

Unfortunately, this has turned the job market into a super-competitive arena where it is not good enough to be qualified for a job: Headhunters and prospective employers judge you on everything, including personal grooming.  Is that unfair?  Perhaps, but until you are in a position where you call the shots, it is best to work within the existing parameters.

Quite a few women have been writing in, requesting advice about helping the men in their lives dress during these economic times particularly if they are job hunting.

Most of the (heterosexual) men I know do not appreciate the art of shopping, let alone wait for a sale.  When they need it, they buy it.  Simple as that.  No fooling around.  That usually entails buying at regular price and often paying too much because you did not or (could not) spend time comparing prices.  This approach is fine if money is not an issue and you have a large stash of disposable cash.  Even then, it is tough for a man to justify spending money on things he might deem frivilous.

Here are some tips on how to dress well and on a budget during a recession.

Spend Money on a Good Suit

A classic dark suit is simple yet sophisticated.

A classic dark suit is simple yet sophisticated.

A well-tailored suit is a man’s best friend.  It hides flaws, accentuates positive attributes and provides solid structure.  In North America, the single-breasted suit with two or three buttons down the front is most common and quite flattering.  For the pants, only choose cuffs if you are tall since it will shorten the look of your leg.  Unless you have the budget to buy more than one suit purchase a conservative (read: not trendy) one that will not go out of style next year.

Your first stop should be at a store that specializes in men’s clothing.  In Canada, it would be Harry Rosen or Holt Renfrew’s men’s department.  Yes, their clothing can be expensive but you can get great advice even if you do not buy anything (and feel no obligation to do so).  Too often, men wear suits that are too big or the fabric is of poor quality.  Let a qualified salesperson guide you in the right direction.  They may even tell you about an upcoming sale.  While it would be nice to get a good suit on sale, do not count on it.  Expect to pay a bit more for a well-made suit.

Get Crisp, White Dress Shirts

A fitted shirt is a great choice for a slim build.

A fitted shirt is a great choice for a slim build.

A crisp, white dress shirt says you are solid, dependable and conservative – attributes you want to advertise during tough economic times.  As with the suit, men often wear shirts that are too big for their build.  Slim men should avoid shirts with pleats.  They do not need the extra fabric especially under a fitted suit.  Choose a collar that flatters the shape of your face:  A spread collar will enhance a long, slender face while a pointed collar will elongate a wide (cherubic!) face.  Keep the cuff links in your drawer for now as they may seem rather pretentious and gauche.

Smooth Silk Ties

This is where you can have fun and show some personality.  You can score a deal too which is great since you should have at least ten good ties in your closet to get you through the week and tide you over while some are at the cleaners.

If the suit and shirt are conservative, show some personality with your tie.

If the suit and shirt are conservative, show some personality with your tie.

In Toronto, a good place for deals on well-made silk ties is Holt Renfrew Last Call.  The merchandise will be from a previous season but that should not deter you.  Only a true fashion expert would notice and even then, who cares.  You really cannot go wrong here especially if the suit and dress shirt are fairly conservative.  As you gain knowledge and expertise in the art of dressing you will be able to play with shirt patterns and colors too, but for now, play it safe.

Matching Socks, Please

Whether they match your pants or shoes, just make sure they color-coordinate with something!  This may seem like a minor point but it will not go unnoticed by the person sitting across from you, particularly if it is a woman.  While you will not earn points for matching, you will lose in a big way if an effort is not made here.  Big no-no’s:  White or no socks.

Shoes

Instead of dark loafers, wear tan-colored shoes with an olive or brown suit.

Instead of dark loafers, wear tan-colored shoes with an olive or brown suit.

Unlike women, men seem to think the fewer pairs, the better.  You may not need a closet full of shoes but you should have more than one pair.  Oxford shoes are popular – for good reason.  They can be worn practically all year and flatter most suit styles.  Just remember if you wear slim, fitted pants the shoes should also be light and sleek.  Save the bulkier shoes for baggier pants.  If you are investing in a good pair of shoes you should also get a reputable cobbler to stitch rubber soles onto the sole.  It will preserve them.

If you have some cash to spare (money you saved buying ties on sale!) add a pair of light brown or tan-colored leather shoes to your wardrobe.  Shown right, these shoes are enormously flattering with an olive or brown suit.  The look is sophisticated, sharp and will definitely set you apart from the rest.

Happy shopping and good luck scoring the job of your dreams.

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Category: Fashion

About Anita Sharma: View author profile.


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