Three aspects of your outfit you should be considering the next time you get dressed:
1. Trouser Length
Aside from the break we traditionally associate with suit/tailored trousers, how much do you actually think about the length of your jeans or chinos?
When purchasing or getting fitted for a suit, the length of your trousers really comes down to personal preference. A single break is the industry standard, but that doesn’t make it a hard and fast rule. Some like it shorter, some like it longer; if you have statement shoes on or are simply very proud of them, then you might well find that a shorter leg works better.
Why not consider half a break or even no break at all? This will serve the dual purpose of showing off your shoes and allowing you to deconstruct the suit by going sockless and flashing a bit of ankle (something particularly appropriate during the warmer months), instantly adding a bit of forward-thinking flair and a casual twist to your look.
If your suit comes with skinny or very slim legs (and therefore narrow openings), a half break might be better than a full break because it will prevent the trouser from bunching on top of the shoe. Straighter legs fall around the ankle but slimmer fits will sit higher up and gather much earlier, distorting the shape of the legs – something to take into account when you are trying to balance your proportions.
When it comes to chinos and standalone trousers, you could consider getting them cropped. This is something the Italians do very well and it makes a huge difference to the overall aesthetic. Have them hemmed around or just above the ankle and you show off just enough flesh (or a bold coloured sock) to be playful but stop short of suggesting a disastrous wash cycle. This is a great look for spring, summer and early autumn and helps to inject a more informal edge into any tailored ensemble.
You could, of course, keep your trousers the length they came and simply roll them up, but where’s the fun in that?
2. The Button Up
The buttons on your choice of top are probably the most insignificant part of an outfit you could think of, but you would be surprised at how much of a difference they make.
This time, we are not talking about changing the buttons on your shirt – although, as recently pointed out in our DIY Tailoring article, it is something you should consider – instead, we’re talking about the WAY you button up your shirt, Henley or polo.
We are probably all in agreement that the number of buttons you do up or leave undone can change the feel of an outfit completely. For example, I was once told by one of my brother’s friends that you could tell a man was fashionable if he did his shirt up to the top and didn’t wear a tie. It’s true, buttoning something all the way to the top does produce something of a distinct look; it suggests a certain image and a way of doing things that some might find at odds.
But you could equally argue that buttoning specific pieces all the way up to the top actually improves them. Oversized and vintage shirts, or those with ‘out there’ patterns, are often qualified by being buttoned up because it ties it in with a particular image and subculture. Polos and more structured shirts are the same.
The only real exception is the Henley tee, which works just as well both buttoned and unbuttoned. The difference here is how rakish you want to look – Ryan Gosling anyone?
When it comes to how many buttons you want to leave undone on your dress shirt, a general scale to stick to would be: one button for everyday situations, two for when it’s a bit warmer and three for when you’re at a fancy dress party and want to show off a hairy chest and gold medallion. (Just stop at two.)
On the flip-side of the buttoned up look, leaving a couple of buttons undone suggests a more relaxed attitude to dressing; it’s more casual (sometimes more comfortable) and better suits warm summer weather.
Finally, think carefully about how you button up tops when you pull on a jumper – an open collar will sit very differently to a closed one and the number of buttons left undone makes a big difference too.
Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone
Leaving your comfort zone is an extremely personal and individual undertaking. As humans we become used to what we know and, for the most part, go out of our way to avoid anything that challenges that. Whether it’s a total change of personal style or simply trying a different colour tee, any alteration to the way we look is a major step that can sometimes feel overwhelming.
But today we are only considering the finer details, and they are perhaps the easiest things to change or push outside your comfort zone. If you’ve always played it a bit safe with patterns, sticking to solid colours or stripes, why not consider polka dots, camo print or bold motifs? This is, of course, more suited to a youthful way of dressing, but the concept can still be transferred to other styles.
Explore different fabrics and think about mixing textures, trying out new combinations of clothes or blending styles. Matt Allinson’s basics series is a great source of inspiration for all of this.
Remember that it doesn’t have to mean a drastic change to how you currently dress. It could be something as simple as trying a different pocket square or wearing an alternative fit of jeans. When people become used to your style it is often the smallest changes that will produce the most noticeable effects.