In part one of this series earlier this week, I laid out the foundation of a blue print for looking the part, the basics; white shirt, blue blazer, gray slacks or trousers, shined black shoes. In part two, I will lay out optimizing this meet virtually any scenario.

The basics work because of it’s simplicity. It’s a uniform that can be worn day in and day out with no one taking notice. Keep the shirt gleaming white, the trousers creased and the shoes shined and you will always look like an executive, even if you haven’t earned the title yet. All of that said, there are times when the basics need to be tweaked for the situation. In some cases, it’s too casual and in others, it’s too formal, but the beauty in it lies in the fact that it can be easily optimized to fit the situation.

The Formal

In those rare events that the basic look is too casual, we can easily remedy this situation by taking two additional steps. If you’re a man, the addition of a slim dark tie and a folded white pocket square takes the basic business casual uniform and puts it squarely in business territory. In truth this has a lot to do with the trousers. Where cotton khakis with shirt and blazer and it doesn’t matter if we add the tie or not, but by stepping up to gray, wool trousers, the addition of a tie and pocket square makes the

look feel complete and put together.

To nail the details here, its crucial that you follow certain rules with your tie. First, keep it slim. My preference is for 2 1/2’ inches at its widest point. Second, keep it simple. Stick to dark solids like navy and charcoal, basic stripes and small pin dots. Lastly, keep it impeccable. If you’re tie has a soup stain, throw it out. You want nothing to take away from you and your skills and giving the appearance of being a slob does just that.

For the pocket square, a white cotton handkerchief works really well. Keep it white and keep it simple. a basic straight fold, sometimes called the Presidential, is always appropriate. Keep most of it in your pocket and let only the top of the fold show.

Nail these details and you will fit in in just about ever event outside of a funeral.

The Casual

I have long subscribed to the theory that one dresses for the job they want, not the job they have. That being said, sometimes, the basics need to be toned down and made more causal. For those cases, a very easy fix is to remove the blazer and roll the sleeve to the elbow. With this look, the white shirt, still gives the clean, well put together feeling. The trousers still say that you take your job seriously, but the rolling of your sleeves will be taken as a sign that you’re willing to work. There’s a reason it’s a trick utilized by almost all politicians.

If it’s too cool to roll your sleeves, consider the addition of a black cotton sweater. Stick with crew neck with a good fit keep your shirt collar inside the sweater collar. This keep the clean, professional look, but also keeps the causal feel.

To nail the details of the causal option, carefully roll your sleeves to your elbow. a neat fold indicated attention to detail and that’s always a good sign. If a sweater is added, keep it black or charcoal and make sure it fits you. it should somewhat form fitting but not like spandex. It’s a delicate balance to strike, but if done correctly, it’s a solid casual business causal. 

Looking the part is much easier than we like to make it.  With so many options its easy to get confused and overwhelmed. That’s why sticking to the basics and optimizing it along the way is always the best option. A white dress shirt, a blue blazer with gray trousers and black shoes works every time, you just have to tweak it as you go along.

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