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Quiet classics to be worn more than trendy clothes

by LOIS FENTON | April 1, 2018 at 2:30 a.m.

Q I'm fairly new to working in offices and I'm wondering how often I can re-wear the same clothes. Not in terms of washing but in terms of others' seeing me in the same clothing. My manager, who has probably been working well over 30 years (and who I imagine can afford more clothes), has shirts I see weekly. I'm not sure what my father did because his white shirts all seemed the same to me, but I have a couple of patterned shirts (similar to my boss's) that people would recognize as repeated.

A Some clothing definitely can give the wrong impression if worn too frequently. You are right that traditional items such as white shirts and most classic suits that do not stand out can be repeated as often as they are fresh. However, wearing distinctive bright-colored shirts and ties that get noticed should be more limited; I will provide specifics below. Likewise, recognizable accessories (unless they are your signature -- such as a watch, wedding ring, etc.) should probably be worn less often, say, every two weeks or so.

Cost is also an important aspect of your question and my answer. This is a good reason, if you are in a shirt and tie setting, to have a few white and powder blue shirts and several go-with-almost-everything ties that can be mixed in multiple combinations. These items can be worn as often as once a week and no one will be the wiser. But this is only true for the simplest small-pattern or solid-color ties and the most classic solid-color shirts. Conversely, colorful ties and ties with unique patterns are quite different, because they grab our attention. By changing the most noticeable item in your combination -- the tie or a distinctive shirt -- you can change your whole look, thus, allowing you to repeat your other more expensive garments more often.

As you move up in the business world, you may find yourself spending more dollars for clothing than you have been accustomed to paying. Do remember that what is more important than repeating clothes too often is looking as if your clothes are low quality or are not in good condition. This brings to mind my cost per wearing, or CPW, philosophy. A $750 classic navy blue suit that you could wear once a week for six years comes to $2.40 per wearing: $2.40 for an image of confidence, control, and maturity all day long.

On the other hand, an "on sale" suit of greenish gray polyester that catches your eye with a price tag of $80 affects the CPW formula in an entirely different manner. You wear it once, twice -- and don't receive a single compliment. The third time you wear it, you notice you have difficulty selecting a tie that's right (miracle ties don't exist). On the morning of the fourth wearing, you have a feeling you ought to wear something else, but you go through with it. There is a certain edge missing from your confidence all day. On the fifth day you go out to lunch and they seat you next to the kitchen. That day spent in the bargain suit is the last. Your suit goes into the giveaway bag. The cost per wearing of that suit, for five less-than-satisfactory excursions in greenish gray polyester, was $16 -- one of the most expensive "bargains" on record.

That does not mean there are no bargains. Provided you choose carefully, you can greatly expand the number of combinations you can create from the clothes you own by hunting down attractive "gently-used" ties that are available in thrift shops, in your dad's closet, and at tag sales. Finding a Ferragamo, Ralph Lauren or Hermes tie for $5 instead of paying more than $100 is a worthwhile use of your time. Fine quality shirts -- traditional and trendy -- are also waiting to be found ... often for as little as $3.

Here are some time-span guidelines for 1. conservative garments (classic items) that you can wear as often as every week vs. 2. unusual garments (distinctive items) that you should rotate more slowly, not more often than every two weeks.

Classic suits -- solid grays, navies and khakis.

Distinctive suits -- glen plaids, pin and shadow stripes, herringbone tweeds and seersuckers.

Classic blazers or sports coats -- Navy blue, gray, black and small tweeds.

Distinctive sports coats --Pastel colors and off-whites, windowpane plaids and houndstooth checks.

Classic shirts -- Solid whites and powder blues, small stripes in Oxford cloth and broadcloth.

Distinctive shirts -- Solid deep blues, bold yellows, bright pinks, Bengal stripes, tattersalls and plaids.

Classic go-with-nearly-everything ties -- Solid navy, black, brown, burgundy in knits and wovens.

Distinctive ties -- Unique patterns, bow ties, silvery blues; and bright colors in yellow, orange or red.

Classic sweaters -- Solids in navy, black and burgundy.

Distinctive sweaters -- Stripes, argyle and Fair Isle pattern; solids in yellow, red or white.

To summarize: Quiet classics can be repeated often; memorable/unique items are more limited.

Please send your men's dress queries to Male Call:

[email protected]

High Profile on 04/01/2018

Print Headline: Quiet classics to be worn more than trendy clothes


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