Many men leaders are so busy keeping their professional lives on target that they don't really have the time or the interest that it takes to keep track of modern wardrobe trends. They may depend upon their spouse or an experienced salesperson to guide and advise them regarding how to keep their professional edge and look polished and successful. Although men still hold the majority of top level positions many of them are completely oblivious to the fact that what they wear sets a cultural standard within the workplace and serves as a role-model for others within the organization.
Fashion Trends as Vital Components of Your Brand
In the past most men didn't view their visual image as important for portraying a positive personal and corporate image. But things have changed and this is an entirely new business era. To be an effective leader a man needs to dress the part. Most of my top level clients want to be successful, prestigious, and influentially powerful. But when I am coaching and consulting with them it is easy to see that their brand presence and wardrobe doesn't communicate any kind of memorable message. Fashion and style are major components of your personal and corporate brand and your industry reputation, and they can actually help you to build business relationships by inspiring trust and confidence in those around you.
My Top 7 Trends for Upgrading Your Business Wardrobe
Here are my seven best trend picks for today. Every man can adapt these to various work environments with looks that range from formal and conservative to more friendly, approachable, and elegantly casual.
Grey - The New Power Neutral Color
This season grey suits are taking center stage and moving navy out of the spotlight. Shades of grey will be in men's suits and sports jackets in solid colors and pattern styles like windowpane. While you can never go wrong with the classic 2-button suit or jacket, we are beginning to see that what was old is new again. The double breasted suit has gone full circle and is beginning to reemerge to contribute some memorable elegance to your fashion wardrobe. Plus grey has always been a classic cornerstone of every man's professional wardrobe and it is a wonderful color that communicates a distinct level of conservatism and authority.
Corporate Background Checks
If there is one must-have item for every man this season it is the checked dress shirt. I always suggest that for a more businesslike occasion you will want to invest in a very subtle solid check. By subtle I mean that from a few feet away it will appear to be a solid color. This kind of classy check adds an element of visual or tonal texture and interest. If you are more fashion-forward and that kind of style resonates with your true personal brand, then by all means acquire a few fine quality check print shirts in several multi-colors. Keep this tip in mind: The bolder and more colorful the checks, the more casual the shirt will look and feel.
Another corporate checkmate can be gained by adding a checked long sleeved sport shirt to your business casual look. Robert Graham makes some beautiful casual sport shirts that look modern and have sleeves that can be turned up to expose a contrasting print. Pair these types of shirts with an exquisite skin belt, dress trousers, leather slip-ons and voila - you look modern and contemporary. Another alternative is to wear a checked casual button-down collar style dress shirt under a sport coat or blazer to look casually elegant and trustworthy.
Around the Neck
When it comes to fashion you can tie in knots you will want a broad selection of prints like medallion, striped, mosaic, and pin dot. If you want to be on the cutting edge then you may want to incorporate the new solid ties as your signature accessory. By solid I don't mean those boring solids with no texture or contrast. The new versions are bold and beautiful. Neiman Marcus has a great new selection of these solid ties that look elegant and sophisticated by adding texture. You'll find tone-on-tone, tiny dots, rich satins, small square geometrics, and paisley print jacquards in a single color tone.
Checks & Balances
With the new check dress shirt taking the fashion spotlight, you will need to be careful how you incorporate your selection of ties. You want to coordinate and look intentional - as though an image consultant dressed you backstage before an important media appearance. We always provide our clients with education on how to balance shirt and tie colors and prints - by teaching them what we call the "rules of coordination." To adhere to this rule keep similar colors through different prints, but the two prints must be of two different scales. Here's an example to help you understand the formula:
A blue and white subtle-checked dress shirt would be great coordinated with a blue, charcoal grey, and white medallion tie - but only as long as the medallions in the tie are larger than the checks on the shirt and they are also in similar shades of blue that carry across throughout the look. Oftentimes a solid shirt and tie can be rather boring. But if you have some mix and match know-how you can give yourself a well-dressed fashionable edge that communicates a modern flair for innovation that is important to your overall brand messaging.
When the autumn weather starts to cool down a bit, be sure to dress in style by layering a modern cardigan that communicates polish. Cardigans are great items to layer with, especially if you work in a business casual environment where a suit may appear too formal to your clientele. The new modern businesslike styles are made from fine merino wool or cashmere that doesn't add a lot of bulk to your layered look. V-necks are also another layering option that, like cardigans, lets you layer up over sport shirts, fancy dress shirts, and button-down shirts to keep you feeling warm and looking approachably debonair. They are great on days when you want to be polished and sharp without creating too much fashion distance between yourself and your ultra-casual clientele.
Footwear that Steps it Up a Notch
For men footwear is one of the signs of social status. Wearing high quality leather and knowing how to coordinate specific shoes styles with different wardrobe looks says you understand the art of dressing to look sharp. Keep in mind that there are formal and business casual levels of dress shoes. When working with my professional clients, I always suggest they wear a formal lace-up dress shoe when wearing a formal suit, as this is the highest level of dress. A slip-on loafer style works when you are wearing a sport coat or blazer, shirt, and dress trousers - because the loafer conveys a more business casual look and feel. Here are the latest fall trends in men's formal lace-up and loafer styles:
Formal - Lace-up Dress Shoes: Wing tips, vintage oxfords, leather lace-ups, polished leather oxfords and suede shoes (which are a bit more casual).
Business Casual Loafer Dress Shoes: This season the leading styles are dressy leather loafer-style moccasins, suede slip-ons, and a return of the penny loafer from days gone by.
Top it Off with a Finishing Touch
Like the American Express slogan advises, "Don't leave home without it." You never want to head out into the unpredictable autumn weather without an elegant topcoat that is practical and functional, looks fantastic, and also serves to protect the tailored clothes underneath in rain or snow. This season we are seeing topcoats in shorter styles that can work for both your professional and casual wardrobes - especially if you live in a warmer climate where you may not need the extra length. This season look for a neutral tone like black, grey, navy, or camel in wool, cashmere, or other natural fabrics that will help to insulate you against the elements while protecting your clothing investment.
Any of these seven trends can be worked into a traditional, high fashion, or business casual wardrobe to keep you beautifully prepared for any business situation. If you've made it to the C-suite then your visual messages need to continually communicate your expertise and your visionary leadership. I hope you can take advantage of this modern trend report to incorporate some fresh fall fashion into your wardrobe. Concentrate on core pieces, basics, and accessories that communicate your personal brand style and you'll soon see how the way your dress inspires greater business success.
Sarah Hathorn is a professional image consultant, certified personal brand strategist, speaker, and author.
Her company, Illustra Image Consulting, works with high-achieving future leaders and large businesses by enhancing their corporate and personal brand image to take their businesses and careers to the next level.
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