You know the saying: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fully utilize his navy work suit, however, and he might just end up in the corner office. Ok, so perhaps we took a little creative liberty with the old platitude, but it still rings true. Dressing for work is very much about capitalizing on a garment's versatility, and few things are as versatile as the four-season navy wool suit that has become such a staple of the professional wardrobe. To that end, here are just a few pointers on how to get the most mileage out of yours, and the appropriate office occasions to try them out.
The Monday Morning
After a long, casual, and hopefully beer-filled weekend, it's good to get back into the swing of things looking sharp as a tack. But then again, Mondays can also be a drag, so a little personality will go a long way. Liven up that navy suit a touch with a slightly more interesting tie pattern, and a complementary pocket square. You'll still look like you're ready to work, but without appearing bored to death. And when it comes to little things like that, people will notice and pick up on the vibe.
The Office Party
Even the most harried cubicle jockey likes to let their hair down now and then, and a good time can do wonders for office moral. Still, it's important to keep in mind that an office party is a work function, and your boss/bosses will also be there. Go a little more casual with a solid cashmere or merino sweater, but keep your navy suit looking as professional as you would on any other work day. And please, please watch out for Gloria in accounting once the drinks start flowing. Rumor has it she likes to dance.
The Business Lunch
Sooner or later, you'll end up at the mid-priced bistro down the street with the team, trying to solve a budget crisis over a gourmet interpretation of nachos. And as such, you don't want to spill. Protect yourself with a darker shirt (chambray, for example) and tie combo that, in a worst case scenario, will hide the guac and salsa. Same goes for drinks: if there's wine involved, consider something other than that white dress shirt and soft beige tie. It may sound inane, but soup stains have put a damper on more than a few work-related meals.
The Client Presentation
Forget the Excel charts and PowerPoint slides for a moment, and remember: a pretty big part of the presentation is you. You want to instill confidence in the client, absolute trust, so unless you're in a more creative field where eccentricity is appreciated, stick to classic, clean, and authoritative. A white or light colored dress shirt with a traditional point collar will lay the foundation, and a solid silk tie will be the only accent you need. A well-made briefcase or bag is also good to have (even if it's relatively empty) because you'll look like you came prepared. Remember: this isn't about flair or ostentation, it's about presenting an aura of total dependability.
A good wool topcoat should fit snugly yet comfortably over your navy suit, and that's exactly what you should wear in colder weather. Leave the parkas and peacoats for the weekend. A cashmere or lambswool scarf is a nice, professional accent, and it will actually add quite a bit of warmth. Just avoid any wild knit patterns or colors. A pair of galoshes or shoe protectors are also not a bad idea; one bad storm can ruin an expensive pair of dress shoes, and even street salt can wreak havoc on leather. Keep in mind that your suit and your general appearance needs to still look sharp and put together when you get to the office.