In a five-part series on Saturdays, FP profiles the people you don’t want to leave home without if you want to live longer, healthier and wealthier. This week, in his own words, Canada’s top tailor Larry Rosen explains the payback of a fine wardrobe. Coming up: a doctor, a banker, a lawyer and an accountant.
Larry Rosen as interviewed by Dana Lacey
How you present yourself is important, especially in today’s competitive economic environment. There’s an old adage that clothes make the man, but the reality is, the man makes the man. Clothes aren’t going to make a talentless person talented, but first impressions are important. If you’re a leader in business, you want to come off as confident, intelligent and innovative. Consider a job interview: Before you even open your mouth, they’ve already decided if they’re going to hire you. All they’re looking for is confirmation. You can’t just go in there and tell them how brilliant you are – you have to get the other things working for you.
You have to think of your wardrobe as an investment. If you look right in business, it will pay back in spades. The great thing about menswear is that the styles don’t change every season. You can buy something with the confidence of knowing that it’s going to last a number of years and serve you well.
To make a smart investment, I believe every man should have a clothing advisor. You want to look “with it,” but not everyone has the time to become a fashion expert. Traditionally, this person was a tailor, but the modern incarnation is a clothier. To plan a man’s wardrobe, the clothier has to understand his lifestyle, his budget and how he wants to express himself. You probably won’t have the funds for everything at once, but your advisor will help you prioritize. What kind of situations do you find yourself in? Do you like trends or prefer a more classic look? Do you like to stand out or stay subtle? A good advisor knows what you need to make your wardrobe work for you
What to wear when you don’t know what to wear
I believe you can only underdress – you can’t overdress. If you’re not sure of the business situation, wear a suit. It shows respect. The business suit has been around for 100 years – it works. It’s a great confidence builder; any woman will tell you that a man looks powerful, authoritative and sexy in a suit. Why wouldn’t you want that working for you?
If you leave them to their own devices, men tend to buy the same colour suit over and over again. You need variety to look interesting. You may only have five suits, but if there’s a colour balance you can look fresh every day of the week. A good advisor can teach you how to accessorize with the right belt, shoes and ties, so you can create different looks. Over time, it will become intuitive.
A tie is a great form of self-expression and really freshens up a wardrobe. Men don’t wear a lot of jewellery, so there aren’t a lot of ways to express yourself. A tie is a great way to say something original; make sure you have variety in colour and style.
Business casual is a poorly understood term. It doesn’t actually mean casual wear, such as jeans or T-shirts. It means wearing a sports jacket with the right dress trouser and shoe. It’s that “middle wardrobe,” dressy casual in a way that still shows respect for the workplace. There are studies that show people who wear blue jeans are far less productive then people who dress up for work. Instead, try wearing a suit with an open-collared shirt. It says “he has the confidence to wear a suit and dress it down.” It says “he is comfortable in his own skin.”
Know when to let go
Men are terrible with their closets – they never throw anything out. I have a rule: If you haven’t worn it in a year, give it to charity. We have a service called Closet Cleaning, where an associate will come to your house and go through your closet and see what you are missing and what you should get rid of. We want to make your wardrobe functional. When you get up in the morning to go to work, looking good should be easy.
There are some essentials that belong in every closet. Every man should own a dark, dressy suit, either navy or black, that can be dressed up for semi-formal events like weddings. It’s the first suit men buy, and the most versatile. Pair it with a white French-cuff shirt and the right tie. Your wardrobe should also have a navy or black blazer, and at least one pair of black lace-up dress shoes – and always have a belt to match. Also, make sure you have an all-weather coat with a removeable liner.
But a good wardrobe also needs some variety and colour. For the summer, I think a man looks fabulous in a tan suit. Is it essential? No, but it’s a great, enduring summer look.