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Building a starting business wardrobe on a budget

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hi All, 

 

Thank you for reading and offering your advice. 

 

I'm now approaching 29 and have just landed a position in a large company in the London Bridge area.

 

Previously my working career has been in a startup where the attire was smart casual. I was the most formally dressed person there in a formal shirt and trousers.

 

The new office is business casual which from what I've gathered observing the people around the office during the interview process is suit without tie. 

 

This has lead to a problem where I need to quickly acquire appropriate suits and shoes for work to get me going until I can afford to spend a bit more on my wardrobe. 

 

At present I have 1 charcoal suit, more than enough shirts, and that's about it for appropriate attire. 

 

My budget is around £700 with the intention to add suits, shoes etc as the months/years go on. 

 

I've been looking at TM Lewin and Charles Tyrwhitt because they seem to offer good value but I'm open to other suggestions. Would 2 more suits, with 2 pairs of trousers each be enough to get going? A navy and a grey? 

 

On the shoes front, I do not have any black shoes. If I'm buying decent leather shoes, I understand I can't wear the same pair every day. As a result, I'd need to purchase 2 pairs of black shoes. I've been looking at the L1 range from Loake, the shoes by Charles Tyrwhitt and Herring entry range. They're all a similar price of £120-140. If I need to purchase 2 pairs, I'm not sure I can go any further up the range at the moment but would love to hear options here. 

 

Looking forward to your thoughts and advice!

post #2 of 9

I think the first goal is to identify the appropriate attire. In the u.s., 'business casual' means sport coats and odd trousers, i.e., not really a suit. Perhaps it is different in the U.K. Obviously, you don't want to appear out of place if everyone else is wearing suits...were you instructed to wear 'business casual'? Perhaps people in your position normally wear business casual and others in different jobs at the company wear normal business attire?

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

I did ask the question of HR as to what was "normal" and they said unless meeting customers it was business casual which I observed to mean a suit, rather than a sports jacket and odd trousers. The offices are located in the more financial/business part of London so safe bet would be suit no tie. 

post #4 of 9

We'll assume the difference in 'business casual' is simple semantics and delve into the facts youve presented. Three suits isn't a bad start for a wardrobe, and navy, mid-grey, and charcoal and good choices. You can make your wardrobe appear infinitely larger by mixing in other elements, e.g. shirts with designs like bengal stripes, pin stripes, gingham, etc, as well as ties. While you said that others don't wear ties, adding them to your outfit will give you more options for disguising a smaller suit selection. Basic solid shirts, i.e., pink and light blue, can accept a range of louder ties that dont allow focus to dwell on the suit, thus making each new tie seem like an entirely new outfit. Obviously, you'll need to decide for yourself if ties are appropriate or not.

 

I don't know of any specifically U.K. retailers, so I'll leave that subject for someone more knowledgeable. 

 

For shoes, consider NOT getting any black pairs at all---instead, if you're planning on a mid-grey, dark grey, and navy suit, think about getting two pairs of burgundy/oxblood shoes, perhaps a cap toe, wingtip, and plain toe (all oxfords.) Black shoes wouldn't be the best option for the navy suit, but if you get oxblood or burgundy, you'll be able to match the shoes with all of your suits.

 

I hope this helps a bit. Let me know if you have further questions.

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

That is indeed very helpful! 

 

I'll definitely be sure to get some more distinctive shirts, or go block with interesting tie to add depth to the wardrobe. 

 

With regards to shoes, I was under the impression anything but black shoes was frowned upon in business? 

post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saahil View Post
 

 

With regards to shoes, I was under the impression anything but black shoes was frowned upon in business? 

A key aspect of dressing well is creating a continual level of formality both within your outfit as well as outside of it, relating to your environment, as you properly noted. Black, typically being a more formal color, is a good option for normal business attire. However, you've indicated that most people don't wear ties, i.e., the dress code was lower than normal business attire. This creates more options for you regarding shoes (although, honestly, I have no issue with wearing burgundy or dark brown shoes with a suit---especially navy suits.) I'm not suggesting NO black, and I'm also not suggesting a light shade, like walnut, but you can easily wear darker shoe colors that complement the rest of your attire. (Of course, I've never been to London to know the cultural differences there, and you haven't stated what type of work you perform, so your situation may be very different from what I've seen in the U.S.)

post #7 of 9

I have had to build a business wardrobe on a budget too (22 years old, financial services firm, first job out of uni). 

 

I'd suggest you go to SuitSupply and look for two suits in the £259 range, and buy two pairs of shoes from Meermin (~£135 each). This will take you to about £780 but will give your business wardrobe solid foundations. You may need to spend a bit more to get tailoring etc, which I would absolutely recommend. 

 

For the suits I'd get a navy one and a medium/dark grey. Find something that the jacket doesn't need work on, if possible. I have one navy SS suit which I like a lot and only needed slight altering in the trousers, and a Charles Tyrwhitt suit from their luxury line which ended up needing a lot of work done on it to fit properly to the point it was more expensive and is noticeably worse in fabric and construction.

 

For the shoes I'd suggest a pair of traditional black dress shoes and a pair of brown shoes in walnut/chestnut/oak brown, maybe with some broguing or buckles or something to be a bit more fun.

 

You'll be able to wear both pairs of shoes with both suits and with quality, fitting clothes you should look sharp.

 

Good luck in the new job :)

 

Chris

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thank you both for the excellent advice. I'll definitely look at the dark brown shoes. As it's a more laid back office, I should be okay with that. 

 

Chris, how does Meeriman compare to the lower end of the Loake or Herring range? 

post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saahil View Post

Thank you both for the excellent advice. I'll definitely look at the dark brown shoes. As it's a more laid back office, I should be okay with that. 

Chris, how does Meeriman compare to the lower end of the Loake or Herring range? 

I could not say for certain as I've not had a pair of Loakes/Herrings.

I think the general opinion is the €160 Meermins are comparable in quality to ~£200 Loakes, and that as far as quality:price ratio goes it's hard to beat Meermin.

What I can say for certain is I wear my black Meermin Oxfords 4 or 5 days per week and have been doing so for over a year and they are in excellent shape and once broken in are very comfortable. Take care of them and they'll last.
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