semi-upscale casual for an older professional

Discussion in 'Menswear Advice' started by drblind, Apr 23, 2016.

  1. drblind

    drblind New Member

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    Regards to all.

    I am a mid-60s engineering professor at a large southwestern university. I have become interested in upgrading my appearance, and while I can't do much about the ravages of age, I hope that I can offset that a bit by doing something about what I wear. I recently found this forum because I had bought a new suit and I was looking for tie/shirt/suit information (the suit is a Corneliani, up and away the nicest thing I have ever had; more about that in another post).

    Among other things, I teach the capstone course for graduating seniors. As part of that course, I ask the students to do presentations in business formal attire. I also dress business formal for the presentations. Bottom line is that, with few exceptions, I didn't think the students had a very good sense of style, fit, or quality. Ok, we are engineers, we usually dont think much about that, but maybe we should. I also want to see in students of all classifications, a sense professionalism, and I think appearance as an important element of that. In either case I think I could do a better job of setting the tone/being an example.

    I see a lot of information on the web for casual dress, but it seems mostly for the 20-30s guy. I don't think a lot of it appropriate for me. Few things looks worse than an older guy trying to look two generations younger (except, possibly, an older woman trying to look two generations younger)

    I am tenured so I could wear cutoff blue jeans, flip-flops and a ragged tee shirt, and it would be fine, but I dont think it would send a good message. My normal warm weather class "uniform" is a white polo-type shirt and chino pants in khaki, olive or blue. all department store grade. In cold weather I usually wear light sweaters, either a wool polo type (one with a collar) or crew neck cotton sweater, usually without a shirt underneath. On non-class days it is usually baggy work jeans, fisherman sandals with socks and a sweatshirt. I have a navy winter-wool blazer but my lightweight blazer is worn out. I have no sports coats. All my button shirts are white, with the exception of one that is light blue. I have a reasonable selection of light-weight wool polo's.

    I thought I might upgrade to button-up shirts, and maybe a subtle pattern or tweed sports coat. At some point I might wear an occasional knit or informal tie. I have no interest in being an administrator, so I doubt I would ever need to wear a suit daily, but I do wear one in class 4-6 times a year. I guess I would I prefer to start acquiring things of higher quality.

    I am uncomfortable in making a radical change to my wardrobe, but gradual changes are ok. My physical appearance is ok, I am average height, fairly trim, active and in good health. I have all my teeth. most of my hair, although half of it is gray.

    So how do I start?
     


  2. CodPiece

    CodPiece Senior member

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    I'll take a stab at it, if that's OK. I don't post often here, but I have learned a lot and put it into practice with some success. I'm 50, work in a pretty hip design/software office in the Northeast, and am surrounded by younger colleagues.

    I don't do bright colors, fun socks, pocket square or any of that. I did try it in the beginning, but it wasn't me and my wife really didn't like it at all. I've found that I much of my current wardrobe is gray, white, navy and brown. I wear well-fitted solids for the most part and find texture to be the best way to add variety and interest.

    One item of interest per day; linen sports jacket, peccary gloves, burnished old brown wingtips, awesome cardigan, that sort of thing.

    Someone who dresses exceptionally well here in the style I describe is NOBD. Here's a search of a couple of his images: http://www.styleforum.net/newsearch?search=nobd&type=61

    I've got to get my kids through college, so I prefer some lower-priced options, like Uniqlo flat front chinos and Clarks desert boots (beeswax). Very comfortable and looks good. Suede shoes also add a lot of style to jeans and chinos.

    I spend good money for quality sweaters, jeans and jackets, and get everything tailored, even the jeans (straight leg jeans have too big of a leg opening for me, so I get them tapered a bit).

    If you wear glasses, Warby Parker is great. Close cropped Ivy League hair for me and a well-trimmed beard hides the jowls.

    Although a lot of this sounds a bit hipsterish, it's pretty subdued. My daughter says I look like a well dressed man, and the guys her age look like boys playing dress up.

    Hope this helps.
     


  3. Murlsquirl

    Murlsquirl The Moral Squirrel Dubiously Honored Moderator

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    I've moved your thread to the new Menswear Advice Forum, where it will get more useful advice and where other members with similar questions can benefit from your having asked.

    Cheers,

    Murl
     


  4. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Well, I think that I can understand your predicament. I was, before I did this full time, an engineering professor at a large Northwestern university, and the uniforms ran the gamut. I was in my 30s, of course, and hopefully will get to hit my mid 60s in 25 years or so!

    And yes, you could get away with anything - three of the top professors in my department when I was at Harvard as a postdoc wore: 1) Conference tees with ripped "dad" jeans and running shows, 2) Conference tees or plaid shirts with sweatpants that general hit him about the ankle, and running shoes or Birkenstocks, and 3) Terrible suits with dubiously colored shirts (yellow, moss green) with worse ties. He looked like Saul Goodman, but dorkier.

    For warmer weather, how about linen or light weight cotton shirts with well fitting linen or cotton pants, with chukkas or loafers? For cooler weaether, how about oxford cloth or herringbone casual button down shirts in white, crewneck sweaters in navy and grey, and flannel or moleskin trousers, with chukkas. A few light weight sportsjackets, and a couple of heavier ones in tweeds for the fall winter, and you would be good to go. For these types of casual looks, fit is important, of course.

    In addition to looking at @NOBD 's looks. I think that www.propercloth.com has good lookbooks that, while they feature younger models, have good looks that can be emulated by men of all ages: http://propercloth.com/collections
     


  5. NOBD

    NOBD Senior member

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    Hey, I'm not even 45! (Will be, next Thursday...) Why am I mentioned here? :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2016


  6. Claghorn

    Claghorn Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    @Academic2 @TweedyProf @heldentenor I know I'm missing a few more obvious ones

    http://www.styleforum.net/t/504562/dress-in-academia/0_20

    ---

    You mentioned a gradual shift; it seems like a good idea. I'd start with OCBD (oxford cloth button downs). The cloth is nice and casual (somewhat rough), and the collar type (button down) looks good when worn without a tie. Get 2-3 of these from places like Proper Cloth and Brooks Brothers, get a feel for them, and then maybe buy a few more. Light blue is probably the way to go, but there are a few patterns that lend themselves to the look I think you are going for. Gingham or tattersall , I think, is what immediately springs to mind (example from Luxire):
    [​IMG]

    In terms of pants, cotton chinos are very versatile, but they can also easily look frumpy. It's sort of about fit here. You might want to augment your rotation with one or two wool trousers. Maybe one in mid-light brown and one in mid-gray. What separates wool odd trousers from wool suit pants is going to be the roughness of the fabric. Wool pants that are smooth and worsted are going to look like they belong to a suit. Wool pants like these (from ePaulet) look like they are meant to be worn separately:

    [​IMG]

    Knit ties are wonderful. As are sports coats (look for anything with slightly more textured fabrics and patch pockets). And would be a good step two.

    What shoes do you wear when you teach?
     


  7. TweedyProf

    TweedyProf Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    @SeaJen is in Eqngineering, I believe. There are several others. @emptym I think and, of course, @unbelragazzo and many more.

    You might be interested in reading this:

    http://www.keikari.com/english/interview-with-tweedyprof/

    There's also an interview with Unbel. Suffice it to say, I wear a SC with tie every day to work.


    [​IMG]


    Of course, what's appropriate will vary, practically speaking. If you're a chem professor in the lab working with aqua regia doing synthesis, well, jeans might be the ticket (along with goggles). But if you are not likely to ruin your clothes with grease, toxins, or radiation, then I think jeans should be left for the weekends. As an undergraduate, I had a small lab accident where I sprayed myself with P-32 (a radioactive isotope of phosphorus). Fortunately, its half-life is short.

    I feel strongly that coat and tie are mandatory for teaching (see above link), but what about during off days? As I said, for me, the coat and tie stay on, but you want something more casual yet smart, not necessarily involving a tie.

    I actually pulled off the tie on Friday and ended up with this:



    [​IMG]


    You can ditch the pocket square, but with proper trousers and shoes, I think this would be a respectable academic uniform: BD, well-fitting SC, odd trousers and a good pair of plain toe bluchers.

    Fit is paramount, but if you feel confident on that, then for shirts, I would go for subtle (i.e. no crazy color combos or patterns): university stripes, gingham for spring/summer, tattersall for fall/winter, in staid colors and a set of solids in white and different shades of blue until you get a feel for how you might branch out (e.g. pale pink, ecru). I feel strongly about a decent collar so check out Kamakura for a really nice BD though their sizing is a bit wonky.

    Other than that, I suggest a navy and a brown solid or subtle pattern (e.g. herringbone or houndstooth) for two basic jackets in your rotation, appropriate weight for the seasons (as @claghorn says, patch pockets, but I wouldn't sweat that so much). Navy and brown are versatile colors that go with many ties and shirt colors. You could opt for a gunclub for your third coat.

    On pants, I reserve cotton and linen for weekends. They just wrinkle in a way I dislike for work. Having some wool in the fabric tends to help it keep its shape. Colors: Mid to light grey and tan to mid brown can be mixed and matched with the navy and brown SCs. Try to get trousers with a little texture (not a smooth worsted, but hopsack, fresco for summer and nice solid flannel or small scale herringbone for winter). If you get four pairs of trousers, one at the ends of the said dimensions, with the two SCs, and a set of decent shirts, that's plenty of variation.

    Then at least two pairs of shoes S/S and then F/W to rotate, some shade of brown. A plain toe blucher (PTB) is hard to beat for casual and smart. Chukkas, loafers, single monks, or semi-brogue bluchers are useful too.

    My two cents. Feel free to ask specific questions.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2016


  8. drblind

    drblind New Member

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    Wow, I am speechless.A lot of ideas here. I will have to study this for a while.

    revelations (and action items) in more-or-less posting chronological order:
    1. have everything tailored. yes, I've a thick neck and long arms in proportion to the other measurements, which is one of the reasons I gave up on buttons; all my shirts were like main sails.

    2. consider a close cropped beard. Now this wasn't even on the radar, but may be a good idea. I've a bit of a jowl problem, myself. I will be out of the country for about 6 weeks this summer so that would be a good, low-explanation time to try that idea out. I had a beard as young man but shaved it 30 years ago when daughter #1 came on the scene.

    3.get nice trousers, in make and in fabric. Many had good information and some names here. A few more names might be helpful. I suppose there is a trouser-buying faq here or one of the other mentioned style sites. Another question, In the photo of the ePaulet pants, there is no belt. What is the current thought on belt use?

    4. revamp the shirt collection. Some excellent suggestions. On my own, I would have never considered gingham, or even university stripes. I barely even have button-downs. Thanks for the names of places to look.

    6. buy a new pair (or two) of shoes. Tweedyprof, I am sorry but I don't know what S/S and F/W refer to. In answer to what I wear, I have always worn polishable shoes for class, though often they are closed-toe fisherman sandals. I alternate those with a couple of pairs of loafers (some with tassels), deck shoes and one or two pairs of bluchers (I had to look it up) Mostly these are Ecco or Seibel, Florsheim, Johnston and Murphy and one pair of old Churchills that are my go-to suit shoes About half are black and half brown. I prefer to wear shoes no more than 2 times a week, preferable once. I also prefer shoes of non-eastern-sweatshop make. I say they are polishable, but that doesnt mean they are polished. when I inventoried them tonight, I was appalled at their condition. I would have polished some of them, but my wife is already wondering wtf, and if I polished my shoes right now she would probably hire a private investigator.

    7. get some jackets. Tweedyprof, I saw your ad in b&s about the Talbot tie and I considered pm-ing you just to ask about the jacket you were wearing. I thought it extremely nice looking.

    Thanks for the links to the dress-in-academia thread and the Tweedyprof interview. I am glad that I am in-tune with several others. Besides the good and encouraging information there, the academic thread was good for a lot of laughs. I am not as late getting on-board as it might seem. I have a late-in-life PhD, and I was nearly 50 when I started the tenure-track.

    With regard to my work environment, I am primarily a computational guy so I mostly only have paper and keyboards to mess with. I do have a small imaging/microscopy lab but we rarely work with more than uL or ug quantities. Nothing is toxic or hazardous (it cant be, otherwise they will make me rip up the carpet and I dont want to move the optical table again) The rare times I personally work with something nasty, like "piranha solution", I would change clothes anyway. When I wear sandals I can't go into the lab, either.

    There are a couple of things working in my favor (i) I am known to be cold-blooded and (ii) despite repeated calls to the physical plant, and warm weather outside, my office is absolutely frigid. I can start wearing a jacket right away without calling much attention to myself. Considering that this year was the first time that I have had more 2 haircuts in a 12 mo period, a jacket is pretty radical.

    btw LA Guy, that is quite the transformation. Have you elaborated, anywhere, how that came about or whether all that academic training was useful?

    thanks again for the time and the suggestions.
     


  9. Neognosis

    Neognosis Senior member

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    In my opinion, two or three good pairs of shoes, Allen Edmonds or Aldens, in dark brown, light brown, and black will serve you well for a very, very long time and will go a long way in upgrading your look.

    I work with some very nice guys who dress well, excepting their shoes are cheap looking bicycle toe slip on shoes that make an otherwise fantastic outfit look shoddy.


    You write that you prefer to wear shoes no more than two times a week. Can you elaborate on that?
     


  10. TweedyProf

    TweedyProf Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter.

    The jacket at issue is a wool-silk-linen mix, one of those blends that can accord the jacket a nice visual texture as in the example above.

    I'm curious about the sandals: is it very warm where you live so that shoes are to be avoided? For me, at a university where one is a faculty, proper shoes should always be worn, but then again, I don't live in a climate with 100 + daytime heat. PTB's occupy a nice position: they can be dressed down or dressed up.

    I meant two good brown shoes for each season, which you can rotate. One pair of black cap toes if you have a navy suit, or brown or burgundy cap toes for grey suits.
     


  11. emptym

    emptym Moderator Moderator

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    Yep, I'm a prof, in the SW, and almost as old as Old Man NOBD. The suggestions so far have been very good. Mine are:

    For shoes, penny loafers. I love Alden's leisure hand sewn model. I used to hate penny loafers, but now I'd be happy with just them and boots.

    Pants: khaki chinos and light and/or mid gray wool, ideally with 1.75-2" wide cuffs. I wear jeans sometimes too, blue or gray.

    Shirts: Agreed on university stripes and gingham. I also suggest some kind of tattersal or graph check to. If I could only have one non white or blue shirt, it'd be a graph check with light and dark blue checks. Button down collars are ideal imo when worn tucked w/o a coat and tie.

    Jackets: the wool/linen/silk blends TP recommends are my favorite for warm weather, but cotton canvas or linen would be good starters for warm weather and corduroy and tweed for cool. I suggest tan, dark brown, or olive.

    Knit ties as you've mentioned are prob. your best bet for versatile, not too formal ties. I also like plain wool ones, knit or woven. You can find them cheap on eBay.

    Good luck and welcome to the forum!
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2016


  12. emptym

    emptym Moderator Moderator

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    Here's an example of a graph check shirt, this one's black and blue, from Luxire. I think I'd actually go with this shirt, black and blue, over the light and dark blue I recommended above.

    [​IMG]

    Here's a closeup of that fabric (right) with another shirt with light and dark blue one:
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2016


  13. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    I came from an academic family, and you either got a PhD or an MD. I decided on the PhD because it seemed less terminal! The forum was something that we started when I was in grad school and trying my best to delay my defense and graduation, since I enjoyed grad school but was not sure what I wanted to do after that, and I wanted to stay in the LA area. In spite of my best efforts, my thesis got written, and I successfully defended it. After that, I went onto a postdoc, and then moved with my wife, another academic (still active, and very recently tenured) here, where I did that academic thing for a while, at the same time growing this business, which was a mixture of being at the right place at the right time (so, luck,) that the ability both see and take the opportunity. At some point, between this and other, still fledgling, internet business, it just made sense to make he jump completely.

    I think that being an academic taught me some valuable lessons. First of all, I learned how to think critically, and how to self-learn and self-motivate. Second, I was also a computational guy, so I became unafraid of learning technical skills, though anyone who knows my work will know that technical work is not, and has never been, my forte. Finally, I learned that it's okay, even good, to ask the most "obvious" questions. I suppose that all of the above are applicable in any career, and particularly in the "knowledge economy".

    Cheers

    Fok.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2016


  14. TweedyProf

    TweedyProf Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    @LA Guy

    Congrats to your wife, Fok. Tenure is always a great achievement.
     


  15. Claghorn

    Claghorn Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Sorry for forgetting y'all (emptym, seajen, and 'gazzo)

    There is also @AMProf and @WhereNext and @TheoProf
     


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