You work hard, you play hard – but what about when you need to do both without time to change? Discover the best choices for transitioning from the office to the bar effortlessly.
By Emily Winter
How about a math game, ManDoll?
You’re taking a girl out Friday night. She’s 25. Which means (hold on, calculating…) …she’s been waiting about 13 years for you to grow up. And if I can remember my advanced trigageometry correctly, that’s more than half her life.
You see, us girls love you boys, but we’ve been waiting for you to act like the mature, responsible human we know you can become for a very, very long time. You think you know what PMS stands for? You do not. The waiting game gives us Pre Maturity Syndrome, which most certainly makes us cranky, and the truth is that we cannot bear to wait even ten minutes longer.
ManCandy, you absolutely cannot be late for this date.
The trick is finding an outfit that wears as well at your business casual uptown day job as it will in the trendy downtown dive you’ll be heading to after work. You have no time to go home and change, lest you want to suffer a PMS meltdown (and, no, you do not.).
So, you’re welcome, you’re welcome, you’re welcome: I’ve compiled a list of items you should own to be the perfect day-to-night chameleon. Instead of having to bring an entire outfit change to work, my plan requires one item at most. Enjoy, ManToy.
First, Items to Avoid:
Too Uptown Biz Casual…
High Pants. Unless you plan to audition for Mad Men after work instead of meet a date at a trendy bar, don’t wear those stodgy, traditional high pants. Keep your waistline just above your hips and you’ll look casual enough for a night on the town.
Black Pants. Black connotes formal sophistication, which doesn’t quite match up with you tossing back your fourth shot of Jager.
Khaki. Though it’s the bread and butter of Business Casual, khakis can make you stand out like sourdough if you wear them to see a band or play a game of pool with a biker gang. Stick with browns and grays for nondescript, versatile bottom-wear.
Pinstripes. Can you say “Wall Street???” Pinstripe is the unofficial pattern of number-crunching dingbats, which is fine for the work day, when “dingbat” means “I can pay my rent,” but pinstripes look out of place in the evening (zoot suit riot, anyone?).
Shiny Shirts. I have never quite understood why business casual specialists, like Express Men, Banana Republic and even Brooks Brothers make these slightly shiny dress shirts. I suppose they’re for those ManCookies who hit the dance club straight from work. But if you’re not looking to go from the daily grind to the bump and grind, avoid these like the shimmering plague they are.
Too Downtown Dive
Fat Plaid. Even if it’s a nice material, there’s an inescapable link between fat plaid and Kurt Cobain that the pop culture conspiracy (of Nirvana tell-all memoirs and endless In Utero remixes) won’t let die. Fat plaid works in dingy watering holes, but not in the cubicle.
Skinny/Slim Fit Pants. If any garment could be considered “rock star wear,” it’s probably too casual for work.
Leather “tennis shoe inspired” shoes. I’m all for the uber-versatile Euro-style shoes, but if they just look like leather tennis shoes, they’re a no-go unless you’re a graphic designer. In which case, congratulations, you have a corporate culture all your own, and you can wear whatever you want.
Garments with holes. Come on, really? As cool as your date might be, she’ll respect you more if you don’t put your paltry 20-something salary on display for a first date. And at work? Don’t even think about it, ManSlice.
If I’ve eliminated your entire wardrobe, I’m sorry. Not that sorry, though, I’ve been meaning to get you down to your boxers for quite a while.
Express Men’s Producer Pant in gray or brown. Yes, they’re slightly shiny, a tiny shimmer can work with dark, otherwise unnoticeable pants. These pants are lower rise, slightly stretch, fairly cheap, and can be ironed like jeans (without that I-came-straight-from-the-office-pleat down the front).
Subdued Plaid. A subtle plaid straddles that hipster/office drone line better than any other pattern.
The cover-all turtle neck. Throw a slim, black t-shirt on as an undershirt with the plaid pants. Add a black turtleneck to avoid a collared shirt and tie. When work is over, remove the turtleneck sweater and toss it in your desk drawer (and right on top of your secret “midday snack” flask). And…poof! You’ve suddenly gone from arty-business-casual to black-t-shirt-interesting-pants-downtown-chic.
The secret graphic T. A slim-fitting solid or striped shirt buttoned with a complementary-colored t-shirt underneath (and a tie, if you’ve gotta) will do just fine with solid color pants for the office. Note the shirt shouldn’t be long—preferably midway down your zipper when untucked. Once the work day is done, chuck that tie aside and untuck and unbutton your shirt to reveal a silly (but, please, tasteful) graphic T that none of your co-workers suspected was under that accountant’s façade.
The thrift store vest. Even a slightly stuffy-looking shirt will look nonchalant if you untuck it after work and throw a ski vest over it. For maximum awesomeness, make sure you’ve got a hint of brown or gray in your vest to match your pants.
The thin, V-neck sweater or cardigan. It looks totally office-appropriate with a shirt and tie underneath, but once you remove those constrictions, you’re only left with an undershirt and a sweater that’s semi-sheer, but not super tight. The fact that the sweater will hang a bit baggier sans the dress shirt gives you a cavalier edge.
The clandestinely casual knit tie. With a high sweater, who’s to know that the red tie you’re sporting underneath is about as informal as they come? A squared-end sweater tie says “yes, I’m wearing a tie, but I don’t take myself too seriously, okay?!” and will definitely transfer to the local pub. Just make sure to remove that uptight sweater before leaving the office.
The Everywhere Shoe. The everywhere shoe is not shiny, not pointy and definitely not circle-toed like a tennis shoe. A good Everywhere Shoe has a square toe or a slightly rounded one. A minimal, brown, leather slip-on loafer is my No. 1 pick.
For more great fashion advice for guys check out Emily’s blog, Fashionable Men-tions.