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<< Back to Robb Report, March 2013

Wardrobe Call

Jill Newman

Today’s menswear sports slimmer silhouettes and brighter fabrics, allowing men to dress with confidence and individuality of style. But a well-dressed man demands more from his wardrobe than a personal statement: He wants polished yet practical clothing that, especially during the warmer months, can be worn with equal comfort and ease in a boardroom or aboard a yacht. For insights and sage advice on updating gentlemen’s wardrobes for spring, we turned to Tom Kalenderian, the general merchandise manager and executive vice president of Barneys New York, who offers useful guidance on making elegant attire easy. —Jill Newman

How can a man quickly update his look?
Add some color—with a blazer, slim cotton trousers, or accessories like hand-burnished shoes and bags. A bright pair of driving shoes would also do it. Tod’s are fun and have great style.

What about a suit?
This spring, the ubiquitous gray suit has subtly shifted to lighter shades, making it a younger take on a classic. Picture Cary Grant in the film North by Northwest; the simple elegance of his silver-gray suit and a sharp white shirt is timeless and modern. Brighter blues also are a fresh way to update. The Italians are responsible for introducing us to the beautiful blue shades of the Mediterranean in their designs, and Ermenegildo Zegna has probably the best selection of these special blues.

What is the most versatile item a man can own?
The Boglioli washed-wool blazer. These jackets are as soft and comfortable as a cardigan, owing to the special way they are overdyed and garment washed. The secret is in the finish of the cloth; the special washing technique results in a casual look that has all the bones of a sartorial garment, so it looks equally smart with a pair of gray dress trousers or your favorite jeans. It is also, of course, the perfect travel blazer.

Are there polished alternatives to a suit?
The double-breasted sport jacket expresses casual elegance better than any other item in a man’s wardrobe. This blazer has been shelved for a decade, but it’s making a comeback now with a slimmer silhouette and some unexpected casual fabrics. I especially love the way Brunello Cucinelli dresses it up or down.

What one pair of shoes should every man own?
Without question, the sharpest style this spring is the double monk-strap shoe. It is equally appropriate for the most elegant suit or a favorite pair of jeans. John Lobb is famous for its double monk-strap shoes.

What about accessories?
Invest in beautiful leather goods that are packed with integrity and style. The Serapian leather weekend bag is a reintroduction of a style Serapian introduced in the 1950s. The distinctive styling is functional; the zipper and side panels extend completely so that the bag opens generously to make packing a breeze.

How do jeans fit into a man’s wardrobe?
Today jeans are another style of trouser. The narrow silhouette perfectly balances shorter, slimmer jackets and works double duty when worn simply with a sport shirt. What is really interesting is the way master tailors like Kiton are featuring handmade jeans that measure up to the luxury level of their tailored clothing.

Speaking of tailoring, can you give us some guidelines?
Shirt cuffs should show at the edge of jacket sleeves no less than a quarter inch and no more than three-quarters of an inch. Rules on trouser length and the width of the trouser cuff are not universal; it all depends on the shape of the leg. The slimmer the trouser, the more likely you are to wear your pants on the shorter side, all the better to show off your penchant for whimsical socks and dandy shoes.

Can you ever underestimate the importance of a good fit?
No. Personal style is expressed in more ways than fabric and color; the fit of a garment is a critical part of the message. Whenever I put a jacket on a client, I always say, “Make your jacket hug your collar.” If the collar of the jacket is pulling back and leaving a gap between it and the shirt, take it off!

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