Last May, we unpacked the new world of smart casual in the work place, a phenomenon catalyzed by investment banks — chiefly Goldman Sachs — relaxing their formal dress codes. As the dust settled on this seismic style shift, the resulting new category was not just underwhelming, but downright disturbing. Need proof? The darkly hilarious, now viral Instagram account @midtownuniform began to chronicle the hapless sartorial adventures of self-professed “bros” acclimatizing to the new post suit-and-tie parameters, namely by embracing a fetish for fleece vests.
A scroll-through Midtown Uniform’s feed led our resident menswear expert, John Totolis, Barneys’ Vice-President of Men’s Tailored Clothing, to realize that fellows are now more than ever in need of direction when it comes to navigating the 9-5 world of relaxed-meets-dressy. When he brought this style cry-for-help to our attention, he was also nice enough to break down how guys should get fashion-ready for work this fall. (Hint: Resist the fleece!)
For autumn, Totolis suggests channeling The Talented Mr. Ripley (“that knitwear!”), French style icon and actor Alain Delon (“in his younger years”), and legendary designer Halston (“he was the king of the turtleneck and never wore anything else”). “My chief piece of advice is to swap out the vest for a softly constructed jacket in corduroy or wool blends in solid colors,” says Totolis. He emphasizes that there are a multitude of options re: what to style under the blazer, from turtlenecks to fully fashioned polos or high-gauge merino crewnecks in deep rich hues.
When selecting pants, he suggests: “A younger, modern, approach by picking pairs in light greys and soft blues, or even white, which you can wear after Labor Day.” He also loves chambray and denim, both fabric options good for de-formalizing your look and giving it “a kind of rustic edge.”
And for Totolis, a lot comes down to footwear. “If you’re going to splurge on any category, spend as much as you can on shoes,” he says. “You can usually tell an expensive shoe and it’s the perfect finishing touch.” Plus, it’s important to keep your accessories razor sharp. “Experiment with textures and unique skins for a sophisticated edge.”
Finally, what about social media best practices in the age of smart-casual? Totolis errs on the side of caution: “Everyone on Instagram these days is getting too sloppy and too personal. I’d only post an outfit pic if you enjoy dressing up, appreciate well-made clothing, and use your style as a way to show you respect your industry.” When we slipped into Midtown Uniform’s DM to ask the same question, they were quick to warn against uploading photos of, “outfits in situations that conflict with the garment’s functionality — for example, wearing a fleece vest over a long-sleeve button-down when it’s 90 degrees outside.”
The takeaway? Dress weather-appropriate and check out John T’s handpicked selection of fail-safe office-wear that guarantees you will never, ever be tagged by Midtown Office.