This month I set myself the manly challenge of discussing clothes. My research consisted of staring at businessmen around Europe, regularly squatting to tie my shoelaces in an effort to glance at a designer label, brushing past people to feel the fibre of their fabric, and asking somewhat inappropriate questions at board meetings. The aim was to be able to offer advice for those destined for foreign lands. The result has been one lost contract, one restraining order and two misguided admirers.
The first thing I can tell you is that tailored suits hand stitched in Savile Row are all very well for the occasional continental sojourn but for most corporate travellers, practicalities come first. A Teflon coating is more important than a famous tailor, sleeves are better double-stitched than silk lined, and a loose fitting is preferable to the constrictions of high fashion. Travelling suits, like their owners, endure more and thus only last between
eight and 12 months without servicing, so the wise man budgets for this. High-street suits may be mocked in Canary Wharf, but in our travelling community, the extravagance of a handmade suit is a sign of inexperience.
Geography is important. Taking Scandinavia as an example, there are three key points to remember. Bright colours are not customary in business circles, thus the pink shirt used to assert one's masculinity in England may be unwelcome in Helsinki. Secondly, inland locations never feel as cold as they look due to the low humidity, so dressing like a polar bear at the first sign of snow will make you look like an over-ripe tomato. Finally, and most importantly, silly fur hats with floppy bits: locals don't think they're silly and any jokes based on their daft appearance are likely to be greeted by glares.
Wandering unnoticed around London, Brussels or Paris at night in a suit allows you to pack light and go straight from the office to the bar. Whereas wearing a suit after business hours in Madrid or Milan makes you stick out like an unarmed man at an Alabama NRA AGM. A set of casuals is essential in southern Europe if you plan on venturing from the hotel alone after dark.
Do not be misled by Death in Venice or other such films. White linen suits cannot be successfully carried off by Brits — we're generally too fat and sweaty as a result of having less leisure time to spend on honing and toning. As fashion programmes suggest to similarly afflicted women, wear loose airy clothes that only show your best bits. I personally plan to start a trend of pinstripe shorts to flash a bit of calf, with a Swedish fur balaclava to hide all my chins. This way I'll lose the aforementioned admirers and regain some contracts from intimidated clients. Although I suspect any efforts to revoke the restraining orders would be in vain.
blog comments powered by