A Week of Business Casual feat. Marwan Helal
February 12th, 2011
After strong reviews for “Corporate Style” featuring Gabe Schulman, we decided to do a similar feature for all of our “business casual” readers out there.
As I’ve written in the past, because I work as a stylist, I am not bound by traditional dress codes. Therefore, to take an authentic look at “business casual” with style, I decided to feature one of my best friends Marwan Helal for the second time. From nine to five, Marwan, who is employed by a pharmaceutical distributor, keeps a great balance between professional and stylish.
In our shared opinion, business casual is all about treading the line between looking presentably conservative and expressively stylish. It’s a term that is thrown around often, and has a number of different meanings from one office to the next. Therefore, it’s very important to understand the expectations of your superiors, the strictness of appearance in your office and the overall culture of your place of business.
We shot Marwan going about his business in our hometown Windsor Ontario Canada, from Monday to Friday.
Windsor is in southern Ontario. It’s one of the most southern cities in Canada, directly across the Ambassador bridge from Detroit Michigan. Although we do get a good amount of snow and cold weather – it’s not a tundra (as some ignorant people often suspect).
“There are beautiful, sunny days in the winter here. The kind of days where a midweight wool cardigan is all I need as outerwear – especially since I’m not outside much, usually just to walk to and from my car. This is my ‘flying under the radar’ look. The concept (washed plaid shirt + cardigan + chinos) is simple and appropriate for just about any occasion, although the pants are an olive green (a neutral, versatile and underrated color that Dan often recommends) and the socks have a little pop (and a little King of Pop).”
Bonus Tip: if you’re going to try a statement sock at the office, make sure the shoe means business, like these sleek lace-ups.
Bonus Tip II: “I like the symmetry of a cuffed sleeve + cuffed pant”. (Yes, this is how much thought our crew puts into this sh-t, hah)
Bonus Tip III: Buttoning a three-button jacket: top sometimes, middle always, bottom never. Buttoning a cardigan sweater: top sometimes, bottom never.
“If you don’t have a chunky shawl cardigan – get one. It’s the perfect midweight layer and it works for everything – from kicking it on the couch, to a dinner date, to heading to the office in a hurry. When I’m in a rush to the office, it’s breakfast to-go in one hand and chunky cardigan in the other”.
The other thing is, in most office places, this is a style-forward piece that is easy to “accept”.
Bonus Tip: a colorful plaid shirt is a great accent to a monochromatic look, it’s also a “safe” way to slide a casual/colorful shirt into your weekly rotation.
Bonus Tip II: chinos aren’t just for the Spring/Summer. They come in all weights, for all seasons. A dark pair in a sturdy brushed cotton, like these, are actually heavier than a typical worsted trouser, and thus work great in winter.
Other than the fit of his clothing always being on point, it’s the little subtleties that Marwan does really well.
“The tan stripe on the charcoal scarf compliments the khaki chinos well, just as the blue striped socks accent the blue gingham shirt (which is also a very subtle way to mix patterns). You don’t want to be too ‘matchy matchy’ but subtle combinations like that help tie together an outfit”.
Bonus tip: a short sleeve shirt is less bulky and more comfortable under a slim sweater. It also keeps you moderately cool when Frigid Fannie keeps turning up the office heater.
Bonus tip II: Marwan, like me, wears his chinos with little to no break – it’s a personal preference. Before having your tailor chop them, I suggest trying them rolled first. It’s non-commital and gives you a chance to try-out the shorter, more streamlined look. Then, if you do decide to pull the cropped hem trigger, make sure your tailor folds a couple inches under the hem (rather than cutting it off) in case you decide to go back to the break side.
“Our office doesn’t require us to wear ties, but sometimes I want to. I actually find that it helps my work ethic at the office. Since I’m wearing it by choice, I often loosen the top button, for a more comfortable, and less ‘try hard’ look”.
Bonus tip: “sometimes I go beltless, even on trousers with belt loops. I like the streamlined look, and it accentuates how well-fit the pants are. I know it’s ‘against the rules’, but if you’ve been reading this site you know that can be a good thing – provided you know the rules'”.
Bonus tip II: if you have tan skin, like Marwan, you can pull off bright colors better than pale guys, like me.
Bonus tip III: these classic burgundy penny loafers by Bass, if you haven’t noticed, go with just about anything.
“Although our office doesn’t offically have ‘casual friday’, my co-workers tend to be a little more laid back on Fridays, in attitude and dress. Therefore, it’s a great day for a down vest, corduroys and chukka boots – a look that can easily transition to the begining of the weekend. To sharpen the look I paired it with a slim wool tie and a pair of smart frames.”
Bonus Tip: even though this look is a little more casual, it isn’t sloppy – the pieces here are still tailored.
Bonus Tip II: “you never know what can happen at the office. I keep one tie (solid navy – which works with just about all of my shirts) and two blazers (solid navy and khaki cotton – one of which would work with just about any of my outfits) at the office, just in case I have to get buttoned-up for a last minute meeting”.
Thanks for reading.
Yours in style,
Photography by Ryan Oozeer.