Teaching Abroad in Style feat. Marwan Helal

April 25th, 2014

Marwan Helal (our go-to business casual expert) is an old friend from my high school days. He was also one of my very first style inspirations. When we were wearing baggy Rocawear jeans and 6″ Timbs, he was embracing slim tailoring and investing in classic menswear – early.

A couple years ago Marwan moved to Kuwait to teach at a private english school, and he packed only a streamlined wardrobe of classic American sportswear to share with his students.

Here’s three examples of his back-to-basics teaching abroad style.

1. Removable Layers


Green Quilted Jacket by Barbour, Green Plaid Shirt by J.Crew, Grey Chinos by Club Monaco, Brown Leather Blutchers by Quoddy, Brown Belt by Ralph Lauren, Navy Chunky Shawl by J.Crew, Eyeglasses by Micheal Kors, Brown Tote by Filson

Kuwait is a small, oil-rich country located in the Gulf and surrounded by Iraq to the north, Saudi Arabia to the south, and Iran to the east. I work at a private school here that follows the American school calendar year. The dress code is ‘business casual’… The mornings and evenings get quite cool, so I usually layer up when I head to work before sunrise… but I often get down to just a button-up by the afternoon.”

2. Sporty Business Casual 


Navy Bomber Jacket by Club Monaco, Red and Blue Rugby by American Apparel, Blue Button up by Club Monaco, Vintage Navy Dotted Tie, Brown Penny Loafers by Bass

“The work week in Kuwait is from Sunday to Thursday, so I like to wear jeans on ‘casual Thursday… but I usually balance them with a tie. I purchased this rugby from American Apparel and I made a few modifications to it, adding a button-down collar and elbow patches… Fun fact: tailoring is an extremely cheap service here, so I find myself making trips to the alterations shop often. For example, to shorten and taper pant legs will cost around 1.5 KD, which is 5 USD.  Shortening sleeves on a button up = 1KD which is 3.50 USD.”

3. Meet The Parents


Grey Suit by Club Monaco, White Button Up by Massimo Dutti, Brown Belt by J.Crew, Rep Tie by Boggi, Brown Leather Monk Straps by Allen Edmonds, Pocket Square by The Tie Bar, Socks by Zara

“I wear a suit and tie when meeting with parents, since we are required to be in full business attire. It’s a generally conservative culture so I like to keep it simple – this dark suit and white shirt always gets it done. I love these Allen Edmonds monkstrap loafers; I wear them with jeans, chinos and suits. Sometimes I wear them all week – they can work with any of the pieces featured here.”



Thanks for reading, and special thanks to Marwan for participating!

Yours in style,

Articles of Style

  • expat struggle is real

    That’s what I hated about being an expat though…there was so much pressure to look perfect and be attractive all the time. People judged so harshly about your character that you had to go out of your way to prove yourself with a particular image. It was so hard to get jobs because people claimed I didn’t look the part enough. People were breaking the bank trying to look the part. I was only in the Common Wealth but I noticed this especially with American expats in the Middle East. In the States at least you can dress honestly and according to your budget.

  • Skyler

    Marwan, IIRC you’re a muscular 5’10. I’m guessing your thigh circumference is about 22″, your inseam is about 30″, and your dress shoe size is normally 10. So what’s your preferred leg opening width? :) It seems very narrow yet you never look clownish.

    • Marwan

      six and three quarters.

  • Brian

    I was wondering what happened to this guy he never disappoints.

  • Jake

    Great feature. As everyone else has said, Marwan’s style is my favorite out of the features you do given his layering of classic menswear staples. He always has the nicest kicks. Marwan/Dan, can you go into further detail on the altered rugby in picture 2? Specifically, what you did to the collar? Thanks and great read.

    • Marwan

      I had the buttons changed, made the collar a button down collar and sewed on elbow patches.

      • Jake

        How do you make the collar a button down collar – have holes created at the ends of each collar and then add buttons on the shirt?

        • Marwan

          Jake, I had it done by a tailor. It requires a specific machine.

  • Tony

    For Marwan,

    Interesting that I found this post because I’m going to be teaching abroad in Taiwan next year. I have a big closet, but I’m only allowed to bring so much — should I bring the staples and plan on purchasing stuff overseas or should I just bring everything I’d ever need?

    • Marwan

      It depends on how long you’re going for. I brought a good base of practical pieces that would get a lot of wear and picked up a couple things here and there. Take inconsideration the weather and what you’ll be doing during your time there. I hope this helps.

  • sam

    love how he takes pieces from brands that are readily accessible to the average guy and turns them into looks that transcend the average. pretty much the opposite of the rich guy who buys designer pieces only and makes them look cheap.

  • Eric


  • Silviu

    Baller -> 2nd picture

  • Sergio Arteaga

    Always awesome seeing a teacher featured here!

  • Khalid

    Glad to see Marwan back!!

    Just wondering — did Marwan have the navy jacket in look #2 slimmed down or altered? I remember it from a previous feature.

    • Marwan

      Khalid, the jacket was not altered.

  • Miguel

    Excellent post, all three outfits are on point, I’ve been looking for a green quilted jacket for the longest and I just can’t find it, I’ve seen him around and he always looks sharp.

    • TO

      As in you live in the same area in Kuwait Miguel??

  • TT

    Who took the pics? That last one of Marwan in a suit is one of the best photos ever posted. Great job, guys.

  • cam

    Geez Dan, I’m getting really confused on what this blog is really supposed to be about. I mean one day you give us ideas about different fabrics we can incorporate into our spring/summer wardrobe, then you show us some really inspiring street style while introducing us to a new brand many of us may not be aware of, then you show us some really solid and clean American style incorporated in a foreign country and another day you may give us some interesting tailoring tips and tricks that can save us time, money and research. I mean WTF!! Just stop it already with so much awesome content! It’s too much, I really can keep up and I dont think it’s fair to your readers. Oh and please tell Alex to stop improving his awesome photography while you’re at it. What are you guys trying to prove anyway?

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier



    • TO

      This is pretty satirical on the state of TSBmen commentors lately… good one Cam :)

    • cam

      I still think you’re missing my point. I have plenty of cheap pairs of shoes in my rotation (albeit mostly things like Supergas and Bean boots). I still think the “best” (again your quote) to make a pair of Scarpe di Bianco chelsea boots last is to take care of them through polishing, cedar trees and resoling. Not by wasting money on some cheap knock offs. That was my only point. And again, my apologies regarding the discount code etc.

  • TO

    No lie I have been Googling “tsbmen twitter” so much lately that Google just asked me to confirm that I am not a robot…!

  • Aaron

    Those jeans are pretty clean. What brand are they?

    • Marwan

      Ralph Lauren

  • Sal

    So the guy who grew up in Canada thinks morning and evening in Kuwait are cool. LOL!

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      Yes, we Canadians sometimes feel a cold breeze from time to time. But it’s nothing compared to life in the igloo.

  • Cam G


  • Randy

    The man, Marwan, is back! Marwan’s posts are my favorite also. Keeping it simple and stylish; no BS, just well-fitting clothes that look good.

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      That’s been his MO since elementary school. #OG

  • TO

    Marwan ! The legend. Expert layering in the first two looks. Mason is going to be so disappointed in the deal you are getting on tailoring over there !

  • JBells

    Marwans features have always been my favorite due to the simplicity and versatility of his dress. Nice to see him back on TSB