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Show you’re the boss in any room with your wardrobe
It’s always been important to portray power. And know how power is portrayed. Michel Foucault said so. Regardless of the decade or social setting, showing you’re a powerful force goes a long way in furthering your standing.
What you wear speaks for you. Whether you, or anyone else, know it your clothes are a language construct unto themselves. They operate on the concept of semiotics. But that’s largely irrelevant. Unless you want to engage someone in a conversation on Saussurean linguistics or post-structuralism.
The point is this: what you wear communicates who you are before you’ve opened your mouth. And it’s important to get that opening sentence right, especially when you want to demonstrate power and authority.
So here’s a breakdown of how you can dress to make yourself look like the most powerful version of you.
As a man, there’s no better way of projecting your power than with a suit. That’s just fact. A business suit says, I’m not here to mess about. Let’s get down to business.
You want a single-breasted jacket with squared shoulders. It will emphasise the classic masculine V-shape and cuts your silhouette out as a focal one in any room.
You don’t need a three-piece to convey power. It can be seen as over-dressed and impractical. Don’t let a waistcoat get in the way of winning that pitch, persuading the board or securing that job. It’s only a waistcoat. (Waistcoats, of course, have their place. And you can read about them here.)
Code of London
Code of London
Code of London
Code of London
There’s a grey, unique-to-the-wearer area, here. As a general rule, if you’re broader in the shoulders you’ll carry a peaked, wider lapel with authority. But that won’t work for the Slim Jims of the world. If you’re on the slimmer side, opt for a thinner, notched lapel so it complements your natural form. This also works for your face: wider face, wider lapels. Slimmer face, slimmer lapels. It’s a small detail, but one that works in an effective and subtle way.
By having your suit’s cut match your body type, you’re showing you know who you are and what you look like. It’s a sort of detail of confidence that portrays self-mastery and knowledge. Something a lot of people lack, and admire in people that own it.
Charcoal grey. Black or dark navy, if you must
Charcoal has an aura of solidity. Of strength and resolution. Where black can be a bit on the sinister side at times, and navy can be deemed a bit lighter in mood, charcoal strikes the balance. It shows you’re someone to be trusted and commanding, like the colour of the stones it often imitates.
Something worth considering here is your skin tone: you might want to opt for a navy suit over a charcoal if you’re of a fairer complexion, so the darker tones don’t wash you out.
Get it tailored
Nothing shows you to be more ill-at-ease than an ill-fitting suit. You can have the greatest ideas and be the most knowledgeable chap in the room, but if your jacket sleeves are hanging over your wrists, or your button is not firmly holding your waist, you’re immediately on the back foot in the eyes of your beholders.
Whether this is right or wrong is largely irrelevant. We live in a world where first impressions, social media posts and appearance (superficial as it may be) hold big sway. This is just the way it is. So make sure your suit holds you with authority and confidence, in the same way that you would hold the company’s finances or the team you run. This is essentially what you’re conveying: well-fitted suit = well-oiled team.
Shirt: Always white
Keep it simple. The classic white shirt is an iconic symbol of elevated status, wealth and dependability. It’s a timeless piece of clothing that holds a myriad unconscious associations. Stemming from the Victorian era, the white shirt was a signifier of class distinction and an emblem of sobriety and austerity for the well-to-do Victorian gentleman. And so it still is today. These are all qualities you want to embody in order to portray power.
Keep the collar stiff and straight. And pressed: no creases or stains. Nothing quite says scruffy and slovenly like a stained white shirt. Ergh. Just no.
Match your leathers
There is something that speaks of a military efficiency in belts and shoes that match. Remember, this is power dressing for situations where you want to look like everything is under your command. The assumption people will make about your character when they see your wardrobe has been meticulously planned and pulled together will be the same assumption they make about your professional demeanour. Keeping your leathers — belts and shoes — together in this setting, shows you can hold everything else together, too.
If you’ve gone for the charcoal or jet-black suit, keep it streamline with a black belt and shoes. If navy was your choice, opt for a pair of brown shoes – a dark chocolate shade suits navy well. Keep the tan leather for the lighter coloured suits.
Wear a tie
Obviously. This is not a No Tie Occasion. This is not post-work drinks. Nor is it that smart-casual winter brunch you show up to in a suit because you “thought it was smart dress” knowing full well you’ll be the best dressed there by virtue of the fact you’re in a suit and no-one else is, to which you respond, “Oh, this? I just pulled it on because I didn’t know how smart to go...” Whatever.
Anyway. To display power, you want a tie that complements your suit. That doesn’t mean wearing the same colour block. You can go a bit more daring with your tie choice, but nothing luminous or shocking. And avoid black on navy and vice verse. It kicks off a double shaded vibe that is, well, shady. Look for darker shades of simple colours: a burgundy works well with navy and a deep green complements charcoal well.
As for patterns, white poker dots on a solid background are always a strong bet. Avoid overly floral or complex patters like paisleys. Keep them for dress-down Thursdays. Or Fridays.
Turnbull and Asser
Turnbull and Asser
Wear a tie clip
Just as you want to portray that you’ve got things under control with your well-fitted suit, keeping you tie under a tie clip also has the same effect. Not only does it show you have an eye for the finer details, it also says, I’ve got this, leave it to me. It will be under control in no time.
Wear a pocket square
Match it with your shirt. The white accent on the charcoal or navy background will pop nicely but not in an over-zealous, going-to-the-opera kind of way.
Keep the fold straight-edged, not the fancy triangle, flowery fold (keep this for dressier occasions). And have the square visible by about half an inch our of the breast pocket. This is no mistake: it’s just enough to draw the eye to the chest, which is the physical centre of the power aesthetic.
Wear a watch
Keep it simple. No need for dazzling complications or even a chronograph. An elegant dress watch that offers optimum practicality and functionality is all you need. Opt for a leather strapped timepiece which matches your belt and shoes. If you’re intent on displaying a complication on the wrist, a day-date is fine, if not actually necessary.
Doff all other jewellery. They create an unnecessary distraction from you. And suggest you surround yourself with unnecessary distractions: not something you want to imply to a prospective employer or investor.
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