The other day, I read a post on Put This On about dressing down a suit, and I thought I might offer my own two cents on the subject. As someone who only ever wears a suit by choice, it's something I think about now and then. I personally tend to prefer a sports jacket and trousers most of the time. It's a look that is inherently less dressy than a suit, and allows for more room to play. Jackets can range in color and texture from the staid formality of a classic and well cut navy blazer to tweeds and linens in all manner of bright color and pattern. Still, I do like to wear a suit sometimes. The tough thing is that many suits, particularly navy and grey, are difficult to wear without looking like you're dressed for a business setting, which I never am, so it helps to find ways to soften the edges.
I'm not a fan of the look of a suit with no tie, something that's become increasingly popular in the past few years. To me, it always looks like you just left the office and are out grabbing a beer before heading home, in other words, like an incomplete outfit. Rather, I like to use accessories and minor details less aligned with business situation to do the trick. Pictured above is a worsted grey pinstripe suit, ($12.98 in a thrift shop), softened with a glen check tie in an earth tone, a pattern and color hinting more at country clothing ($1.99),and a densely printed paisley square rather than white ($2.99, found in the ladies scarves in a thrift store). A white shirt with a suit like this may be as proper as can be with a suit like this, but I opted for a softer one with a button down collar by Brooks Brothers ($5.49).
Instead of black, all my leather accessories are brown. Added to that, the shoes are heavy longwing brogues, another style derivative of country clothing. The skull and bones socks are perhaps totally silly, but again, a good degree less formal than plain black or grey. (side note: don't wear argyle socks with a suit, ever. I hate that.)
With a little whiff of imagination, you can wear your business clothes in a more casual way.
p.s. In writing this post and searching back through my own blog for links, I realize that I have written much the same thing on this same topic about this same suit before, right about this time of year when I first pull this suit out of storage (see here). I suppose that means that a grey pin stripe suit really is the most challenging thing to wear outside of its proper context of business, or that immutable things like classic menswear are hard to blog about for over five years without at least a little repetition. Oops.