Friday, May 22, 2009

IDS: Spring into gingham for the workplace

It’s spring, so you should start dressing like it – elegantly, if you can. If you’re working this summer, you may see men dressed in the same old, plain button-downs day after day.

I’m not saying that wearing those shirts is bad, but why not diversify your look? Step out of the traditional man uniform and make people take notice. I say go gingham.

Go in any of your local retail clothing stores and ask them to show you their gingham shirts. The chances are they’ll make like children and either run away from you to seek the manager or look at you like you have eight heads.

I usually get both reactions. (I walked in Von Maur the other day, and I might as well have asked them to give me the equation for NFL quarterback ratings.)

Gingham is a yarn-dyed, plain weave fabric that is available in a variety of weights and qualities. In other words, it’s the plaid, checkered pattern you see on picnic blankets or the checkerboard prints. The fabric has been around since the 17th century, when it was imported to England and then America.

It’s a classic design aesthetically detailed in a way that makes you look more distinguished and laid-back at the same time. The checkered pattern is bound to make you stand out in many instances.

Gingham shirts tend to work particularly well with navy, gray and khaki suits for summer, as long as you keep the tie basic. Let the shirt speak for itself. An overstated tie with a gingham shirt (especially those in bright colors) will make you look like a clown. The shirt also looks great without a tie and a solid-colored blazer.

Wear it with a dark tie, a pair of dark-wash jeans cuffed at the bottom, with a pair of brown dress shoes and you’ve instantly gained a twee bit of southern gentleman. Think Georgia-based designer Sid Mashburn.

The best in the business to do gingham shirts includes Michael Kors, Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren and Thomas Pink. But the greatest thing about this print is you can find it everywhere, from the high fashion boutiques to the lower retailers such as Old Navy or Urban Outfitters.

My favorite gingham shirt is actually designed by Merona from Target. It has a medium width, black-and-white checkered pattern and fits closely to my body. However, the higher-end shirts promise to contain fabric of a higher quality, which means they’ll keep their form longer and feel better draped on your body.

Chances are you already have a few gingham shirts in your closet. Embrace them this spring and summer. Choose brighter colors that deliver a punch and act as if you knew this trend was hot all along.

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