Thursday, September 18, 2008

Khakis: Business casual's medium of exchange

While jeans may be the most preferred article of clothing to wear at almost any time, anywhere, take a look at what men in the workplace wear when they're not in suits. Slacks of various colors are viable options, of course, but khakis are the go-to trousers for businessmen.

The origin of khakis go back to the 19th century, where Sir Harry Lumsden of Britain is credited with outfitting recruits in India in a linen-cotton twill that was tan in color. The style spread through the British Army and later, U.S. armed forces by the end of the century. Many a nation's military have since adopted khakis as part of its dress, and inevitably, civilians followed suit.

Like denim, khakis are worn for comfort and are known to last. I have become a bigger fan of khakis after having purchased a pair of Bills Khakis, which are styled after U.S. military patterns from World War II. They are a full-cut trouser with plenty of room in the legs and seat, which do not bunch up when I'm driving or sitting in airplane seats.

Add a blazer and a button-down shirt, I'm ready to do business (or party, for that matter) any time, anywhere. Khakis are versatile enough to dress up or down with, more versatile than denim. I travel with at least one pair of khakis packed in the bag.

These days, in the business casual era, it's not wise for me to leave home without 'em.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Peruse closets as eye of Ike nears

As the Houston area braces for Hurricane Ike, which reportedly is 600 miles across and has Category 2 (up to 110mph winds) strength, preparations for those who remain in the area hopefully have been made: Supplies of water, batteries and other provisions are in place for the next several days.

Another issue to consider for those who are staying home is what might happen after the hurricane passes, which could leave others in need of assistance. Shelters may be in need of basic essentials including dry clothing.

When Hurricane Katrina devasted New Orleans and surrounding areas in 2005, I assembled a few dozen college sweatshirts I collected over the years in an effort to help those who were affected. I was living in the Northeast at the time, and was fortunate that I was well out of harm's way.

Currently, I live in the Houston area and am preparing to endure Ike, uncertain about whether my home will withstand a hurricane. But while I'm waiting inside, I'm sifting out spare clothing for donation to local agencies should the need arise.

Meantime, I pray that we all emerge safely from this event.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tie: Elegant symbol or sartorial vestige?

As more workplaces gravitate toward casual wear, the tie has become the odd article out as men loosen up their look toward comfort.

"Corporate casual" has been in vogue for a number of years, to the point where men wear business attire without neckties and still convey a sense of authority. It helps to be head of the company (like Apple's Steve Jobs) in order to set the tone for other employees. At the end of the day, common sense is the guide that enables professionals to dress down, but likely not to the point of tank tops, shorts and sneakers. (That would be for other work environments of the athletic variety.)

And if you think the necktie is at risk of fading, what about the bow tie? So long as there are tuxedos (and old movies), the bow tie won't go away that easily. Still, tying one from scratch might become a lost art, given the pre-tied option that is faster to put on. Ironically, anyone who knows how to tie his/her shoes already knows how to tie a bow tie. The location is different, that's all.

Anyway, it is my hope that we do not give up on ties as the 21st century progresses. (I've got too many in my closet to just not wear them anymore.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Presidential style makes an impression

In Friday's blog entry, "The power of the presidential look," I touched on a few of the sartorial options Barack Obama and John McCain have displayed over the course of their campaigns.

As Labor Day weekend concludes and we head into this week's Republican National Convention in Minnesota's Twin Cities, the style watch continues on Be Better Guys, where I examine the basics of power suits, ties, shirts and shoes. It all adds up to achieving a commanding appearance.

There are plenty of online sources for following what the candidates (and their running mates) are wearing these days. For starters, check out the video clips on the CNN and Yahoo! sites, and Be Better Guys' Brian Joyner for his take on his blog. Also, for a call-it-as-he-sees-it view of this week's convention, check out KTRK-TV reporter Tom Abraham's blog, which chronicles the notable happenings of the day.