Step-by-step menswear tips for building your professional wardrobe.
Universal rules of fashion aren't — choose the ones that fit your role in life.
This series of articles looks at clothing choices for men in specific, individual careers, from undergraduate college student to high-powered financier and everything in between.
Find the style that suits you and your path in life!
Gallery owner, graphic designer, novelist, poet, singer-songwriter — whatever creative talent they bring to the table, the denizens of the art industries all share a need to look good without looking conventional.
The suit-and-tie of the corporate world is anathema to the creative culture; the khakis and blue dress shirts of working-casual environments equally so.
Individualism is key, and often sought at the expense of traditional fashion — yet within the world of classic menswear lies enough variety to please even the most extravagant artist, and indeed, some of history's great artists have been some of history's snappier dressers as well.
Without diving into the world of radical (and expensive, and fleeting) trends, the creative professional can easily shape a wardrobe to stand out in any crowd.
Flexible garments, personal accents, and a touch of dressiness are the key to the artist's wardrobe — striking the balance between individuality and presentability when that big buyer comes around…
The Artist's Style: Aggressive Individuality
At home in the studio, a creative artist is free to wear pretty much whatever he likes — though there's a certain confidence that comes from being sharply-dressed which may be desired even in privacy.
But however you dress in isolation, the public world is going to want to see something unique and good-looking, and blue jeans and a T-shirt aren't going to cut it no matter how trendy the graphic on the front is.
While avoiding stiff formality, the artist needs to build a wardrobe that is both striking and classy — not formal, or even business-appropriate, but noteworthy as an actual style instead of the aggressive absence of one.
Daily Wear: Unique Menswear
Contacts are everywhere, and the forward-thinking artist dresses ready to meet one every time he steps out the door.
Build a closet of traditional menswear — trousers, sport coats, dress shirts, even the odd vest — and then mix and match aggressively to get the most milage out of your clothing.
Despite the art world's distaste for formality, a casual sport coat over a dress shirt sans tie or a turtleneck can make a striking statement in a room full of relaxed dressers, and is a solid base for any sartorially-ambitious artist to start from.
Jackets are remarkably flexible garments, and can be tailored with slimmer lapels to look more carefree — less like the top half of a suit, and more like an accent that you threw on casually. Waistcoats, traditionally part of a
Waistcoats, traditionally part of a three-piece suit, can also be worn in lieu of a jacket to give a unique and old-fashioned flair to an outfit.
The effect is less formal, but outside of the occasional gallery opening or benefit dinner, that's rarely a problem for the creative artist.
Recent fashion has deemed it appropriate to wear sport coats with jeans, and the art world offers even more flexibility there than most cultures.
If the style works for you, go ahead and indulge, but be aware that darker jeans will do better here — pale blue jeans and a sport coat makes you look like a Texas rancher dressed up for church on Sunday.
The untucked dress shirt and jeans is also becoming common, to the point that you will likely blend into the crowd if you choose this style; opt instead for tucking the shirt in and using a tooled belt or even an interesting pattern for the shirt itself to draw the eye and make you stand out.
The advantage of the artist's expectations is freedom — use that freedom to make traditional styles your own, instead of throwing style out entirely and making an impression with how badly you can dress.
It will make an impression, but not one that benefits you when you meet potential buyers or other opportunities from outside your immediate creative circle.
Formal Occasions: The Artist's Suit
Once in a while, even a creative artist is going to be called upon to put on a suit, so be prepared when the day comes.
Your first gallery show, a meeting with an agent who will sell your work (or who wants to buy it), a benefit dinner that offers a chance to meet useful contacts — whatever the occasion, there is a time to dress the artist up, and it can be done without sacrificing your individualistic pride.
Most men's best suit is either charcoal gray or navy blue; since you are unlikely to ever be placed under the business world's expectations (which make those the only acceptable colors in many situations), choose a different color for your closet's suit — dark green or dark brown are both unusual and should be formal enough for your “dress” events.
Peaked lapels will give even a basic single-breasted, two-button jacket an unusual flourish; unless you happen to be particularly tall and thin, the touch will serve you well.
Unlike your day-to-day wear, you want to err on the side of plainness with the shirt you wear under your suit. Let the unique color and cut of your jacket draw the eye, and complement it with a dignified tie.
Resist the temptation to be aggressive with color or patterning in your dress ensemble, and you'll likely wind up standing out in a room full of overly-bold approaches due to your understated elegance.
If catching the wandering eye of passers-by is important to you, add tailored touches that make your look “busier” instead of brightening your color; an extra “ticket” pocket, cufflinks on French cuffs, a boutonniere, or even just a nice watch can help make your profile-in-passing interesting and attractive.
Sample Wardrobe: The Creative Artist's Closet
The clothing choices of an artist are going to be even more individualized than most men's, but a few basic staples will serve every creative man well:
Wardrobe Basics – What Every Artist Needs
1-3 ties (chosen with the suit in mind)
1+ pairs black dress shoes
2+ pairs casual leather shoes
belts to match each pair of shoes
5-10 dress shirts in varied colors and fabrics
3-5 sweaters or vests
2+ sport coats
3-5 pairs dress trousers in varied colors
3-5 pairs jeans, ideally darker colors
10+ T-shirts or other undershirt suitable for visible wear
Wardrobe Options – Extra Touches for Artists
1+ waistcoat-style vest (to wear instead of a jacket)
1+ pairs leather gloves