The new power dressing – menswear special

A man’s modern-day attire is all about going against the grain, writes Christina Binkley. Photography, Bruno Staub. Styling, Julian Ganio. Location, Lord’s Cricket Ground

Oisin wears Brioni silk blazer, £1,900. Loro Piana cotton/silk Arthur shirt, £650. Paul Smith silk tie, £100. Cutler and Gross glasses, £375
Oisin wears Brioni silk blazer, £1,900. Loro Piana cotton/silk Arthur shirt, £650. Paul Smith silk tie, £100. Cutler and Gross glasses, £375 | Image: Bruno Staub

The question now is, what makes a man today?” Ermenegildo Zegna said last year when asked to describe what’s driving his family’s third-generation fashion label. “We know the static traditional notion of masculine identity no longer works.”

From left: Robert wears Chester Barrie wool-mix blazer, made to order, POA. Cad & The Dandy cotton shirt, made to order, POA. Ralph Lauren Purple Label cotton chinos, £350. Cartier vintage glasses, model’s own. MCC Lord’s Marylebone Cricket Club silk member’s tie and pocket square. Ralph Lauren leather belt, model’s own. Noah wears Michael Kors Collection cashmere cricket jumper and matching scarf, both POA. Hermes cotton-poplin shirt, £525, and cotton trousers, £595. Ralph Lauren Purple Label silk tie, £150. Bunney hammered 925-silver signet ring, £360
From left: Robert wears Chester Barrie wool-mix blazer, made to order, POA. Cad & The Dandy cotton shirt, made to order, POA. Ralph Lauren Purple Label cotton chinos, £350. Cartier vintage glasses, model’s own. MCC Lord’s Marylebone Cricket Club silk member’s tie and pocket square. Ralph Lauren leather belt, model’s own. Noah wears Michael Kors Collection cashmere cricket jumper and matching scarf, both POA. Hermes cotton-poplin shirt, £525, and cotton trousers, £595. Ralph Lauren Purple Label silk tie, £150. Bunney hammered 925-silver signet ring, £360 | Image: Bruno Staub
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Clothing, etiquette, protocol – there was a time when a fellow could follow the rules his grandfather passed down. A gentleman didn’t wear brown shoes with blue suits. Athletic shoes were for the tennis court or ball field. Then a perfect storm hit our culture. Thom Browne shrunk the suit. Sneakers became art. #MeToo made everyone rethink gender relationships. And the actor Billy Porter turned the ballgown into a man’s chicest red-carpet look.

From left: Jeremiah wears Bottega Veneta nylon stretch blazer, £1,660. Fendi cotton shirt, £350. Pink Shirtmaker silk tie, £95. Bunney 925-silver and 18ct rose-gold chain, £1,280, from doverstreetmarket.com. Noah wears Louis Vuitton wool-mix blazer, £2,870, and cotton Oxford shirt, £490. Tom Ford silk tie, £180. Oisin wears Fendi silk shantung jacket, £1,890. LEJ silk Officer’s shirt, £345, from mrporter.com. Pink Shirtmaker silk tie, £95
From left: Jeremiah wears Bottega Veneta nylon stretch blazer, £1,660. Fendi cotton shirt, £350. Pink Shirtmaker silk tie, £95. Bunney 925-silver and 18ct rose-gold chain, £1,280, from doverstreetmarket.com. Noah wears Louis Vuitton wool-mix blazer, £2,870, and cotton Oxford shirt, £490. Tom Ford silk tie, £180. Oisin wears Fendi silk shantung jacket, £1,890. LEJ silk Officer’s shirt, £345, from mrporter.com. Pink Shirtmaker silk tie, £95 | Image: Bruno Staub
From left: Joe wears traditional Chelsea Pensioner uniform. Oisin wears Gucci vintage wool cloth coat, £3,350, silk crepe shirt, £610, and wool/mohair trousers, £750
From left: Joe wears traditional Chelsea Pensioner uniform. Oisin wears Gucci vintage wool cloth coat, £3,350, silk crepe shirt, £610, and wool/mohair trousers, £750 | Image: Bruno Staub

How does one get dressed in the morning when the traditional notions no longer function and seem to shift beneath our feet? Shrugging on a Tom Ford suit could be a power move, but in other situations it could signal its wearer plays a junior role at a table where the decision makers wear Loro Piana cashmere hoodies. The choice is no longer when not to wear a necktie, but when it might be appropriate to don one (so legions of men keep ties mouldering in desk drawers, just in case).

From left: Benjamin wears Drake’s cotton/linen blazer, made to order, £1,695, cotton shirt, £155, cotton chinos, £315, and silk tie, £135. Shoes and accessories, model’s own. Lucas wears Drake’s cotton sweatshirt (over shoulders), £145, linen blazer, £1,050, cotton shirt, £125, cotton T-shirt, £75, and linen trousers, £445. Holland & Holland wool/cashmere socks, £45. Gucci suede horsebit loafers, model’s own. Glasses and accessories, model’s own
From left: Benjamin wears Drake’s cotton/linen blazer, made to order, £1,695, cotton shirt, £155, cotton chinos, £315, and silk tie, £135. Shoes and accessories, model’s own. Lucas wears Drake’s cotton sweatshirt (over shoulders), £145, linen blazer, £1,050, cotton shirt, £125, cotton T-shirt, £75, and linen trousers, £445. Holland & Holland wool/cashmere socks, £45. Gucci suede horsebit loafers, model’s own. Glasses and accessories, model’s own | Image: Bruno Staub
Joe wears Margaret Howell cotton-poplin shirt, £365. Earring, model’s own
Joe wears Margaret Howell cotton-poplin shirt, £365. Earring, model’s own | Image: Bruno Staub

The signals of power aren’t so much the choices as they are the presentation and vibe. Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCUniversal, is such a dandy that he wears Tevas with white socks under his all-black shirt and slacks. And power dressing was much on display last year at the cult-like annual Dreamforce conference, in San Francisco, where Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff was joined by Gucci chief executive Marco Bizzarri. Both chose to wear dark business suits, but on their feet they donned sneakers. Bizzarri went sock-less with his. The rule book is gone. It’s every man for himself. Conveying authority is complex in an era when pinstripes can send all the wrong signals. Yet the new options are many and varied.

Jeremiah wears Paul Smith linen jacket, £930, cotton Mayfair shirt, £245, and cotton trousers, £345. Holland & Holland suede Bostonian shoes, £495. Bunney 925-silver and 18ct rose-gold chain, £1,280, 925- silver and gold Double Tour Gold-Dip bracelet, £820, and 925-silver St Christopher signet ring, £380, from doverstreetmarket.com
Jeremiah wears Paul Smith linen jacket, £930, cotton Mayfair shirt, £245, and cotton trousers, £345. Holland & Holland suede Bostonian shoes, £495. Bunney 925-silver and 18ct rose-gold chain, £1,280, 925- silver and gold Double Tour Gold-Dip bracelet, £820, and 925-silver St Christopher signet ring, £380, from doverstreetmarket.com | Image: Bruno Staub
Robert wears Tom Ford merino-wool jumper (over shoulders), £940. Cad & The Dandy cotton shirt, made to order, POA. MCC Lord’s Marylebone Cricket Club silk members’ tie. Anderson & Sheppard silk braces, £75
Robert wears Tom Ford merino-wool jumper (over shoulders), £940. Cad & The Dandy cotton shirt, made to order, POA. MCC Lord’s Marylebone Cricket Club silk members’ tie. Anderson & Sheppard silk braces, £75 | Image: Bruno Staub

For wisdom on the new sartorial authority, I turned to someone intimately familiar with the old look of tailored power: Norbert Stumpfl, designer of Brioni. Worn everywhere, from Wall Street to Mayfair, the Italian label is  synonymous with power dressing. It has dressed James Bond and still suits up Donald Trump today. “I don’t want to make a powerful man,” Stumpfl said. (Perhaps don’t tell President Trump.) “I don’t want to make a cool man – because cool is cold.” Instead, Stumpfl is diving into deeply luxurious fabrics and accommodating fits that will make a tailored jacket feel like a sweater. The idea is that power is ease – and ease is power.

Scott wears Polo Ralph Lauren wool vest, £259, cotton Oxford shirt, £95, and linen/cotton trousers, £129. Ralph Lauren Purple Label wool jacket, £4,230 for suit
Scott wears Polo Ralph Lauren wool vest, £259, cotton Oxford shirt, £95, and linen/cotton trousers, £129. Ralph Lauren Purple Label wool jacket, £4,230 for suit | Image: Bruno Staub
From top: Ian wears Tom Ford wool rollneck, £940. Joe wears Loro Piana Wish-wool/silk polo sweater, £1,210, and cotton stretch trousers, £440
From top: Ian wears Tom Ford wool rollneck, £940. Joe wears Loro Piana Wish-wool/silk polo sweater, £1,210, and cotton stretch trousers, £440 | Image: Bruno Staub

What does a man do when the CEO of Goldman Sachs, David Solomon, is also a DJ named D-Sol, who favours black T-shirts on weekends and arrives at the office without a tie? The investment bank loosens its ties, that’s what. Goldman issued a new “flexible” dress code last March, asking 36,000 employees to “exercise good judgement” in fashion’s regard. The firm learnt in a Twitter poll that 38 per cent of people preferred “hoodie and sneakers” for a professional wardrobe. They eschewed the ubiquitous “Midtown uniform” that’s anchored by a grey Patagonia fleece vest. (That fuzzy-vested look will never be powerful. For a vest with a power upgrade, go with a down Kjus or Moncler puffer.)

Charlie and Jamie both wear LEJ cotton-poplin Officer’s shirts, £195 each, from mrporter.com
Charlie and Jamie both wear LEJ cotton-poplin Officer’s shirts, £195 each, from mrporter.com | Image: Bruno Staub
Noah wears Prada cotton cardigan, £880, cotton shirt, £510, denim trousers, £545, cotton socks, £140, and leather shoes, £610. Cutler and Gross glasses, £295. Bunney hammered 925-silver signet ring, £360, from doverstreetmarket.com
Noah wears Prada cotton cardigan, £880, cotton shirt, £510, denim trousers, £545, cotton socks, £140, and leather shoes, £610. Cutler and Gross glasses, £295. Bunney hammered 925-silver signet ring, £360, from doverstreetmarket.com | Image: Bruno Staub

There was a time when advertising-agency executives kept their top button buttoned and their neckties crisp and silk. Andrew Sacks, founder of New York’s AgencySacks, has developed a different concept of the power look. “My uniform is dark denim, an Eton dress shirt with a cutaway collar, and a Uniqlo merino sweater with either a crewneck or V-neck,” Sacks says, noting that he hasn’t purchased an expensive sweater in years. He owns 100 ties, but on the very rare occasion that he wears one, he chooses an Etro navy blue with a periodic white stitch or a knitted style.

Julian wears Drake’s silk/wool blazer, model’s own, cotton shirt, £155, and silk tie, £135. Pink Shirtmaker corduroy trousers, £195, and wool braces (just seen), £95. Larose cap, model’s own. Lou Dalton x John Smedley scarf, model’s own. Bunney hammered 18ct gold signet ring, POA, and 925-silver and gold Double Tour Gold-Dip bracelet (just seen), £820, from doverstreetmarket.com
Julian wears Drake’s silk/wool blazer, model’s own, cotton shirt, £155, and silk tie, £135. Pink Shirtmaker corduroy trousers, £195, and wool braces (just seen), £95. Larose cap, model’s own. Lou Dalton x John Smedley scarf, model’s own. Bunney hammered 18ct gold signet ring, POA, and 925-silver and gold Double Tour Gold-Dip bracelet (just seen), £820, from doverstreetmarket.com | Image: Bruno Staub
Joel wears Etro wool jumper, £355, cotton shirt, £345, and wool chinos, £340. Crockett & Jones calfskin and canvas Richmond II loafers, £425. Cutler and Gross Havana glasses, £31
Joel wears Etro wool jumper, £355, cotton shirt, £345, and wool chinos, £340. Crockett & Jones calfskin and canvas Richmond II loafers, £425. Cutler and Gross Havana glasses, £31 | Image: Bruno Staub

Bastions of manhood have been reconsidering power lately: political, sexual, cultural. Yet a power look can be useful, even necessary. It’s the definition of what’s appropriate that has changed, not the wish for a look that suggests authority, grace and a keen sense of style that is unique to the wearer. “Men have been coming to terms with their inner weaknesses and strengths and are willing to take risks to embrace their own view of what masculinity is,” stated a recent Zegna campaign. “Even if this means going against traditional notions of men.” For next season, Zegna has collaborated with Fear of God on a capsule fusing tailoring and streetwear – continuing the conversation around which clothes make a “man”.

John wears Brunello Cucinelli linen suit, £3,150, and cotton shirt, £360. Anderson & Sheppard lambswool cardigan, £345. Glasses, model’s own
John wears Brunello Cucinelli linen suit, £3,150, and cotton shirt, £360. Anderson & Sheppard lambswool cardigan, £345. Glasses, model’s own | Image: Bruno Staub
Jeremiah wears Bottega Veneta techno-cotton shirt, £1,565, and nylon stretch trousers, £655. Rimowa limited-edition briefcase, £1,300
Jeremiah wears Bottega Veneta techno-cotton shirt, £1,565, and nylon stretch trousers, £655. Rimowa limited-edition briefcase, £1,300 | Image: Bruno Staub

Which brings us to ruffles. They are not for every man, but Virgil Abloh used them generously at Louis Vuitton on tailored trousers, coats and men’s blouses for his upcoming autumn collection. It’s a look that fashion people call “directional”, which means it’s not for most offices, but the message is strong: rebel, rebel against the traditional notions of masculinity. The directional look now is Armani-esque, taking its broad shoulders, pleated slacks and fluidity from the 1980s.

Ada wears Dior silk-twill Dior Oblique shirt, £910. Milo wears Boss cotton blazer (just seen), £595 for suit
Ada wears Dior silk-twill Dior Oblique shirt, £910. Milo wears Boss cotton blazer (just seen), £595 for suit | Image: Bruno Staub
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Femininity has been a vibrant theme in menswear of late. Some runway romps are pure trickery – the tutu that Thom Browne proposed in his opening look for spring is a ridiculous option for every day, but that’s just the attention-grabbing appetiser for his meticulous tailoring. An easier approach that will draw attention in the boardroom is florals and loud patterns – in evidence at Dolce & Gabbana. At Brioni, Stumpfl is seeking the new look of authority in fabrics previously reserved for haute couture. He created dinner jackets from jacquard made in central Venice using 17th-century methods and coats with cashmere from Inner Mongolia. The cut is classic, the fabric is la dolce vita. “When it touches you, you get goose bumps. It’s a personal luxury for a man who is super-busy.”

For his spring Balenciaga collection, Demna Gvasalia took the tropes of the 1980s power suit and twisted them into something political. Setting up his own version of a parliament along the runway, he broke the tenets of power-broker clothing to deliver cartoonishly broad shoulders, short-sleeved impeccably tailored jackets, and mash-ups of streetwear, strict tailoring and denim. Politics aside, his fashion dictates were clear – pump up the volume and relax into structured fabric that serves as both armour and cloak.

There will always be an appetite for the classical man. New York-based Alessandro Pallaoro, the managing director of global real-estate firm Bizzi & Partners Development, says his power look eschews logos entirely. He avoids neckties when working in China, where they can signal junior-employee status. And he’s a stickler for custom-made suits – his tailors are in Naples and Milan – made with Loro Piana or Zegna fabrics. Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director for the department stores Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, would concur. “The hallmark of affluence and achievement in the business world is all about custom-made clothing,” he says. Tom Ford. Kiton. Brunello Cucinelli. Loro Piana. Even sweaters can be custom in colour, neckline and body length, offering customers something that no one else has.

But what about the real power players? Iron men, for example. “To truly power-dress is to express your individuality,” says Jeanne Yang, stylist for Hollywood clients such as Robert Downey Jr. She sent client Jason Momoa to the Golden Globes in a tailored jacket with a tank shirt underneath, because it fit his inner man. Real power dressing, she explains, is both comfortable and unique. “Everyone has their own individual tastes,” Yang says. “It’s like a Spotify playlist.” 

The demise of the longtime ban on brown shoes with blue suits epitomises what’s become of traditional fashion dictums. Far from banished, brown shoes are now practically de rigueur with a blue suit. Wingtips, brogues and monkstraps, in sand or deep chocolate brown, add warmth to a look and a subtle nod that their wearer knows what’s what. In January, US Representative Adam Schiff, manager of the impeachment of President Trump, made his closing arguments to the Senate while wearing brown lace loafers and a crisp blue suit and pale-blue tie, stamping a seminal moment in history with a fashion statement. Andrew Sacks is in agreement. “I don’t own any black shoes,” the ad man says. “I think brown is so much more elegant and natural. Black is just so… politician.”

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