2012 August 7

Flags – everywhere on everything – yes even your skivvies. Flag-bearing underwear, casual wear and even formal wear is bringing the flag and pennant theme home for autumn. While Union Jacks and England flags are ridiculously popular, and Jamaican flag colours are definitely selling out in ringer T-shirts and polo-shirts, the exclusive look is likely to feature sailing flags and pennants spelling out messages and its being spotted on short-sleeved shirts and the lining of casual jackets. Raincoats and waterproof tops are turning up with (ha ha) Welsh flags and dragons in their linings …

Blindingly bright neon is also a big feature of autumn fashion with angry bird T-shirts turning up everywhere but especially for the under tens and unisex clothing such as sporty polo-shirts and athletic print T-shirts is key to the teen look this year – worn alongside checks and tartan, with jeans for boys and leggings for girls, this look is finished off with dayglo high-top trainers or, for the truly fashion conscious, five-fingered trainers.

Starting to appear in some shops are leotard style dresses with a flouncy skirt, although whether they will make it through to adult fashion is debatable: it’s an unforgiving look. More likely to succeed with the masses is the skin-tight camisole top in ‘gymnastic colours’ such as bright red, fuchsia pink or royal blue which is being worn with jogging trousers and ballet pumps during the day and layered chiffon skirts for the evening.

2012 April 12

A professional networking coach in the USA has come up with a fascinating way to help graduates get a good job.

Her theory is that the current generation of college students have spent so much time on their mobiles or computers that they have lost the ability to network effectively and so they miss out on chances to obtain employment.

Her idea is to equip students with a simple grey T-shirt that bears the legend netWORKing on the front and on the back a printed ticklist of careers such as engineering, technology, sales, insurance … and then a dotted line that allows the individual to fill in their career aims or specific skills with an indelible marker, supplied with each garment.

It seems to be popular: orders have been placed by half a dozen American colleges already.

Any innovative graduate, class or college could undertake something similar – a white hoodie with an overprinted message about the skills of the wearer could be just the thing for a job fair, and a band, group of collaborators or ensemble could print T-shirts with their key skills and availability on them.

2012 February 15

Joleon Lescott is in discussions with Manchester City over a proposed line in casual clothing aimed at twenty something fans of fashion and sport. Since taking part in Shay Givens Fashion Kicks event last year, Lescott seems to have focused strongly on developing a fashion identity that could be turned into a brand. He’s not alone, David Beckham is perhaps the most famous of the British players to create a clothing line, and a perfume, but Rio Ferdinand has had success too.

So what’s the Lescott look likely to be, and how do you get it without paying designer prices?

One rumour is that the new brand will feature his distinctive scar (from a car accident as a five year old boy) as a trademark, although that seems unlikely, however it may feature as a line art design on vest T-shirts that seem to be one of his favourite garments, and while the clothing will probably feature Man City colours at least in the first couple of years he tends towards grey, black and red as a clothing palette. Sportswear will be a big feature if the line goes ahead, and we can expect to see pale blue, grey and black vests, maybe with that scar as a watermark style print on the front, along with hoodies and track trousers.

If you want the look, aim to buy vests, maybe getting them printed with your name in a gothic tattoo style, or with a scar emblem if you, like Lescott, have such a feature, and focus on combining vests with more formal jackets or hoodies with designer denim and boots, to get the luxe sports look that Lescott is likely to aim for.

2012 February 6

As businesses continue to look at opportunities to cut costs and reduce expenditure, the relationship between business casual clothing and business productivity is being reassessed by many companies – and the subtle changes in requirements are catching out many employees who are finding their clothing choices are being highlighted in their annual review. Knowing this, here are the new rules for business casual and personal success:

1. Understand your organisation’s requirements. Some kinds of casual are more casual than others: a brokers office will have a different requirement to an oil company headquarters and a firm that manufactures bicycles will have different standards to one that creates bespoke furniture.

2. Remember that there are different standards within clothing: a pair of jeans that are pale and worn almost to the threads is a completely different prospect to a pair that are navy-blue, crisp and tailored. A white polo shirt with a crisp collar, worn with smart trousers is almost a business shirt, while a creased polo shirt in orange, worn with those faded jeans, is almost barbecue garb.

3. Don’t flash or flaunt flesh: for women in particular, too much skin on show is unhelpful – bare midriffs and deep cut tops or camisoles that reveal the cleavage do little for promotion prospects and may even cause a lack of unity in the workplace as the mixed messages can be detrimental to harmony and productivity.

4. Avoid anything that can cause offence: T-shirts with words or images can easily be misinterpreted, shorts and sandals may reveal areas of the body that other cultures, or even other individuals, would rather were kept covered.

5. While casual is open to interpretation, it’s important to bear in mind that the workplace is where work is done, and while you may be at your most productive in an old hoody and a pair of sweatpants, your clothing choices may disincentivise those around and could affect your chances of receiving the recognition your work deserves.

2011 September 21

For men, New York has much more effect on street fashion than Paris, although London still generally carries the day with male tailoring. So for next spring, guys will be finding their partners trying to get them into double-breasted leather jackets and coats (think DI Gene Hunt) and quite a bit of khaki worn with striped shirts. Desert boots are back and Tommy Hilfiger has a massive number of new polo-shirt colourways. Michael Bastian has a James Dean influenced collection, including motorcycle jackets, of course, with rain-washed striped shirts and T-shirts, aviator sunglasses and surf shorts (?)

There was a focus on quality with relaxed styling being crucial – polo shirts flapped more at the waist than in recent years and trousers were bulkier too, with less skinny legged jeans appearing in the casual sections of the collections.

The road trip look turned up in the Nautica show too, so board shorts and leather boat shoes alternated with a lot of smart blue and white, referencing the navy, and some exciting bad weather jackets in surprising shades of yellow and orange, like the snorkel parkas recently only seen in South Park animations.

2011 August 17

This summer’s newspapers seem to be full of older people who aren’t managing to look casual, whether in their attitudes or their clothing. Rupert Murdoch and Prince Charles might not seem to have much in common, but the inability to dress for comfort is a characteristic they share. Rupert, in particular, has an odd habit of being photographed with his wife, Wendi Deng, when she is wearing casual clothing and he’s in a suit and shirt, although his concession to informality is to remove his tie for evening interviews on TV.  Prince Charles has always been lampooned for his obvious discomfort in casual clothing and photos of him with a jeans-wearing Prince William continue to highlight the heir to the throne’s love of the formal.

It’s not impossible to dress comfortably and look good in casual clothing, no matter what your age.
1.    Choose a colour: for older men, pale blue is usually very successful – it tones down red in the eyes and skin and gives a hint of youth without looking stupidly flash. Wear a darker colour below the waist, such as navy shorts with a blue polo-shirt because it’s slimming.
2.    Choose a fit: relaxed fit works well if you are on the larger side, but if you are one of those people who is getting thinner as they get older, don’t think ‘relaxed’ will work for you, instead you look lost inside your clothing. Pick a more tailored style, perhaps a long-sleeve T-shirt to hide scrawny arms, or a slim fit hoodie that will flatter your trim waist.
3.    Choose simplicity: T-shirts with logos and slogans are risky because you may not understand the connotations. Super skinny trousers suggest you are a fashion victim and rarely suit the older man as well as a pair of neatly-pressed cargo trousers. Simple fabrics like cotton work better than shiny surfaces if you’re over fifty, just because the seem more classic and therefore give you an air of confidence.

2011 February 3

The Rugby World Cup will be held in New Zealand this year and the uniform worn by volunteers has just been revealed. It’s a light blue and silver design of track suit, polo-shirt, baseball cap and T-shirt (but, surprisingly, no rugby shirt!) all adorned with the distinctive mangopare (hammerhead shark) and koru (fern frond) designs that incorporate the Maori traditions of strength and fellowship.

Around 7,000 volunteers will wear the kit, and it’s specially designed to help each member of workforce ‘feel they are part of one great team delivering something unique’ as well as being distinctive enough for rugby fans to pick out the volunteers at a distance when they need assistance.

Most volunteers seem pleased with the uniform and keen to wear it when the Cup starts. Volunteer uniforms need to be:

•    Distinctive
•    Comfortable
•   Available in a range of sizes
•    Suitable for all cultures
•    Easy to wash
•    Durable
•    Able to express something about the cause they support.

2010 September 27

Now contestants have moved to the judges’ houses, there’s a lot of press attention on the audition clothes.  Cher Lloyd performed Get Your Swag On but a lot of attention was focused on her jeans rather than her voice, and she’s admitted that her gritty urban look was a personal achievement: she ripped her jeans herself!

According to the Daily Mirror, Matt Cardle had the winning voice for his amazing rendition of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, but some people think he let himself down on the appearance front in a cap and check work-shirt, or as the newspaper put it ‘Next time, he might even change out of his work clothes’.

The contestant whose clothing drew most criticism, along with her lifestyle, was Chloe Mafia, who’s been kicked off the show and is now doing the rounds of TV shows defending her behaviour. The Daily Mail says that she appeared on breakfast TV wearing a ‘tacky pink bra-top and matching tracksuit bottoms’ but that was better than her last TV appearance where she was seen rolling up for a day’s rehearsal, wearing the same clothes as the previous day and apparently reeking of vodka.

This year’s contestants were definitely in dress-down mode for the most part, some of the boys wore cargo shorts for the call-back, which was a new departure and there were many striped T-shirts on show during the dance segments. Girls still went for the little black dress a lot, but Gamu Nhengu rang the audition changes with a waistcoat over her T-shirt and a flower in her hair: if she carries on being a favourite, you can expect to see lots of this look in the High Street. Women can try it themselves with a white T-shirt under a sleeveless fleece and a silk rose in your hair or stitched to each end of your scarf.

2010 August 16

Beijing artist Li Xiaofeng makes ‘porcelain clothing’ by sewing together shards of pottery recovered from China’s thousands of archaeological digs and fixing them onto leather garments. The fragments date from the song, ming, yuan and qing dynasties and are stored in dustbins in the artist’s studio. Li had his first exhibition outside China in 2009 and has become one of the many Chinese artists working with major fashion designers on ‘artfusion’ or ‘artketing’ – a blend of art and marketing.

Li has been working with Lacoste, where he constructed a porcelain polo shirt with the classic Lacoste logo, and went on to design a limited edition polo shirt with a signature image of blue and white porcelain pieces scattered on the garment.

Li is not the only Chinese artist to get into the casual clothing world: Comme des Garçons invited Ai Weiwei, to design a special-edition T shirt to commemorate their new store in Hong Kong – the T-shirt couldn’t be sold in China because Ai Weiwei is so controversial there.

If you want to get into the Chinese fashion vibe, but can’t afford the small fortune required for one of the limited edition pieces, focus on the colours blue, white and terracotta for your casual clothing and combine casual polo-shirts or T-shirts with jade medallions worn on a leather thong: a very traditional Beijing look!

2010 July 22

The recent burst of telecommuting is damaging fashion sense, according to a number of fashion pundits. They blame the ability to work from home for the way that both men and women have been letting their clothing standards drop.

Some supermarkets have taken to banning customers in pyjamas from shopping because it can offend. They claim that it’s because customers have got used to shopping online in their pjs and now expect to be able to do the same in person.

It’s just one sign that business-casual is devolving into ‘anything goes’ but for those who hope to travel up the career ladder it’s a dangerous path. Companies have taken complex dress codes and turned them into ‘use your best judgement’ but for savvy employees, owning a good pair of trousers or a skirt, a smart shirt and a decent pair of shoes is still the minimum requirement. If your CEO suddenly turns up in your home town and the company want you to drop off some papers or take him or her a memory stick, then you need to look right. And for those who work in ‘back offices’ it may be tempting to wear shorts, flip-flops and casual teeshirts but if you tend to look sloppy and unprofessional, you may fail to win promotion.

Find a middle path by wearing polo-shirts instead of T-shirts, lightweight casual trousers instead of shorts and simple pumps or even this year’s fashion winner, high-top trainers, instead of flip-flops.