Hey Carlos – great question. I get it – nobody wants to look like they just watched Out of Africa the night before. It’s great to weave a little cinematic spirit into your Zoom calls… but it’s a fine line between “inspired by” and “full-on costume party.”
You know, in older movies, you sometimes see men come home from the office and change into a different jacket for the evening. But it’s a more casual one… something that still has some polish, but feels less precious, and easier to move around in (or drink a martini in). But here we are in 2020, when there is no “home from the office” because, for most of us, home IS the office. So how do you split the difference? What’s the piece that can do both?
I think you’re right that a lightweight, chore- or military- or safari-style jacket is the answer… and it’s totally something you can pull off without looking like a hunter. Think of it as an indoor/outdoor coat. Heavier and more inside-friendly than a windbreaker, but not so heavy that you can’t be comfortable sitting in front of your computer. The ones we’ve got this season are made of this great lightweight fabric that’s dry-waxed, so it won’t rub off or transfer the way a traditional waxed cotton does. (This is especially good news if your home desk is also your kitchen table…) It’s also washed ahead of time to take out some of the crunch and kick-start the break-in process. Even when you’re muted on the call, a stiff jacket doesn’t set you up for success.
When I think about how to wear it, my mind goes straight to Bill Cunningham, the original “street style” photographer for the New York Times.” He grew up in a super preppy, Irish Catholic family in Boston and knew the importance of dressing up as a matter of good manners and respecting occasion. But he took practicality into account as well. He was on a bicycle all day and needed to be able to carry around his camera and his film. So every day he wore a French work jacket. It had four pockets – perfect for his film canisters and notebook - and it was made of utilitarian cotton in this fantastic shade of lapis blue. He wore a collared shirt underneath, but in the evenings, he could just throw on a tie and bike over to a fancy party without missing a beat. In cooler months he’d add a sweater underneath, and in true winter, a down jacket on top.
So let Bill be your guide on your next Zoom call. Since the jacket is by nature a little rugged, lean into “simple but refined” for the other pieces. (You’ll see I test-drove the look for you on one of my calls yesterday.) The funny thing about a jacket – any jacket, whether it’s a true sport coat or something more casual like this – is that it makes you look more pulled together. Ann talks about this “third piece” phenomenon all the time. If two pieces is your baseline – safe to assume you’re always in one, a shirt, and two, pants – the addition of just one more item makes your whole look seem more considered. It pulls it all together. You can take it super casual on weekends, and it’ll make even a solid tee and jeans feel like an “outfit.” But when it comes to a workday, you want a shirt with a collar. Even just a polo can be cool. And of course, I’m always gonna recommend treating it like a real sport coat and wearing it over a spread collar woven shirt, with or without a tie. (Maybe ‘with’ if your boss is joining the call.) One of the guys who works here in our warehouse, Dillon, carries this look off really well. It’s practical – there’s pockets for his pen and his phone and his box cutter – but the tie gives him some polish. Military jacket as blazer. Every time I see him, I’m like, he showed up ready.
There are a couple of combos to get you started. I think the colors alone will help you avoid the safari look. The idea is casual – and useful – but refined. Remember, you’re getting work done.