Comment: Humble fashion advice for struggling politicians

By Chris Terelak

Like it or not, the tieless have inherited the earth. Look no further than Messrs Branson, Gates, Zuckerberg et al who prove you can be taken seriously and bank untold wealth in an open-necked shirt.

For all of us, not just G8 leaders and modern-day tycoons, a more relaxed style of dress suggests you're ready for an open dialogue, rather than stubbornly sticking to your guns. If you're after a win-win outcome, leaving your tie in the wardrobe ain't a bad place to start. So well done G8. The basic thinking seems correct, given that consensus is the goal.

However, the tieless business casual approach runs risks. What happens if everyone turns up in the same neutral colours and loose-fitting 'me too' jackets, shirts and trousers? Any gathering takes on a lifeless air, deprived of the oxygen of individuality. And being brutally honest, that's pretty much the way the G8 gathering looks to a clothes-conscious outsider. Whatever the diplomatic outcome, the Lough Erne summit will not find a place in the style guides of the future.  

So here are a few Charles Tyrwhitt tips, tendered in a spirit of deep humility, for world leaders attending future 'business casual' summits.

1. Wear contrasting colours and fabrics. As the coalition knows, unexpected combinations will keep you on your toes and looking lively and alert.
2. Don't just stick to standard cotton or wool jackets. Moleskin, cord and linen (temperature allowing) are so much more individual.
3. Whatever the jacket you choose, lift your appearance with a pocket square. Plain white will do, or pick one with a splash of colour.
4. If nothing else, make sure you pack some brightly coloured socks. Even the omnipresent black suit comes to life with a daring flash of pink.
5. Try a relaxed check shirt with a plain woven tie – no-one can accuse you of breaking with the business casual code and you will photograph better.
6. How about hats? A well-chosen fedora will make sure that the press and public have an image to remember.  

The alternative of course is simply to dress smartly. A properly tailored shirt that fits is the place to start. With the prospect of long negotiations and camera calls, premium non-iron versions which look smart all day long merit serious consideration.

Like the shirt, the suit needs to fit well, with enough freedom of movement to keep you comfortable however long the day. A G8 delegate would look every inch the modern leader in a single-breasted mid-blue suit, matched with a pale (or white) shirt. They should consider a waistcoat for a well-defined, very complete look. Footwear should without doubt be properly-made calf leather shoes (double-buckle monks are recommended). The result? A thoroughly smart and modern appearance without being overtly fashion-conscious or showing signs of trying too hard.   

Which brings us back to ties. The wearing of ties is in decline, with a drop off of some ten per cent every year in the western world (although at Charles Tyrwhitt we find that tie sales continue to increase by circa 25% year-on-year in line with shirts).  As a result, wearing a beautifully finished, colourful tie which hangs elegantly across your torso is an increasingly emphatic way of looking fantastically smart and distinguished. What's more, the effect of the tie is to draw attention to the face. Publicity aware politicians are missing a trick if they choose not to wear one.

Chris Terelak has been writing about the finer things in life (including wine and men's clothing) for the last 20 years and is currently a director at Charles Tyrwhitt of Jermyn Street, London. 

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