IN the corporate world, you should not stand out when it comes to dressing. You should follow the norm.
Now, that's a surprise as in the dog-eat-dog world of business, one would think you should do anything to give yourself the extra edge.
Well, that was the advice that style guru Tan Su Cheng (who is an interior designer by profession) was dishing out to selected guests at the Raoul/Men's Folio workshop on grooming for men recently at a swanky hotel in Kuala Lumpur, recently.
He first told the audience that to dress for success, one must have a personal style and image, in essence be unique but be true to oneself.
Tan said a best-dressed man looks outstanding but people don't really know why.
That's when he seemingly contradicted himself when he said in the conservative corporate world like banking and finance, one must be subtle in the dressing and not stand out too much.
“The suit should be grey or blue or even with subtle pinstripes of dark-shades, of charcoal. The tie should be conservative. It's all in the attitude for the mindset is to be a winner,” said Tan.
For short people (or the politically correct vertically-challenged) the advice is to wear more colour and stronger tones.
While for those taller in stature should go for neutrals and grey unless one is the host or a speaker and should stand out a bit.
As for suits, Tan advises those with shorter stature to have the suit just barely covering the buttocks and the lapels pointing open, to frame the face better, have tighter shoulders and use a three or four button jacket.
There should be a gap of 1.25cm between the suit cuffs and the shirt cuff (which should be exposed).
As for the material - wool, wool, wool - nothing else will do.
Those of medium height are advised to go for four- or six-button, double-breasted jacket.
For those taller - say more than 1.83m (that's 6 feet for you older folks out there) - the suit should be much longer and heavier.
Again, it should be double-breasted with four buttons instead of six.
Tan likens the suit to good armour for it makes one look stronger or those who are of heavier built (fat lah), slimmer.
Oh, another tip from Tan - never button the last button on your jacket/suit.
Why? He said the style goes back to King Edward VII who was so fat that he couldn't button up the last one so it became a fashion that just stuck on until today.
And do you know why there is a slit on the back of a suit?
It was to enable one to ride a horse in comfort when it was a mode of transportation in the olden days.
As for shirts, never buy one that makes you look larger and there's no detail more important than the collar.
If you have a small face, don't wear a shirt with a big collar because it will make your face look even smaller.
The seam at the shoulder should not drop more than 1.5cm below the shoulder otherwise it will look too big for you.
The shirt cuff should never cover the hands. Those with small frame, said Tan, should wear stiff shirts, brighter colours and use shell buttons.
“If you are using a stripped shirt, the strip should follow all way down even with a pocket - it should not be disjointed where it meets the pocket in other words.”
Be careful with the choice of ties - it should suit the colour of your skin.
And ties should always be silk for when you store it away it still retains its shape while with other materials, you will see fold marks and so on.
With a button-down collar or wing-tip collar, the tie should have a single knot.
Tan's advice is to stick to the classics and the knot must be tied tight enough to allow only two fingers inside the collar.
More than that, it is too loose.
For those who are in the creative line like architects, designers and advertising people, there is more leeway on how you dress. It should, said Tan, reveal your personality and character.
On the other hand, those in the information technology business have to project trustworthiness. Comfort is also a factor.
Checked shirts, said Tan, seemed to be equated with intellectuals.
And when all else fails, just like the women, one can always fall back to the basic black.
Your shoes should match your belt and the shoes should have leather sole inlay.
So that's a start - are you up to the dress code? Or would you rather be you and go with your own style and rules. The choice is yours.