In 2014, Mumbai-based Troy Costa catapulted into the news as the designer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s wardrobe for his US trip. That the well-known tuxedo constructionist synonymous with sharp tailoring and CEO suits would dress a Prime Minister who preferred ethnic wear sounded like strategic sartorial pairing.

Two years later, the argument still holds—while the PM continues to largely choose kurta-churidars with finely tailored (but label-less) bandhgalas, Costa continues to argue in favour of formal Western dressing for leadership roles. Reluctant to spill the details about the wardrobe wishlists of the many big bosses who are his clients, Costa gives us a trendy topical update on office blazers, socks that make sense, and why a pen in a shirt pocket is no longer appealing. Edited excerpts from an email interview:

How much is men’s workwear influenced by street trends? Is it growing or are we reading too much into it?

Unfortunately, we don’t have any streets. In Europe, men walk to and from work wearing formal attire in different ways, thus creating street trends.

The (La) Fortezza in Florence is one such street.

Between “trend" articles that pronounce “Men give up on suits" and “Suits are back", where does contemporary dressing really stand on suits?

Suits are definitely back, thanks to popular TV shows like Suits, Mad Men and Homeland, etc. Secondly, tailoring has made a comeback, so for India, a country where tailors have always dominated due to the absence of international retail brands in the corporate sector, this is a great time of resurgence. Moreover, brands like Woolmark have introduced technology-driven cool-wool fabric blends comprising silk, linen, knit and wool that can be worn year-round.

Do a vast majority of men in top jobs, especially those who head organizations, wear jackets to office? What are your thoughts on the work blazer?

A good suit is an armour against the everyday reality of life. Indian men are now waking up to the idea of formal dressing. The all-purpose blazer or jacket, as it is now called, is something of a must-have. It enables you to combine and create multiple looks, thus expanding your wardrobe. The work jacket today comprises various checked patterns like the window pane, Prince of Wales, gingham, etc.

You specifically recommend made-to-order clothes for men in senior jobs. Why is that?

Why would a man for whom price has no limit be dressed in a high-street brand that is available to everybody? A bespoke suit is shaped, curved at the waist; it has to flatter your body, unlike a retail suit that is mostly straight.

Is it really important that an investment banker look different from a corporate CEO? And how can such distinctions be acquired through dressing?

Your appearance is as good as your talent. You get only one chance to make a first impression. The first thing that people notice when they meet you is your dressing. You want people to take you seriously from the moment they meet you, that makes it easier to earn their trust and, eventually, their business.

What’s the kind of suit ensemble you recommend for someone attending the World Economic Forum?

At a platform such as this, one has to blend in, not stand out. His knowledge of the subject must radiate, not through his attire. An ideal suit today would be a deep-blue Prince of Wales check, single-breasted, two-button peak-lapel suit ensemble. It should be worn with a self-textured sky-blue collar in rod design, a French cuffed shirt, a jacquard houndstooth dual-tone tie and a half-inch pocket square in blue-shaded gingham design.

What are your thoughts on the bulk of the wallet, the pen in the pocket, accessories like cufflinks?

Men’s grooming is scaling new heights. And accessories play a pivotal role in one’s conditioning. Accessories like cufflinks, tie, bow, lapel pins, collar rod, chained watches certainly elevate your style quotient. Gone are the days of cash. The world runs on cards and Internet banking. So the bulk in the wallet ideally belongs to the relics of the bygone age. A high-calibre gel ink pen certainly deserves more room than in one’s shirt pocket. A pen should be carried in a folio or in the inner pocket of the jacket. Pen in the shirt pocket isn’t appealing anyway.

One of the wackiest aspects of male attire is socks—there are so many inventive, funky, fabulous socks with prints and patterns. How can a man get his socks right?

Socks play an important role in the current fashion scenario, the reason being the pant length skims the top of one’s shoes, allowing the socks to be visible.

Workwear socks must be solid coloured or self-textured to complement the patterned suit. Pick a colour that goes back to some element of your outfit.

For evenings out, one can wear patterns like argyle, chevron, houndstooth, polka dots and stripes. Prints like beer mugs, guitars and Christmas trees are a definite no-no.

While the sari has reclaimed its place as the No.1 formal garment for women in powerful jobs, Indian masculine garb hasn’t seen any such surge. Why not?

I disagree. Business is done internationally; Indian wear, being ethnic in nature, appears festive-like. A Japanese tycoon wouldn’t wear a kimono to a board meeting. Western formals have a common thread worldwide. What you wear to work tells people a lot about you, “Don’t dress for the job you have; dress for the job you want," is good advice.

How should men style athleisure for workwear beyond just wearing Nike shoes to work on Friday?

At Troy Costa we make athleisure workwear for the performance professional.

Work and life are becoming integrated. The 9-5 does not exist any more, you are always on call. Hence the need for four-way stretch trousers, shirts that have poly-mesh panels at the side, jackets made from phase change polyester, viscose and elastane.

TROY COSTA’S 8 TIPS FOR A SUAVE WORK WARDROBE

TIE

A tie is no longer slim; therefore you will need a tie bar to keep it in place. The knot should be the Windsor, and the tie should end 1 inch above the belt. A tie must be used to add style to your suit.

SUIT

The suit should be an elegant fit, flattering your body type.

The most coveted suit today is definitely one with a windowpane or a Prince of Wales check pattern in a fabric weight of not more than 14 microns. The best lapel choice is peaked. Notched lapels are for the unambitious.

SHOES

You cannot be well-dressed in cheap shoes. Good shoes instantly elevate a person’s uber quotient. Dual-toned, brown Toledo-polish welted brogue lace-ups are a good investment.

SPECTACLES

Make sure your glasses fit properly and aren’t sliding down your nose. It’s distracting if you keep playing with them all the time. Stop blending in with the crowd and start getting noticed with a handmade wooden frame.

WATCH

The pursuit of time would be better known to the man with a timeless watch. I would certainly recommend a U-Boat watch consisting of optimum chronographs. For workwear, a leather-strapped 43mm dial watch is ideal.

OFFICE SHIRTS

It covers almost half your body, so the fit of your shirt is paramount to ensure you look your best. The collar of a suit shirt should be arrow-shaped, the rod design detailed and stiffened by metal bones.

WALLET

A good wallet can turn any man into a gentleman, provided it is kept free of clutter. A crammed wallet wouldn’t be easy to wield anyway. A dark-brown wallet would definitely add some panache.

POCKET SQUARE

The pocket square is the most important accessory in men’s fashion today. At Troy Costa, we call it the flag of fashion. Fold your pocket square in a certain way, and develop your own personal style.

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