Question: Our company picnic is coming up and although it is always informal, I'm still wondering what to wear. A few people wear T-shirts but they seem underdressed. More come in the polo shirt realm. I just bought a nice Hawaiian shirt _ with pineapples in the design _ and I'm wondering, would it be appropriate?
Answer: I can't imagine any picnic _ company sponsored or not _ that would be too formal for a Hawaiian shirt, especially this summer.
For years, Hawaiian "Aloha" shirts have been considered a little on the hokey side _ dare I say geek chic? But this year they are all the rage. When I first saw them advertised, I immediately said to myself, "Oh sure, just who do they think will be wearing them?" No sooner had I expressed the thought than I began seeing "hot" clothing companies showing them as this year's newest item. Nautica, Lands' End, Ralph Lauren, Old Navy; they're everywhere. Like drawstring pants and cargo pockets, Aloha shirts are current and fun, perfect for summer dressing for a picnic or even a not-too-stuffy, buttoned-down office on casual Fridays.
The way you wear them is versatile, too. They can be worn casually as a shirt jacket, open over a white T-shirt; or buttoned up and worn out over shorts, pants, or a bathing suit. But the dressiest way is the style favored for "formal" occasions in Hawaii: The same bankers who wear their shirts untucked for casual wear, tuck them neatly into their trousers for a more dressed up, business look. It works here, too.
As to your comment that a T-shirt seems underdressed, consider the situation and what the other guys at the picnic will be wearing. Hard though it may be to imagine a "formal" picnic, still some companies are more classically traditional than others. You know your crowd. If they are the kind who might consider a Hawaiian shirt too outlandish for casual Fridays at work, they may also think of collarless T-shirts as inappropriate. You can never go wrong with a knit polo (by definition, a knit shirt with a collar, a placket, and two or three buttons).
for clothing investment
Question: I just "invested in" the most expensive suit I've ever owned. I notice you have on several occasions mentioned that American men make the mistake of dry cleaning their suits too often. What can you tell me about how to take care of my new suit and any others I may buy?
Answer: Take it off when you get home! Don't even THINK of starting dinner before you take off and hang up your suit. Better than leaving it on, but nowhere near as good as hanging it up properly on a fat hanger is draping it over the back of a convenient chair.
First, remove the jacket.
Hang it up, and carefully hang the trousers, too, by lining up the creases of the pants so that you do not create new (unwanted) creases.
A wooden valet is perfect, but a good hanger _ either fat wood or padded _ is almost as good.
Allow to air out for several hours or overnight.
After airing, VERY lightly mist/spray with water. Follow up with a fine clothes brush (stroking only in one direction) to direct any nap in the fabric.
If the suit has developed any small spots or stains, spot clean carefully with some fine product such as my own favorite, Goddard's Dry Clean Spot Remover, following directions precisely. Never rub. If a residue remains, repeat. If it is beyond your skill, go to the most professional dry cleaner you can find (even if he is inconveniently located halfway across town and more expensive than the "One Hour" guy at your nearby store).
While I always recommend keeping the dry cleaner's plastic bag on a suit when you are packing for a trip, it is not wise to store a suit until the next season in plastic. The suit needs to breathe. A fabric garment bag is the safest dust cover. If you don't have one, merely drape an old sheet over the suits you are putting away till next season.
Sounds like a lot of trouble? Well, you'll thank me eight to 10 years from now when your suit still looks terrific.
Write to Lois Fenton/Style for Men in care of Floridian, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Send e-mail to LoisFentonprodigy.com. Fenton welcomes questions about men's fashion and grooming for use in the column but cannot answer mail personally.