Stuart Husband suggests looks that are both smart and practical for life on the road
There’s an old Chinese proverb: “He who strikes the best deal will always be wrinklefree.” Well, actually, there isn’t – we just made it up – but it’s an aphorism that will strike a chord with any worldly gentleman whose business trip to Shanghai – or San Francisco, or Stockholm – has been blighted by wardrobe malfunctions of the creased, rumpled, or wrong-side-of-the-smart-casual-divide kind.
“Lots of friends of mine have important senior jobs in global companies,” says Mats Klingberg. “And they get quite stressed about the idea of packing for a trip that takes in meetings, fancy dinners and more casual events. How can they put together a series of different looks that ensures they look fresh and smart enough for each occasion without being too over-burdened?”
Luckily, Klingberg is in a great position to help them out. He runs Trunk, a London menswear emporium whose stock is rich in the modern crease-resistant fabrics and formal-informal blurring that can keep men looking sharp from shore to shore. Today, he’s wearing a soft-shouldered navy blazer by Italian brand Boglioli – “It’s cotton, with a touch of elastane to allow for stretch; you could fold it into your bag and it would just snap back in place when you took it out.”
He has teamed it with Trunk’s own-brand pale blue Oxford shirt, a navy “ice cotton” crew neck by Japanese brand Zanone, a pair of Trunk beige chinos and brown suede Crockett and Jones chukka boots. “It’s a look that should be smart enough for most occasions, but you can dress it up with a knitted tie or dress it down with a pair of jeans,” he says. “It’s a modern silhouette and it’s quite effortless. Texture and cut play a big part; you don’t necessarily look relaxed if you’re in a very structured Savile Row suit and you just take off your tie. So this is a happy middle ground. And given that dress codes are breaking down, this is the area that men really need to concentrate on.”
Of course, there are some long-haul or shorthop engagements where a reassuringly formal look might still be called for, but today’s high-tech fabrics can help to give a little extra bounce to your presentation. Quite literally so, in the case of Paul Smith’s A Suit to Travel In – the designer
hired British Olympic gymnast Max Whitlock to demonstrate its imperviousness to the knottiest flips, ips, whips and cartwheels he could throw at it.
“The yarn comes from the underbelly of a Merino sheep, where the hair is really long,” Smith says. “They twist it so the cloth is woven very tight. This means that when the suit is made, it’s got this lustrous, lively quality.” This season, the Suit to Travel In comes in Smithian shades of turquoise and dark green windowpane check, as well as navy and grey.
Even the stalwarts of Mayfair are loosening up – particularly the more cutting-edge end of that august area, as represented by Thom Sweeney, which is attuned to the frequent-flyer needs of clients such as David Gandy, Dermot O’Leary and Michael Fassbender; its Weighhouse suit comes in crease-resistant wool with a softer shoulder, yet remains impeccably smart.“We just got back from Italy,” says co-founder Luke Sweeney, “and I took a navy flannel suit, a grey flannel trouser, jeans, two shirts, a knitted tie, and a roll-neck, all in a small case. Out of that I had, what, five outfit options?”
“Certain fabrics have always worked for travel, like a fresco or a hopsack,” says fellow founder Thom Whiddett. “Something with a springy weave. But there are great tech-infused ones around now, from the likes of Loro Piana. Their high-tenacity weaves are
‘Options for business travellers have improved a lot, both in terms of choice and of what’s acceptable to wear’
incredibly versatile – any suit or jacket in those would stay completely crease-free and be pack-proof.”
“They’ve come on a bundle,” nods Sweeney. “The very first travel suit I came across felt a bit papery, but now you can have the best of all worlds – something that looks beautiful, feels great, and wears really well. A nice fusion between durability and luxe.”
That fusion informs whole ranges that bigger brands now produce with the globetrotter in mind. For its spring-summer 2017 collection, the Hugo Boss Travel Line puts lightness, breathability and versatility at the forefront, with softly constructed slim-fit suit jackets in natural wool with mechanical stretch, and formally cut jersey trousers that marry sartorial heft to track-pant comfort.
Its single-breasted sports jacket features enlarged internal pockets for passport or tickets, plus interior loops to hold ear-buds in place, and can be packed away into an integrated bag. Business shirts combine stretch-tech, moisture-wicking fabric, and an aloe vera-enriched cloth; the ultra-soft but sturdy result will withstand the harshest intercontinental rigours.
Even outerwear is engineered for maximum utility and minimum fuss, with reversible two-in-one jackets getting a holdall’s worth of looks out of cabin baggage capacity, and a bomber jacket rendered virtually weightless in resilient ripstop fabric.
Klingberg says: “The options for business travellers have definitely improved a lot in the past few years, both in terms of the choices available to them and of what’s now acceptable to wear.” The racks at Trunk are a testament to that, from a cotton-linen navy blazer by cult Spanish brand Man 1924 (“It’s very relaxed, but looks sharp with a polo shirt and pocket square”), to a beige Boglioli jacket in a cashmere/silk blend (“This won’t date, and can be really smartened up or quite slouchy – an incredibly versatile piece”). “It’s all about ease and confidence, and standing out in the right kind of way,” he adds.
“These innovations have all been driven by demand,”says Thom Whiddett of Thom Sweeney, demonstrating a few pieces – a grey wool/silk/linen jacket, a raincoat with detachable gilet – that are tailored to make travellers’ lives that little bit easier, while remaining unimpeachably business-classy. “If you can offer that mix of practicality and style, it’s one less thing for people to worry about.” Or, to put it another way, it’s one more wrinkle ironed out.
From far left: Paul Smith’s A Suit to Travel In; Hugo Boss Travel Line