Workwear and Fashion

Workwear And Fashion – How To Blend Them

Workwear is something that we here on this site love. Workwear is steeped in history and provides us with the quality and durability we crave on a day-to-day basis. As we’ve stated before, we’re not really that into fashion here but every now and then a piece catches our eye that we deem to be a must have.

Coincidentally, we’re left with pieces of clothing from two opposite ends of the spectrum that seemingly have no relation to one another. Well, I’m here to tell you today that perception is not reality (crazy, right?) and that these two disparate sections of the market can actually be blended together into something that looks quite stylish.

Workwear comes from a place of practicality- clothes to be worn hard and often that won’t quit on you. Fashion comes from a place of art and design- clothes meant to provoke thought and catch the eye. While they don’t seem to be a natural pairing I believe they are due to a concept we talk about a lot here: balance.

Unless you’re actually performing manual labour of some sort you’ll look ridiculous in head-to-toe workwear. You’ll look like you’re trying too hard to fit in on a job site that you don’t work at. And, if you dress in high fashion exclusively you look like Euro-trash. Combining the two in the right way offers that balance to your wardrobe.

It’s not quite as easy as throwing together whatever pieces you have and assuming they’ll blend, because there are a few potential landmines here. We’ll walk through what works and what doesn’t, and where the natural pairings are. Here’s our guide on how to blend workwear and fashion.

Workwear & Fashion: Dos

The best way to go about this is to look at all the pieces of workwear pieces that are considered “staples” and talk about what works best with them from a fashion standpoint. From there, it should be easier to conceptualize and put together some things of your own and try out what works and what doesn’t.

  • Denim Jacket: we’ve touched on this briefly before and I think it bears repeating: the denim jacket is a natural pairing with dressier clothing. Some day, consider wearing a denim jacket instead of a blazer over a shirt, tie, and trousers. It would also look great if you mixed in a cardigan or sweater. This is a perfect example of how combining a classic piece of workwear with fashionable pieces can look really clean and classic

Denim Jacket

  • Work Boots: clearly a favourite topic of mine as I seem to talk about boots a lot. As we have covered before, boots with a suit are a natural pairing. Again, I go to one of my favourite pairs, the Red Wing Beckman
  • The model they call “Dark Cherry” is going to work with every colour you own and is a fine replacement for dress shoes. The key to boots with a suit is to keep your pants slim and hemmed to the right length. Air on the shorter side of things as this will give a cleaner look. A cuff is preferred as well (two inches);
  • Beckman Round Workboots
  • Flannel Shirt: flannel is great because it pretty much works with anything you own. Regarding how it works with some fashion pieces, I like the idea of pairing a flannel, say this one from Engineered Garments:
  • The Bureau Navy plaid collar shirtwith a high-end sweatpant, like this one from John Elliott & Co.
  • John Elliott sweatpantI understand that a “high-end sweatpant” is a bit ridiculous, but I promise you they’re awesome. It’s all the comfort of a sweatpant in a more stylish and socially acceptable package. You can wear them out and not be concerned about looking like a slob. The ones from John Elliott are deadly too (note the drop crotch and stacked legs). A flannel, when tucked in, also works as a dress shirt replacement. They can look quite dashing when paired with a plain knit tie or even a bow tie. Don’t sleep on flannels, man. They work with everything;
  • Denim: kind of obvious, I know, but there’s no telling how many ways you can combine denim with fashion pieces. Jeans instead of trousers with a blazer and shirt/tie combo always works. Jeans with a cashmere sweater and dress shoes. Really, the list is endless. Jeans are something we all love and cherish (that’s a bit sappy) and can appreciate their role in our wardrobes. Wear your jeans with whatever fashionable pieces you have and let the look do the talking for you;
  • Sweatshirts: sweatshirts are the hard-wearing pieces we often forget about. A quality sweatshirt is actually incredibly versatile and will offer an air of ease and casual to your look. I like the look of a sweatshirt (crew-neck, obviously) over a collard shirt, like this guy here


ReigningChamp Sweatshirt

These five pieces in your wardrobe will combine well with anything fashion forward you have in your wardrobe. don’t be afraid to throw some combination of the items we’ve listed together and see what works best for you. Remember that you’re looking for balance and for a way to wear things seamlessly; one piece shouldn’t stand out above the rest.

Workwear & Fashion: Dont’s

While I do enjoy advocating for the combination of workwear and fashion, I must also perform my duties of warning you folks of what to look out for. Some ideas seem good at the time and then fall flat on their face. For instance, let’s say you have a pair of Carhartt work pants that you want to try to work into your regular wardrobe and think they might pair well with a new pair of wingtips you purchased. Well, I think you would be wrong about that assumption. It’s a complete lack of continuity and will end up looking foolish if you choose to wear it.

The phrase “workwear” needs to be taken with a grain of salt as well. As much as I do appreciate the true pieces of workwear, they don’t always work with things we have in our wardrobes. What I mean is workboots don’t necessarily need to be safety approved and steel-toed to qualify. You’re often better off finding something that’s workwear inspired instead of the real thing. The fit and cut will likely be better suited for wearing on the street and things made for the job site are often cut generously as these people move around quite a bit.

Be sure to consider every piece before you wear something out too. Juxtaposition is what you’re targeting here, but that juxtaposition needs to have balance to it. Diametrically opposed clothing items can work together but you need to be aware of how the fits, colours, and patterns will work together.

Whether you’re a fashion guy or a workwear guy there are elements of each that you can add to your wardrobe that will spice it up and keep things interesting. A mix of both will allow you to try on some new looks without totally abandoning your individual ethos. Fashion are workwear play well together when a balance of fit and colours has been achieved and confidence is brought along with that.

At the end of the day it’s an opportunity to try out some new labels with the knowledge in hand that they will work with your existing wardrobe. I assure you the Prada sweater you’ve been eyeing will work with your Iron Heart jeans. I also assure you that the Carhartt flannel you like will work with your Canali suit. Have some fun and try some new things, there’s no need to take yourself too seriously.

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