From scruffy hack to dashing banker

I MUST make a confession. Before researching this piece, I had only visited Selfridges once, and only then to buy Lucky Charms and jelly beans. So going in to meet Ben Leaver, Selfridges’ exceedingly well-dressed men’s formal wear buyer, was frankly rather daunting. What would he make me wear? What are these … looks? Surely an ordinary suit cannot be much improved on?

How wrong I was. Like so many young men in the City, I have learned how to make myself look truly sharp. Though I now wear a jacket, and sometimes even a tie, spiritually I am still wearing the hoodie and jeans that got me through university. But while that might do for journalists, it will never do for my peers in the City’s banks and law firms. Here are my new favourite looks – and I’m fairly sure they’d lift any wardrobe.

THIS is how I arrived. Quite scruffy and colourless, in a suit I bought from a rather strange little shop in Camden. Or as I always thought of myself, kind of smart but mostly battered, as a journalist should be. “It’s very, well, washed out?” said Ben, his head tilted quizzically. Somehow I think he had more scathing things to say. He was right though. My grey suit is a little bit of a disgrace, while my coat is quietly falling apart from the inside. And after trying on the best of Selfridges’ range, I can’t say I felt too happy putting it back on.

LOOK 1: The Interview Suit
THERE are suits, then there are suits. This one, from Savile Row tailor Richard James, is definitely one of the latter. Together with a Mad Men inspired tie, it made me feel like a CEO of the finest sartorial sense. The navy colour is conservative but not dull, while being dressed entirely in silk instantly lifts your confidence. The cut is also magnificent, and rarely for someone skinny like me, doesn’t hang like something constructed out of sackcloth around the shoulders. I saw myself blissfully in a boardroom, like Gordon Gekko, but with decorum. “That’s actually quite good,” said City A.M. lifestyle editor Zoe, sounding more surprised than I felt was justified. But she was right, and I didn’t want to take it off.

Prices: Navy silk suit, Richard James: £850. Tie, Charvet: £125. Lilac shirt, Charvet: £265.

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur
MUCH though I wanted to after trying on the job interview look, you can’t wear a suit all of the time. My next ensemble consisted of a Ralph Lauren check jacket, Ralph Lauren black jeans and a Ralph Lauren polo neck. So it was very Ralph Lauren. The aim was for a sort of casual, entrepreneurial style – but more Steve Jobs than Bill Gates – and it does seem to work. And while some might question a polo neck as business wear, I was assured that this is how all the really successful people are dressing. Together with the world’s Bond villains.

Prices: Polo-neck, Ralph Lauren: £545. Jacket, Ralph Lauren: £1350, Jeans, Ralph Lauren: £270.

LOOK 3: Corporate entertainment
Even in the harshest of City jobs, occasions arise that involve looking smart somewhere a bit glamorous. In my case, I was to spend the weekend after we did this shoot with a bank in Klosters, Switzerland, to cover a snow polo match with a bank, and this was how Ben thought I should dress. The woolen navy blue jacket is suitably elegant, touched off by its beautiful silver buttons. The jeans are from Etro, turned up and paired with some astonishingly nice brown brogues. My favourite bit though was the tie; hand knitted and worn with a smart blue shirt, it shows that a tie needn’t just be part of a corporate uniform, it can be casual too.

Prices: Blazer, Ralph Lauren: £1055. Jeans, Etro: £210. Tie, Ermenegildo Zegna: £105. Navy v-neck, Aquascutum: £170. Brogues, Grenson: £165.

LOOK 4: Urban sophisticate about town
JEANS and a jacket is something I’ve been doing for years. You can look effortlessly sophisticated just by adding a little tailoring to your lounging around gear. Or, as an ex-girlfriend once put it to me, you can look like the top and bottom halves of two different people sewn together at the waist. Unlike the attempts that provoked that quip, Ben’s version definitely felt right. Not only does it turn out you can wear a polo neck without a shirt, you can also wear black shoes with jeans, and somehow it all actually works. Of course, the jacket is the key, but it is also important to get jeans with a smart, traditional cut like these. Perfect for dinner parties or simply for impressing your girlfriend.

Prices: Shoes, Churches: £340. Jeans, Ralph Lauren: £270. Black v-neck, Aquascutum: £170. Jacket, Ralph Lauren: £1350.