Washington, D.C.: Nearly Stylish

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Washington, D.C. has long held the unenviable reputation of being a boring, ill-fitting and shoddy kind of town when it comes to fashion; men’s fashion in particular. Over the past few years however, D.C. has made some dramatic changes. We’re going upscale and fast becoming a serious luxury market. If you’re in the area make sure stop by the stores after visiting the sites.

Iconic American style giant Ralph Lauren has made a major investment in D.C. with a year-old 16,000 square foot flagship in the tony Chevy Chase section of town. Chevy Chase makes no secret of the fact that it wants to become known as the Rodeo Drive of the East. Lauren also opened a new Rugby store and restaurant in preppy Georgetown and a boutique in Tyson’s Galleria, a super premium shopping mall a short drive from downtown.

Many new stores with a strong focus on men’s fashion have opened throughout the D.C. area, like Thomas Pink at the landmark Mayflower Hotel and über-preppy Sherman Pickey, down in Georgetown. The snappy newcomers join the old D.C. standbys Brooks Brothers and J. Press. For those of you who don’t know, J. Press is ground zero for classic New England preppy. The guys who shop here feel Brooks is simply too trendy.

That having been said, some negligible advice givers are still out there getting paid to have no real sense of style. Not too long ago, a Washington Post fashion “expert” advised a young reader against pairing brown shoes with grey pants. I was stunned; cities like Boston and London are virtually built on this versatile and classy mix. Only in D.C. would it be seen as too edgy. This poor guy was relegated to clothing purgatory when all he wanted was to develop some style.

Luckily, that kind of attitude is being heard less and less in the nation’s capitol. More often now, it’s the men who are looking for a source of good information on dressing well and developing a personal sense of flair. From Capitol Hill to K Street, guys are getting the message that there is no shame in being aware of style and fashion; it’s simply taking ownership of the image you project to everyone else. In fact, most men I know are actually very interested in how they look but are either intimidated by the whole thing or too embarrassed to admit they care about their clothes.

Now, I don’t wear a suit to walk the dog and I don’t iron my jeans. However, when going out in public I try to show respect to the people around me by making an effort to dress well. It’s not about wearing a tie everywhere, but it’s also not wearing flip-flops to the office. Embarrassingly, this was such a problem that the White House had to actually ban flip-flops from the feet of staff and visitors. The president, like him or not, is actually a stickler for dressing well – jackets always in the Oval Office – so this particular decision gets a bipartisan thumbs-up from me.

Up in the U.S. Senate, seersucker Thursday is now an annual tradition each June. This year 30 senators donned the world famous Southern suit and went to work. Frankly, knowing that political adversaries can reach across the aisle and decide to show a little style makes me happy to live here. Of course, I have a seersucker suit too – what would you expect me to say?


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice