You see, I've had to put some serious thought into what to wear. I didn't bring many clothes with me - just the ones in my suitcase plus one box (unlike Margo - but then the relationship between women and clothes is a well known condition that I needn't get into here). I knew I couldn't keep wearing what I used to wear to work. Rugby shirts can only go so far in life.
When I was interviewing, things were still pretty easy: I had my black suit. I even had a blue shirt with a spread collar. But once I got hired I had to figure out what to wear, and fast.
I did a bit of experimenting my first week or so. I wore my suit trousers. I wore a belt. And I wore some things that I've since observed aren't worn very often. Like chinos. I almost never see those Dockers-style trousers - no tan, no olive, no black. Button-down Oxford shirts are rare. I brought one dark blue twill shirt - I've never seen its like.
In those first days and weeks I combined all my prior analysis and current observations and did my calculations and arrived at a basic wardrobe.
I started with a few shirts from one of the high street shops, Moss. They don't sell their own branded shirts like lots of the department stores do, but instead resell brands like Hugo Boss and Yves Saint Laurent at a decently low price (£20 - 40). They all have spread collars - it seems impossible to buy a collar with corners at less than a 90° angle. I also got a 3/4 length wool overcoat in black. I even wear it on weekends so I can walk around with my hands in my pockets looking moody and English.
There are lots of Gaps here, so that's where I got my trousers. Every day at work I'm wearing either dark blue or black jeans (or, rather, "pressed denims"). Faded jeans are too casual. And I'm still not into wearing suit trousers every day - maybe I don't feel old enough ...
I also wear my black leather jacket on occasion, and now that it's warming, I wear my black three-button jacket. I'd bought that in Portland in anticipation of two years in Europe, and thinking that men wear jackets everywhere. (As it turns out, lots of men do, especially older men.) Not a suit jacket - mine is thicker, in corduroy, something you wear to actually keep you warm but still look smart in. And I considered tweed, but black goes with everything.
I knew I'd have to update my shoes for the office. The first few weeks I wore the black made-in-England Clarks that I brought over, which I'd bought about ten years ago in Olympia and which have worn like, well, leather. They're now a bit scuffed and just starting to wear in the soles, so they probably won't return to North America, but they were too casual for the office: I needed shiny shoes. Fortunately Clarks shops are all over - they're like the McDonalds of shoes here. I went to one of the two in downtown Ipswich and ended up with a pair of black loafers (definitely Old Guy shoes) for just £30.
So if you've been paying attention, I've got shoes, trousers, and outerwear sorted. That just leaves shirts. And shirts is where there's so much delicious choice here.
I am learning to dig nice shirts. I think my taste is getting better too. I was digging French cuffs before coming here, and they're pretty common in shirts here, especially in solid colours. I brought my silver cufflinks and Margo got me a pair of glassy blue ones for Christmas. And now and then, reading the paper on the train, I'll glance down and see that classy, manly, so-smart combination of jacket sleeve, shirtsleeve with cufflink, and watch, and think to myself, Yeah.
Shirts don't have pockets here. They have at least spread collars. Some are cut back even more - I recently got some with extra-high collars that just about brush my ears when I wear them, with two buttons at the collar, and those collars are swept back like the air intakes on an F-15.
Shirts can be solid, but also checked, and striped, and striped with different widths. And you can have any colours you like, almost. A man can wear pink or purple or yellow without people assuming he's gay. And some of the colour combinations are so fun.
I've got a functioning wardrobe of shirts now, enough to go about a week and a half without needing to do laundry. The downside is that I have to iron shirts almost every weekend.
My first few were from high street shops in Ipswich. Three from Moss before starting work, then one each from Debenhams and Marks & Spencer. But then one of the Jermyn Street tailors had a sale, where shirts normally priced at £75 - 100 go on sale for £25 - 30, and I haven't gone back. These are seriously nice shirts. They're extra-thick, often double. The stitching is noticeably nicer. And it's almost assumed that they'll be all-cotton, whereas it's not uncommon that high street shirts will have polyester and other manmade fibres added.
I know you can wear a shirt untucked but I haven't figured out the rules yet. I know I could get away with it going to a nightclub (fat chance of that happening) or if I were onstage in a band like Razorlight (not exactly part of my career path) but probably not at the office. But I've done it on weekends.
I've learned I don't have to change my wardrobe for bike commuting - I just slip on my reflective vest, don my gloves and helmet, and put on my ankle clip. Most cyclists here don't wear anything special, including a helmet.
Also, I've been flirting with growing my hair out. I thought, if the prime minister can have long hair, so can I. Well, my hair has started curling at the back and sides a bit, and it's gotten to be about as long as Tony's before my last trim. I'll probably cut it back to spikiness with the warming weather, but it's a fun lark for now.