Joe Ottaway, style consultant, can make any gentleman smarter in seconds.
David Gandy, Jude Law and several other men you find towards the top of best-dressed lists have something else in common: Joe Ottaway. Formerly the head of men’s personal shopping at Selfridge’s, Ottaway is now a consultant responsible for many of the sartorial champions seen on red carpets and Instagram’s coolest style feeds. Below is his exclusive consultation for THE STAND: your next shopping trip will be a revelation.
What items of clothing does every man need?
I am a great believer in every gent building a wardrobe foundation based around key staples: a navy blazer, a pair of brogues or monk strap shoes, a crisp white shirt, a pair of dark raw denim jeans, a navy or grey double-breasted suit and a shawl cardigan.
Is there a single item that can upgrade any wardrobe immediately?
I feel a very sharp made-to-measure suit from Gieves & Hawkes can instantly transform your look. Not only will it be a timeless classic, but it will be very versatile when used as a separates.
Keep your grooming regimen simple. No gent should spend longer in the bathroom than a woman
What is the most common style mistake you see, in clients and non-clients?
Getting the fit wrong. Whether that’s wearing a pair of jeans or a Savile Row suit, wearing the correct fit is paramount. Having basic alterations made to ill-fitting clothes and knowing your true size will give you a sharper silhouette.
Can anyone benefit from a personal stylist/shopper?
With the growth of menswear and the introduction of online shopping services like Mr Porter, the negative stereotypes of personal shopping and styling have gone. There’s no stigma. Men are more conscious of looking sharper and shopping in a more savvy way, so using a professional makes perfect sense. A lot of my clients feel hiring someone like me is as normal as using a personal trainer or hairdresser.
Do you need to use a personal stylist to be stylish?
A client will be provided with key tips, tools and advice bespoke to him. Something that is very hard to get from a magazine.
What do clients ask you for the most – and what should they be asking?
The most common thing that clients ask for is a new body! They should ask me for guidance on the best grooming regimen. Taking care of your skin goes hand-in-glove with being a stylish gent.
Who are your style icons, past, present and lesser known?
From the past, it’s Steve McQueen, Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Present, Hunter creative director Alasdhair Willis and lesser-known, the Italian style consultant Alessandro Squarzi.
Why has the style you have helped David Gandy create become so successful?
Actually, it’s nothing ground-breaking: it’s based around good-quality British tailoring that fits well and is accessorised intelligently. It’s proved so successful because whether at work, on holiday or out socialising, it’s very dapper and very distinctive.
When dressing clients, how much is intuition and how much knowledge and experience?
More of the first, but definitely a combination of all three. I strongly feel that, whether you’re a top sportsman, businessman or, indeed, stylist, the key to success comes naturally and instinctively. But of course, knowledge and experience become more a part of things as you develop your career.
What was the last item of clothing you bought? And what’s next on your list?
The last thing was a brown wool double-breasted suit from Gieves & Hawkes. With summer approaching, the next thing I will purchase will be a three-piece seersucker suit from Thom Sweeney
In terms of grooming, what are the most important dos and don’ts?
Keep your regimen simple. Invest in a good exfoliator moisturiser and eye cream. No gent should spend longer in the bathroom than a woman.
Is menswear less approachable for men than womenswear is for women?
The industry is becoming much more accessible for men, in fact even more so than it is for women. With people like myself, who make the idea of being more stylish more acceptable, this will only make it easier for men to feel comfortable about the world of menswear.
With summer holiday season approaching, what are the key tips for travelling light and stylish?
My biggest tip is to wear items that will take up most space in your luggage while you travel, such as an unstructured blazer and a pair of monk straps or brogues. Ensure you have two shirts and two pairs of trousers – both smart and casual – which can all be worn with your blazer. And, of course, never forget the trusty handkerchief.