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He’s Not Iron Man

Tony Stark’s most famous suit is red and yellow and made of metal. Outside of that, the Stark of the Marvel Iron Man and Avengers movies dresses like a lot of modern tech billionaires: jeans and t-shirts. He has an affinity it seems also for wearing Under Armor as regular clothing, but we’ll not breach that subject for the moment. While Tony may have the tech industry billionaire’s casual disdain of the for dressing up, his hard-working foil in Iron Man 3, Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian, is not afforded the luxury of slovenliness.

While Tony favors fake distressed collectors edition Led Zeppelin tees (I stole that from Carol at The Cultural Gutter), Killian — without benefit of inherited billions and a famous father — has to refine his initially messy appearance to have his potentially world-saving ideas taken seriously, and he does so brilliantly. Apparently his super soldier serum also imbues one with a much improved sense of style, as he goes from heavy metal parking lot hair and clothing that looks like it previously served as the lining of a take-out food container to a slim, well-tailored suit and hair he’s actually bothered to comb. Thus transforming him into a smug villain of course, because since the counter-culture of the late 1960s, a well-dressed man is synonymous with authoritarianism and a lack of trustworthiness. The suit was what your dad wore, man, on his way to work for The System!

Killian sports lovely shadow plaid suits, similar in taste to those favored by Mads Mikkelson’s Hannibal, though in slightly more subdued colors. They could go shopping together. A shadow plaid allows a man to enjoy a bit more sartorial complexity and flamboyance without the sometimes overly pronounced checkerboard look of a bolder plaid. A grey or navy shadow plaid suit is perfect for someone who wants to look a cut above, especially in the workplace, as it will set you apart both from the khaki dockers set as well as those in a more conservative solid color. Having a bit of a pattern also means you can wear the suit out at night without being “the guy who wore a business suit to the club.” The Sienna Blue Check or Lazio Grey Check, both from Suit Supply, will get you well along the way to showing up Tony Stark in his own office.

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Coincidentally, Hannibal’s foil, unstable profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) looks like he hits The Gap with Tony Stark. Once again, we’re told that a well-dressed man is suspicious and secretly evil, while a grown man who looks he was dressed by a thirteen-year-old boy is meant to convey trustworthiness. “He’s just a regular slob like the rest of us!” The ultra-casual movement is based on a couple conceits, the most frequently quoted being, “I don’t dress for others, and I dress for myself. And I want to be comfortable.” Such a brazenly entitled, self-centered way of looking at things. We should accept you for who you are, not how you look. And it’s true — you should be judged by the content of your character. But a piece of that character is communicated in how you present yourself. And the people who often champion that claim are also the first to pre-judge someone in a suit, or a fellow acolyte of the ultra-casual movement.

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As for the myth of comfort and ease — if your suit is uncomfortable, you bought a poorly made and/or poorly fitted suit. And ease? What could be easier than putting on a suit. If you claim you live too rugged and demanding a lifestyle, then be reminded that people climbed mountains, built cities, and mapped deserts wearing suits. I think they can stand up to your commute and day at the office, even if you have to move a box.

Even casual and about to burst into flames, Killian takes the time to looks great.

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If Tony wants to maintain a casual but slightly upgraded look from his usual t-shirts and Under Armor, he needn’t make an effort to identify with his adversaries. Inspiration is as close as his best friend, Don Cheadle’s Captain Rhodes, who apparently has a full rainbow’s worth of eternally stylish Fred Perry polo shirts. A Fred Perry shirt can stand up to an ungodly amount of abuse and come through it no worse for the wear. A jade/cobalt blue Fred Perry Polo paired with some light beige or off-white flat-front Chinos from Uniqlo will help you keep things casual without looking like you just rolled out of bed.

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