How to dress down a suit

What's the first item of clothing a suit wearer will lose once the working day is over? My bet it's the tie.

This is probably the most comfortable you will ever feel in a suit, not to mention the most honest you'll look in it.  It's understandable then that most of us don't want a thing to do with suits and ties come Saturday night. But as Mr Matinee Idol Looks himself George Clooney shows in this photo, which was taken on the set of Anton Cobijn's film The American, a suit can transition from a work uniform to sleek and stylish weekend wear, as long as a few rules are followed.

I'm a fan of Clooney's work and ethics, this guy is a film star in the old school mould – work in Hollywood, holiday in Italy, speak out for the voiceless and bed gorgeous Mediterranean women. He's a man for all seasons. Even mid-stride on a film set, he demonstrates what self-confidence can do for an outfit. Then again, he also has a costume designer, and an Ermenegildo Zegna suit, helping him out.

For the rest of us, here are some tips.

Many fall into the trap of swapping a shirt for a T-shirt with little thought. This in essence isn't a problem – it's the type of T-shirt you wear that is the concern.  Don't wear your regular or high-necked tee, that's bush league - you may as well wear runners too. Conversely, many will jump on the v-neck, which has its advantages, but can be seen as a bit conservative and a bit clean, or in the hands of footballers, a gross misappropriation of the neckline (We get it, you shave your chest and enjoy a solarium or three).  Instead opt for a deeper crew neck.  Make it a bit deeper than your normal t-shirt neckline to avoid any amateur mistakes and wear it slim but not tight.

Then there's the polo shirt. Potentially this look has legs, but be careful, it's not one for your average golf shirt. You'll need a slimmer fit.  Proceed with caution, unless you've just won The Masters. Then do whatever you want, Tiger does.

Finally there's the shirt; it's simple, classic and easy.  Quality helps, don't ever go out uncomfortable, but don't go out too comfortable, if you know what I mean.  Keep the patterns simple, or better still, go for a plain shirt, and NEVER wear the collar outside the lapel, EVER.

Attitude is important too - don't look like you just came from the office. Wearing a suit out is a special thing, it feels great, gives you an added lift and gravitas, but if you look like you're about to sell a house, shares or a used car, the effect is totally lost.

I know this seems like six of one, half dozen the other.  But that's kind of the point.  The differences are small, but their effect is great. Knowing when and what to wear is the moral of the story – no two T-shirt styles are created equal, especially when worn under a suit jacket.

Are suits suitable for weekend wear? If you wear a suit on the weekend what top do you wear with it?

This article How to dress down a suit was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.