Power suits used to be big. With razor-sharp shoulder pads. And a red tie so bright it would sear your retinas.


That's the word from designers, who are putting next fall into soft-focus, offering guys a clever, comfortable mash-up of interchangeable work-and-weekend looks. The dark suit, white shirt, boring tie combo that was a required uniform at IBM 30-some years ago now seems as archaic as Fred Flintstone. Or, um, IBM.

Take the suit jacket, which designers are churning out in softer, less structured and techier fabrics. At Perry Ellis, the "bi-stretch, tech-fabric suit" is a must-have for fall, says creative director (and Massapequa Park native) Michael Maccari. "It's a very technical-feeling answer to the power suit," he says, noting the fabric's innovative performance qualities. "It's water repellent, incredibly comfortable, and because of the stretch factor it looks neat and clean."

Other labels offer jacket alternatives like tailored or chunky cardigans (Michael Kors) or safari shirts (Ascot Chang).

Then there's the turtleneck, making its cozy comeback, right for office or off-duty. And trousers, which tend to be cut lean, tapered, sometimes cropped, and frequently with an elastic ankle cuff, like sweatpants. Designers have been toying with this look for several seasons, and clearly believe in it.

Will guys agree?

Such a wardrobe seems tailor-made for an era obsessed with comfort and informality, when more and more people work from home, or in less conventional, entrepreneurial-type jobs. We have hybrid cars, hybrid careers. And as Kors said recently about his own fall line, we need hybrid clothes to match.

"Tailored clothes have to go out on Friday night, and casual clothes need to go to the office," he explained.

And leave that blindingly red tie at home.