Neal Caffrey Suits: Dress Like the White Collar Star

Back in the fledgling days of this site I wrote a post about positive portrayals of masculinity on TV. One of the shows I addressed in that article was USA’s White Collar.

I’ve kept pace with the show since then and still enjoy watching each episode. The relationship between con man Neal and his FBI handler Peter Burke is a great example of how men interact with each other and learn to develop strong bonds of trust and friendship.

But today’s post isn’t about the show itself so much as Neal’s style. More often than any other example, I have clients tell me they want to dress and look like Caffrey. The tough part is that he’s decked out in designer suits and gear from head to toe. Thankfully, there’s a way to do it (relatively) on the cheap.

The Suit

Indochino Essential Three-Piece Suit

It really is all about the suit. Caffrey has a classic Rat-Pack look to him and thankfully it’s attainable with affordable suit options. Whether you buy off-the-rack and take it to a tailor or go the custom route via companies such as Beckett & Robb or Indochino, the key (as always) is getting the right fit. However, the right fit for a Caffrey look is slim to the point of skinny. Narrow lapels; two-button, single-breasted jackets; three-piece suits; minimal trouser break; and dual vents in the jackets are all crucial if you want the classy con man’s style.

The Shirt

Delves Stripe Shirt - Button Cuff

Unlike the rest of his wardrobe, the everyman can actually afford to buy the shirts used for Caffrey on set. Thomas Pink sponsors the show and their shirts come in just above $100. They’re not as cheap as lower-end stores at the mall but you pay for the quality you can’t get with a bargain shirt. Go with the super-slim fit. It’s rare to see Caffrey in a plain white shirt and he has a stark contrast and cool complexion. If you pay attention to the show, the colors they select for him always work with both his coloring and contrast. This is where you’ll need to change it up to flatter your own contrast type if you want to look as sharp as he does. Contrast collars, bold colors, multiple patterns, and small collars that work with his slim ties and lapels are what keep the shirts always looking great.

The Tie

Eggplant Polka Dot

Being a skinny guy I’m a fan of narrow ties – but Caffrey takes them beyond narrow and into skinny territory. This was very popular a few years ago with the resurgence of Mad Men and has waned a bit since. However, it’s crucial to nailing this look – especially because Caffrey’s style is rooted in the icons of the 60’s. On top of the size of the tie itself, the patterns are important. Keeping with the slimness of the rest of his ensemble, all the patterns in his ties are small – be it microprint checks, polka dots, or thin rep stripes. Keep it between two and three inches in width and make sure you pick up a tie bar or two. The show uses a lot of vintage finds for their bars and it’s been my recommendation as well. However, there are plenty of places that will throw in a tie bar along with your skinny ties to give you the whole look.

The Pocket Square

Solid Twill - Light Blue (PSq)

Caffrey is rarely without a square. He keeps his linen squares folded in the traditional “TV fold” and has a bit more nonchalance with his silk squares. Either way, it’s a guarantee that you’ll see a square when he’s wearing a suit. The key here is to stick with solid colors if you’re wearing a patterned shirt and tie. You can venture into patterned squares if you’re solid in either your shirt or tie as you don’t want too many competing patterns in a look. General rule is two patterns and the rest should be solids. Get your squares when you order your ties from the Tie Bar.

The Shoes


Allen Edmonds Kenilworth

While I’m a fan of browns for my dress shoes, a Rat-Pack look is all black. Along with being black you want something simple. Any broguing or wing tips will need to be minimal and the simpler you can get your shoes the better. Keep them shined as well, everything about Caffrey’s appearance is clean and refined so no roughness or distressing. You can go cheap from somewhere like Aldo but you’ll be sacrificing some serious quality. I recommend Allen Edmonds like those above.

The Hat

Aw yes, the hat. There’s no way to pull off a fedora discreetly. In our current day and age a traditional hat (especially on a young guy) is some serious peacocking. You have to embrace the fact that you’ll be getting negative comments and compliments about your hat from everyone you come into contact with. It’s tough to wear, but it’s also the only way to cap off (pun intended) the Caffrey image. $20 for something cheap from somewhere like Target or Forever 21 or you can pay a bit more for a quality hat from Nordstrom.

The Rest

Let’s be honest here. As great as Caffrey’s style is, the real reason he’s so compelling is because of his charisma and confidence. He’s more than just an empty mannequin off of which his suits effortlessly hang. His style is routed in who he is as a man. If you want to learn more about how masculinity ties in with clothing, and how Caffrey is more than just his great suits, sign up for the newsletter.

If you enjoyed this post, check out my breakdown on how to dress like Harvey Specter from Suits.

Meet The Author

Tanner is the founder and primary author of Masculine Style. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife and two kids, and helps run Beckett & Robb – a men’s clothing company built around custom suits and shirts.

  • Peregrine John

    Actually, I know any number of young people (early-mid teens, notably) who are doing the narrow-brim fedora thing all the time. It definitely impresses us oldsters as peacocking, but it plays very well amongst themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it carry over into young adulthood, when they get there. I see college-age millinery mostly on hipsters and musicians, but slowly growing in number.

    • I agree. Right now it’s for the more daring but will most likely be more commonplace as those guys get older.

  • thomas pink shirts are $100? that’s a good price.

  • Gentleman Slut

    I like to see Caffrey when he occasionally switches up from his signature look, for example leather bomber, white tee, aviators. Timeless look.

    • I do too. His casual wear is actually more difficult to emulate than his suits.

  • Abie

    Very nice insights into the Caffrey look! Can you comment on how to keep the collar Caffrey sharp until EOD? I do use plastic supports for my collars. Definitely its designer wear and the bluish tinges make it look great. One might even think why Peter does not get to enjoy the same designer…or maybe he does?!

    I keep wondering however, if the blue eyes, upright swirl hair locks at the front and his ultr-slim body complement this sharp dressing stlye.

    • His coloring and build definitely contribute to his overall look. He has a really strong contrast so he pulls off dark colors very well. He also looks good in slimmer, 60’s proportions because he’s such a skinny guy.

  • FashionandFrappes

    Such a great post – so very detailed and interesting.