Shades of the casting couch

Challenge Charlie; A roll-neck does something for a man. A grey-and-black one does it better.

The problem

Dear Charlie,

I wonder if you can help. I am an actor, and I want to sort myself out with some clothes for auditions. My agent says I need some smart and casual things. I don't mind spending the money on a good suit, but I don't want to look like everyone else. I usually end up wearing a denim shirt and chinos along with every other actor in the world. Can you help?

Marcus Still

The solution

The best thing is to introduce a more contemporary feel by taking advantage of some of the great knitwear pieces for men this winter. A chunky polo-neck always adds a touch of roguish charm and a neat V-neck, with or without a T-shirt underneath, is always a hit with the ladies (well, the ones I know anyway). It might help you through a few sessions on the casting couch. I would strongly advise going for grey, as it is a strong colour for winter. Black will be redolent of an old Milk Tray ad. The best thing about both the jumpers I have chosen, from Morgan and Smedley, is they will look great beneath a suit or with jeans or casual trousers.

Try to forget the "classic" khakis and choose textural jean-shaped trousers, perhaps in moleskin or corduroy. If you really want a great suit, then go for Armani, but be realistic and choose from the more reasonably priced Emporio Armani line. At least, if it's classic in cut, it will last a few years. A simple single-breasted suit is the best option. Avoid double- breasted for fear of looking like a stockbroker or mafioso.

Perhaps it is better to avoid the denim shirt and chinos look, and choose a shirt with a bit of colour, like the green velvet one on the right from Next, or be bold and frivolous with a brightly coloured shirt and tie. This may not be a great investment, but a shirt is the cheapest thing to play around with, so have some fun with it.

Finally, always keep your safety kit in your pocket; a handy swivel razor, and shaving oil, means you can be rugged or smooth depending on what the role requires of you, and a touch of Gold Spot will make those on-screen kisses all the more palatable.

If you have a particular wardrobe problem, difficulty in finding clothes to fit, or simply have no time to shop and would like Charlie Harrington to do so on your behalf, write to her at `The Independent', Fashion, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Mark envelope `Challenge Charlie' and include a recent photograph, your address and daytime telephone number.

Above: Swivel razor, pounds 1.95, from For Men at The Body Shop, branches nationwide. Enquiries 01903 731 500. King of Shaves shaving oil, 10ml, pounds 2.99; Gold Spot breath freshener, 10ml, pounds 1.99. Both from Boots. Enquiries 0115 950 6111

Right: Boots, pounds 110, by Timberland, 12, New Bond Street, London W1. Enquiries 01784 496 0007

Far right: Black shoes pounds 49.99, from Next Directory, 0345 100 500

Photographs: Marina Imperi

Grey-and-black roll-neck sweater, pounds 55, by Morgan Homme.

Enquiries 0171 383 2888.

Grey V-neck sweater, pounds 65, by John Smedley, from Harvey Nichols, Brompton Road, London SW1 and S. Fisher, Burlington Arcade, London W1. Enquiries 01629 534 571.

Above: Suit, pounds 550, by Emporio Armani, 191 Brompton Road, London SW3 and 84-86 King Street, Manchester. Enquiries 0171 823 8818. White classic T-shirt, pounds 11, by Gap, branches nationwide. Enquiries 0800 427 789

Left: Purple shirt, pounds 79, and tie, pounds 49.99, Aquascutum, 100 Regent Street, London W1, and selected House of Fraser stores. Enquiries 0800 282 922.

Olive-green trousers, pounds 24.99, from Next Directory, 0345 100 500.

Green velvet shirt, pounds 39.99, from Next Directory, 0345 100 500.

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