You Don't Even Realize You're Embarrassing Yourself (but don't feel bad, you're not alone):
Building a wardrobe sounds like a dull topic, but assembling a few key components is important. I don't want to hear about the latest trends and how so-and-so looks great in his sloppy attire. You probably aren't that hip guy who knows how to put together random items and pull off a new look. This post is aimed at making you look respectable and going for a classic look that never goes out of style. What I propose below will not embarrass you or your significant other.
I have to be honest here, most men today think a great wardrobe consists of t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers. Now, I'm not saying you can't wear those things, but if you're ever put in certain social situations it's nice to have options. Now, if the social situation is simply a bunch of guys hanging out at home (playing poker, video games, etc) then go ahead and wear that beat up t-shirt and jeans and sneakers (but please, I beg of you, make sure the sneakers don't stink).
Any situation where you are in public and there will be women, well, you really need to step it up a notch (and for most men, I think stepping it up a few notches is more accurate). And no, by simply putting on a hat (I don't mean ball cap, I mean fedora) to wear with the t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers (sneakers rarely work, women aren't impressed with that, but that is another topic entirely), well, you look like a hobo from the 1930s. I'm tired of guys doing that: no, you don't look cool, you look like you're trying to hard to be cool and end up looking like a total douche.
Okay, I'm sure I'll elaborate on the above at some point, but the point of this specific post is how to build a respectable wardrobe.
I am basing this on my own experience as well as a few of the finer points from this book:
I will be referencing this book quite a bit as most of the advice given within is sound. I simply cannot believe how much information is packed between the covers of this book.
Here are the absolute basics:
- 5 shirts (that'd be dress shirts, you know, the button down variety?)
- 4 ties
- 3 pairs of shoes
Not much help, huh? Left to your own devices I can only imagine what you'd pick. But you're in luck, I'm going to help you out.
The dress shirt, believe it or not, is simply a bit player in this, but really important as the wrong choice can ruin your entire ensemble. It's best to keep this simple. Most men can't figure out how to match colors and certainly don't know how to match patterns (those will both be future blog posts). For now I'm going to let you off the hook on the French-cuffs (because that would require you to drop some cash on cufflinks).
The 5 shirts:
- 2 plain white button-downs with button-cuffs
- 2 plain blue button-down with button-cuffs
- 1 striped shirt (keep the stripes thin (they better be vertical), and you're better off doing stripes of the same color, say dark and light blue stripes versus two different colors).
A quick note: stick with standard width collars on those shirts since a Half-Windsor knot for the tie will work most of the time. Yes, the size of the knot matters depending on how spread your collar is.
The 4 ties:
- 1 plain dark blue -- go navy. ;)
- 1 regimental stripe -- these are the diagonal wide-striped ties that many men wear--especially those in middle management. But if you're just starting out, you can't go wrong with this choice. Just be sure the colors are not obnoxious. Here, this is a regimental stripe from Brooks Brothers:
- 1 paisley - keep it sane, please. Subtle is better.
- 1 patterned tie - again, keep it subtle. A light, small houndstooth or check pattern perhaps.
A note on ties: you can always ditch the tie when it's time to hit happy hour or have dinner at a mid-range restaurant. In fact, quite a few ensembles look smart without the tie, especially if you go with a nice hat (yet more topics to discuss in the future).
The 3 suits:
- 1 navy blue two or three button wool suit. I prefer 3 button myself. This is a versatile suit and can be worn in most situations. Stay away from the blue blazer and khaki pants--it's been overdone and looks amateurish--and too middle-management.
- 1 dark gray flannel suit. Try to stick with single-breasted suits, and again, I prefer 3 button. You can go herring-bone pattern, but keep it subtle and fine.
- Now, we're going to get a little crazy: look for a mid-gray glen plaid (short for glenurquhart) or pinstripe suit in lightweight wool. Glen plaid is comprised of a criss-crossing pattern of different sized checks. Try not to get a loud, brash color combo--like I said, look for gray. Many traditional glen plaid suits are simply black and white vari-sized checks. Look it up. If you go pinstripe, please go thin, and subdued, otherwise you may look like some cheap gangster.
The 3 pairs of shoes :
Don't skimp here. Why? Because women notice shoes. They notice the quality and they also notice when they don't work with the outfit you're wearing.
Again, no sneakers. No open-toed shoes. And wear socks for heavens sake--you're not George Clooney who can get away with a pair of dress shoes and slacks.
- 1 pair of plain black cap-toe oxfords.
- 1 pair of dark brown or chestnut-brown wing tips. These go with everything except a black suit (which I didn't tell you to buy anyway).
- 1 pair of brown plain-toe dress loafers. You can try black if you like, but the brown is more versatile. By the way, loafers are great for airport security.
Buy quality shoes for crying out loud. Cary Grant owned a couple of pairs of shoes--but they were of high quality and lasted a long, long time. Need a brand suggestion? Try Allen Edmonds--they aren't cheap, but they're high quality and one of the few American shoemakers still producing shoes in the United States.
A few more words:
Okay. So there you have it. If you're purchasing reputable merchants, don't be afraid to ask for their help. They can match things up for you and point you in the right direction. They'll even take your measurements (you should know all of your measurements by the way--that'll have to be another post I suppose). Your clothes must fit properly, or you'll like like a hobo, or Charlie Chaplin's tramp character (you're not going for comedy are you?).
Did you get the whole subtle theme throughout the article? Keep it subtle and simple. Nothing loud and brash.
Now, go reward yourself with a drink. Why not try the one I suggested last week, the 20th Century? As for me, well, tonight I'll be sipping Champagne (likely Veuve Cliquot) with my beautiful wife while watching Casablanca.