Men’s fashion operates on completely different rules than women’s fashion. I am not sure I understand them completely and I have had to learn how to shop for my husband through a considerable amount of trial and error.
My husband is not really interested in fashion but his personal sense of style aligns perfectly with all the general advice you hear about dressing for the workplace. What better person to advise us on closet staples for men!
My husband did not want to participate and claims he is not an expert in this area at all. However, here are a few things I was able to drag out of him.
First, my husband has a built-in set of rules about what he will and will not wear. Three of the rules I have learned over time are:
1) It’s all about the small details. Men like my husband are very tuned into very small changes when it comes to clothes. If my husband picks out a shirt, for example, I will say, “It’s nice but don’t you have one just like that?” He will then point out to me how some very small detail like the shade of color, the thread used in the stitching, whether it has a pocket or not, or some very small difference in the styling, makes it a completely different shirt. I run afoul of this rule all the time when I pick something that, to my eye, looks almost identical to what he owns and likes and he will point out the difference and explain why he doesn’t like it.
2) Brands matter. Once my husband latches on to a clothing brand he likes, he is a very devoted customer. There are certain brands for certain things that my husband requires. Even if another item of clothing looks identical, he won’t consider it if it is not the brand he wants. Shoes are particularly brand driven.
3) Technology is as important as fashion. My husband loves to have technology in his clothes. He is often looking for clothes that are moisture-wicking, cushioning, or wrinkle-free, for example.
The professional man’s closet is a relatively simple set of items compared to the women’s closet.
A nice suit
|Every man needs at least one business suit, and most likely it needs to be dark grey or dark navy. There is no denying that most men look their best in a formal suit. There are few workplaces left where men wear a formal suit every day and generally suits are reserved for very important business occasions, such as meeting important clients (or clients that dress formally, such as those in legal, finance or the military) or making presentations to the public.
My husband indicates a preference for a single breasted 2-piece suit with a 3-button jacket and flat front pants. The bottom line here, however, is that you should choose a suit style that looks really good on you. A double-breasted jacket can have a slimming effect for some men and may be more appropriate.
|A sportcoat is a great way to create a suit look when you have to meet with multiple clients on the same day who dress in a range of styles from informal to formal. My husband prefers a navy sportcoat over khaki pants.|
A Tie (or Two)
|I have been told by both my husband and numerous tie salespeople that I am terrible at picking out ties! It is a good thing I don’t have to wear ties! There is such a huge selection of clever ties and this is one area where a person could express some individuality. It is really too bad that selecting a tie can be such a fashion minefield!
I asked my husband for guidance and he said, “Don’t ask me . . . I hate ties!” All I could get out of him is “No bow ties” and “No novelty prints . . . preferably solid color or stripes.”
I hope someone will chime in on the comments and tell us how to pick out a classic tie. All I can suggest is that you look at pictures of what high-powered politicians are wearing or ask a male salesperson for help in a good department store or menswear shop. Many of the ties that we asked someone to pick for us in stores have tiny, repetitive prints but look primarily like a solid color from a distance.
Unless your job requires wearing a tie every day, you can get away with as little as 1 or 2 ties.
The everyday outfit: dress pants and collared shirt
|You need at least one plain white collared dress shirt to wear with your suit. My husband will never wear a plain white dress shirt without a jacket. For shirts worn without a jacket, his “approved” colors are light blue, French blue, navy, black, brown, grey, burgundy, muted red, forest green, and olive green as well as stripes, plaids and checks in these same general colors. He strongly prefers the no-iron variety since he does the bulk of the laundry in our house.|
|Beneath your collared shirt goes a round collar undershirt generally in a thick quality cotton.|
|Until you buy a pair of men’s pants, you have no idea how many shades of khaki and tan there are! Black, light tan and dark tan are the colors my husband says coordinate with the majority of his shirts. He insists on flat front pants (no pleats) and prefers cuffed pants. Again, no iron is his favorite.|
|The conservative look for the office is no jewelry except for a wedding ring and a watch. While a lot of people have stopped wearing watches, finally here is one area where you can express a little personality! A conservative looking watch that does something cool besides tell time is a great conversation piece.|
|A simple brown or black belt that matches your shoes completes the standard outfit. You could even be a true minimalist and get a reversible belt that is brown on one side and black on the other.|
Socks and Shoes
|Black socks always. A simple Oxford-style lace-up shoe in black or brown is always a classic look. Keep them in good condition with no scuffs. My husband likes the Ecco brand as he indicates they have some sort of cushioning in the shoe that makes them as comfortable as athletic shoes when you have to stand on your feet for long periods.|
What would you add or subtract from this list? What are your favorite menswear staples? Please share in the comments.