Posts filed under 'Men's'

Q&A: How to Build Your Wardrobe from Scratch

Q:  I’m getting a pretty big bankroll for Christmas this year, and I’d like to spend almost all of it on clothes.  I have a few questions - should I buy all clothes for the winter? Or mix it up for Spring coming next year? What are some of your favorite things that are currently out? When building a new wardrobe, what are your "must haves" that you need to get before anything else. Also a list of your favorite stores would be great too. And maybe show me some of YOUR recent purchases.  I love clothes and am a big fan of name designer brands.

A: Well-dressed men are never define by who they wear; rather, it’s about how they wear it.

As far as what one “should” buy, my answer really depends on a few things, none of which concern what season is currently in store.

I am a firm believer that if one splurges on clothes, one should first splurge on essentials, items that never go out of style.  These pieces should be your first priority: a wool charcoal single breasted suit, a wool navy single breasted suit, a couple pairs of shirts (either solid white or solid light blue), a couple of ties (solids and stripes only for now), one pair of black leather oxford lace-ups, one pair of brown leather oxford lace-ups, a wool overcoat (either in navy or charcoal), and a dress belt (black and brown reversible; keep the egregiousness of the belt buckle to a minimum).  I am also assuming you have a pair of dark navy jeans, with no fade or ridiculous embellishments on the rear pockets, as well as solid navy or charcoal sweaters.

This is the foundation of a well-dressed man’s wardrobe; the colors I pick –navy and charcoal- are the two most versatile.  Notice I did not pick a black suit.  I don’t know when it became acceptable to wear a black suit during the daytime, but it is not “appropriate.” 

If you don’t yet have all of these items, get them.  If you feel like you know about proper fit, from reading posts on this site, or from reading magazines, or from other respected forums (Ask Andy about Clothes is a classic), feel free to shop around.  If you are less-than-confident, go to a respected department store and trust the TAILOR (not necessarily the salesman).  Listen to what he has to say, and follow his advice.  Note that magazines such as GQ and the like often pick up on trends that are not deemed “traditional” fit.

Now, if you DO already have these items, pick up pieces from what I am arbitrarily deeming the second “tier” of the foundation.  These items include classics such as bomber jackets, wool peacoats, scarves, mackintoshes, trench coats, slacks, blazers, and suits in colors not previously mentioned (keep them wool, for now).

If you also have these second tier foundation items in your closet, you can start to find more novelty, trendy items.  Read through the trends highlighted on this site; there are plenty and not worth listing here.

As for what I’ve bought recently, I’m never one to buy and tell (designer wise), but I will say that the items included a navy oilcloth peacoat, a crewneck gray sweater, a wax cotton jacket in a fantastic dark olive, and a navy windbreaker with a vivid red detail.  I also managed to find a great pair of cords on Gilt, as well as some ties.  I think my next purchase will be a toggle coat.

If you really are insistent on brand names, I would suggest buying items that do not have labels or logos showing.  You pay for brand names for fit, details, texture and quality of construction (well, you should anyway), not so you can show people how much you can spend.  I have a pretty firm “no logos” rule.  I would make exceptions for jeans from Dior Homme (the “slash” is a logo of sorts) and items from Martin Margiela (the 4 thread indentations are a clever subtle logo).

As far as my favorite stores, I really don’t want to be a walking advertisement for a designer, so I make a conscious effort to mix it up.  Here’s a few of my favorites: I like Steven Alan for button downs; H&M for novelty trendy items; Gilt.com for anything; Alexander Olch for ties; and James Perse for t-shirts.  Michael Kors (the designer himself) is known for loving peacoats, and it is reflected in the peacoats he sells.

One last word on style: an item isn’t a good deal just because it is on sale.  It’s a good deal if you would have paid more than the price for that item, regardless of what the price is and regardless of whether it is on sale or not.

And a last word - don’t be afraid to save some of that bankroll to pay your parents, undoubtedly the generous donors of this gift, for, say, college tuition.  Spending beyond one’s means helped get us into this economic mess.

Have a great tip about how to build your wardrobe from the ground up? Share it with us in the comments!

15 comments December 22nd, 2009

How to Wear Cargo Pants

Q: I noticed [cargo pants] are making somewhat of a comeback, especially simpler and better fitted (read, slimmer) versions. J. Crew has a couple out this fall that I bought and am in love with. Rugged, military, and go with a lot of stuff.

A: Cargo pants are indeed making a comeback, what with the military-inspired trends we’re seeing for men this Fall.  The good news?  The more fitted versions of cargo pants that you’re seeing today are a far cry from the oversized, stuff-your-pockets versions that were popularized in the 1990s.  What we love about cargo pants is that they’re a great substitute for khaki pants and the dark-rinse jeans you have in heavy rotation.  And they do work with a wide variety of looks.  Here’s three looks that show you how to wear cargo pants:

Look 1: Shawl Collar Cardigan + Collared Shirt + Skinny Tie + Cargo Pants + Boots

How to Wear Cargo Pants, Look 1
Feeling the love for this outfit?  Here’s more information about it.


Why does this outfit work?  We love the mix of casual and formal, tailored and relaxed.  The shawl collar cardigan acts as a casual version of the blazer - and takes the edge off of the collared shirt and tie combo.  The rugged boots, which feel at home with the cargo pants, finish off the look with a casual flourish.

Look 2: Bright Polo + Cargo Pants + Casual Belt + Sneakers

How to Wear Cargo Pants, Look 2
Feeling the love for this outfit?  Here’s more information about it.


Why does this outfit work?  The masculine cargo pant gets a shot of fresh air with a bright yellow polo.  The unexpected shot of color breathes new life into the look - and we love the mustardy yellow paired with a neutral khaki.  The casual look is belted with a canvas belt and finished off with a pair of stylish sneakers.

Look 3: Henley + Cargo Pants + Casual Belt + Boots

How to Wear Cargo Pants, Look 3
Feeling the love for this outfit?  Here’s more information about it.


Why does this outfit work? The fitted henley exemplifies casual elegance, and it adds an air of relaxed sophistication to the otherwise rugged look.  Tuck the henley into the cargo pants and complete the look with a casual canvas belt.  Rugged military-inspired boots help keep the look grounded as well.

Last thoughts about how to wear cargo pants?
(1) Cargo pants are weekend-only pants.  They’re a substitute for khakis and jeans, but unless your office is pretty casual, save them for the weekend.
(2) Because cargo pants have a rugged, military vibe to them, pair them with the appropriate style of shoe: boots or sneakers.  No fancy oxfords or loafers.
(3) Please, please, please don’t stuff your pockets with extraneous items.  A slim-fit wallet, yes.  But if your pockets are bulging, that’s too much.  Just because cargo pants feature extra pockets doesn’t mean that they’re meant to be functional.

Have a great tip about how to wear cargo pants? Share it with us in the comments!

15 comments September 23rd, 2009

Q&A: Summer Shoes for Men

Q: During the summer, I basically feel like I’ve got two choices for footwear with shorts: Teva brand flip flops or Chaco brand sandals. I’d like to get something in more of a ’shoe’ that I can wear without socks. What are some stylish "boat-shoes" or alternatives to boat-shoes?

A: You’re in luck - there are a number of warm weather shoe options open to you that aren’t sandals.  If you want to step out of the house without socks, we’d recommend four types of shoes: boat shoes, tennis shoes, canvas shoes, and driving moccasins. 

The Boat Shoe
sperry-top-siders_052509
Broken In Sperry Top Siders | $98 at J Crew

Sperry makes the classic boat shoe, and their collaboration with J Crew makes these traditional shoes better than ever.  Between the distinctive custom dark wood color, the off white soles, and the cotton chambray lining, you won’t find a more unique boat shoe for under $100.

The Tennis Shoe
springcourt-low-cut-canvas-shoes_052509
Springcourt Low Cut Canvas Shoes | $88 at Steven Alan

Springcourt shoes are the original French tennis shoe , but they’re anything but traditional in terms of features.  We’re loving the convenient four hole ventilation channels - so your feet can breathe easy.

The Canvas Shoe
zuriick-jakob-mid-top-canvas-shoe_052509
Zuriick Jakob Mid Top Canvas Shoes | $98 at Oak

These sleek canvas shoes remind us that casual footwear can be as sophisticated as its more formal cousins–and tons more fun.  Love, love, love the ever-so-subtle striping and the bright purple shoe soles.  Editor’s Note: Sizing is limited at Oak, since these shoes are selling fast.  But they were fantastic enough that we wanted to feature them anyways.

The Driving Moccasin
millbrook-leather-driving-mocs_052509
Millbrook Leather Driving Mocs | $128 at J Crew

We’re digging the rich Italian leather on this driving moccasin.  You’ll also enjoy the rubber sole, which gives you extra traction while driving - or just walking around.

Guys, what are your favorite summer shoe picks? Share them with us in the comments!

15 comments May 27th, 2009

Mens Q&A: Three Ways to Wear White Jeans

Q: White jeans for men seems to be kind of on-trend right now, and I’m just wondering how you suggest wearing them.

A: You’re completely right - white jeans is a fresh look for men, and while white jeans are tough to keep clean, the effort can pay off in spades.  Here’s three simple ways to work white jeans into your wardrobe:

Option 1: White Jeans + Pullover Sweater

How to Wear White Jeans #3
Feeling the love for this outfit?  Here’s more information about it.


Go simple by pairing your white jeans with a simple pullover sweater.  You can go with deep, vibrant colors like the royal blue shown - or try lighter colors like heather grey or baby blue for a quietly sophisticated look.

Option 2: White Jeans + Bold Polo Shirt

How to Wear White Jeans #2
Feeling the love for this outfit?  Here’s more information about it.


For casual days, you can look instantly pulled together in a striped polo shirt and a crisp white pair of jeans.  To polish off the look (but at the same time keeping it casual), add a belt and a pair of tailored sneakers.

Option 3: White Jeans + Collared Shirt + Cardigan Sweater

How To Wear White Jeans #1
Feeling the love for this outfit?  Here’s more information about it.


For effortless elegance, pair your white denim with a well fitted collared button-down shirt - and then layer on a textured sweater.  We’re digging the look of a textured shawl collared cardigan against the woven button-down shirt - plus the interplay of the grey, the pinkish red and white stripes, and the white jeans.  Finish off the look with a belt and a pair of driving mocs.

Last thoughts?  Do be meticulous about keeping your white jeans spotless.  Nothing ruins the white jeans look faster than a smudge or a spot.

Have a great tip about how to wear white jeans? Share it with us in the comments!

3 comments April 22nd, 2009

Q&A: Great Details for a Bespoke Suit

Q:  I’m getting a bespoke suit.  Looking forward to it.  What sorts of interesting details are possible on a men’s suit?  I’ve heard about the working button holes and such, but perhaps you have heard of some totally awesome details?

duncan-quinn_030909
Pictured: Duncan Quinn Bespoke Suits.

by John Liu

A: I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “totally awesome.” If you mean “totally awesome fit,” then yes, most good bespoke tailors will fit you a suit that wears better than anything else you have (except for another high quality bespoke suit, of course).

Bespoke is more about personal style and quality than fashion.  Translation: avoid a loud, statement-making suit that may be in fashion right now but will go out tomorrow.  I trust you know how to find a good tailor and how to tell him what you want, so I’ll skip right ahead to the details that are available out there.

The bottom line is that bespoke is expensive.  And that’s kind of the point.  It’s not for everything, and the exorbitant price is largely why it stays that way.  If you’re going to go bespoke, you might as well go all out.  At least, don’t skimp on things to try to save a few dollars here and there.

With bespoke, you can indulge yourself in details ranging from patterned jacket linings to exotic materials.  Duncan Quinn, highly regarded in the bespoke world, for example, offers a suit made out of guanaco.  If you can pull it off, feel free to go bold with pinstripes or checks in whatever color you’d like.  Of course with details like these, you’re talking about a suit ranging well into the thousands (Duncan Quinn starts at $4,000 per suit), perhaps even into the tens of thousands. 

But given the sinking economy, a bespoke suit feels even more extravagant than it does in normal times.  You don’t need to go all out with a suit to go bespoke.  Try a bespoke shirt (try Charvet, Tom Ford, or Borelli for the best) or shoes (try Barker Black).  Ties can be made just for you as well.  Just keep in mind that designers may require you to order multiple items at once; especially smaller items like ties and shirts.

Have a great tip about what to look for in a bespoke suit? Share it with us in the comments!

5 comments March 11th, 2009

Mens Q&A: What to Wear with Light Brown Shoes

Q:  What color dress pants go well with light brown shoes?  Usually, I see men wearing light brown shoes with navy or beige dress pants.  What else may work?

by John Liu

Light Brown Shoes with a Navy Suit.  Courtesy of The Sartorialist.A: Just as dark colored clothes are more versatile than their light colored counterparts, shoes are also more versatile when they are dark.  Darker shades of brown, for example, work with many more colors than do lighter shades of brown.  Because of this versatility factor, I’d recommend that your shoe wardrobe include a few good pairs of black and darker brown dress shoes in a variety of styles (captoe, bucks, wingtip, etc.) before expanding to lighter colored shoes.  

Even though light brown shoes aren’t super versatile, you still have a few good options.  As you mentioned, light brown shoes complement navy blue nicely.  And they also work with light sandy colored pants.  Beyond that, you may also want to try dark olive green dress pants with your light brown shoes.  Other than these three options, however, it’s going to be tricky.  I’m not saying light brown shoes and other colors can’t work; I’m just saying I haven’t seen it done that well (at least, not yet).

Photo Credit: The Sartorialist.

Have a great tip about what pants to wear with light brown shoes?  Share it with us in the comments!

4 comments January 7th, 2009

Q&A: Warm and Waterproof Winter Shoes for Him

Q:  What are some good winter shoes that are warm, comfortable to walk in, semi-waterproof (unlike canvas converse sneakers that just soak up the snow), affordable, and fashionable - both his and hers.

Quoddy Trail Grizzly Boots
Pictured: Grizzly Boots | $320 at Quoddy Trail.  Other more affordable options: Suede MacAlister boots | $135 at J Crew, and Clark’s Desert Boots | $89 at Zappos.

by John Liu

A: I’ll address the “his” part of this question.  The “bad weather shoes” problem is much simpler if you’re not a white collar worker.  Without a doubt, the first pair of bad weather boots I’d recommend are by Quoddy, makers of high quality bad weather shoes.  As you can tell, however, they are for people who experience a few feet of snow in the winter.

Desert boots are another viable option if you live in a place with a less harsh winter.  Clark’s desert boots have always been around, but nowadays you can find stylish desert boots everywhere from J. Crew and the GAP (via Pierre Hardy) to high end retailers like Tom Ford.  The beauty of desert boots is that you can wear them while walking around the city as well; it’s a bit harder to “urbanize” those rugged Quoddy boots.

If you’re a working man, you have it a bit harder.  You have to wear dress shoes to the office, unless you work in a creative industry.  Certainly, you can wear galoshes, but that option is more practical than stylish (even though Esquire endorses it).  If you live in the city, where the streets are a bit more groomed (e.g. less snow on the sidewalks), you can try wearing dress boots, but again, at a formal, conservative type office, I’m not sure that would fly.  If you do decide to wear dress shoes or dress boots, do wear ones with rubber soles.  The snow and slush will wreck havoc on your leather soles.  If you absolutely must wear leather soled dress shoes to the office, do not wear them outside; instead, change into them at the office.

Last words?  Please feel free to beat up your shoes; in fact, I encourage you to wear them in.  A lot.  Tom Ford ran a series of ads a year or so ago in which a man in alligator shoes was walking through the mud.  I love this; “beat up the pretty things,” as they say.  Buy high quality things and wear them out.  This kind of nonchalance is the essence of American style, so embrace it.

UPDATE from Colleen Geary for women’s shoes: The tricky thing about winter shoes is that they’re often ruined by winter conditions - water, salt, ice and mud. I’d recommend purchasing a very inexpensive but good looking fake leather boot from Target or Walmart that can be worn with pants or skirts. Choose a pair with clean lines so that it’s inexpensiveness is not readily apparent. “Indulge” in a pair of black or brown leather boots that you love and can be worn for occasions or when the weather is not inclement. In Utah, you should have enough occasions to warrant two pairs of boots.

Have a great tip about great bad weather shoes–both his and hers?  Share it with us in the comments!

7 comments December 17th, 2008

Mens Q&A: How to Transition Your Style From Work to a Night Out

Q:  I’m 27 years old, and I’m working for the Dubai government. Would you please give me some tips for how to dress to transition from the office to after-office parties with friends?

Spurr: What To Wear to Work…and Beyond
Pictured: Spurr’s variations on formal workwear, courtesy of men.style.com.

by John Liu

A: If you’re reading blogs like this one, then you must be dressing much better than a typical government man in a sack suit, in which case, you’ve already won half the from-work-to-a-night-out battle.

First, if you’re going to more…intellectual…events such as museum exhibit openings or galas, feel free to keep wearing the suit.   Chances are most guys will be wearing one, too (well, at least I would hope they would be).

There are also a few quick things you can do to “casualize” your suit.  Go ahead and loosen your tie to add a nice bit of sprezzaturra to your look.  You could always just lose the tie (and belt, perhaps) altogether.

If a full suit is too formal for you, you could try the dark denim and suit jacket look, with or without the tie.  Make sure you tuck in your shirt though.  Warning: this look is rather cliché, but at least you’ll fit in, right?

If you wear a three-piece suit to work, you can lose the jacket altogether, so you’re just sporting a waistcoat over your shirt and tie. Or, replace the jacket with a sleek, leather bomber jacket, with or without your waistcoat.  Black leather jackets make for very sophisticated, urban nightlife wear, and when they’re done right, you look great.  Switching out your trouser pants for jeans (and keeping the waistcoat) will give you a refreshing take on the dark denim look (and one that I favor at the moment).  You may look like you stepped out of a Spurr catalog, but that’s really a good thing.  Keep the tie in all these outfits.

All these things mentioned are basically variations of a formal suit, but don’t be fooled: they will dramatically transform your look.  I actually like the idea of going from the office to a night out, because it forces men to keep their look polished.

Have a great tip about how to transition your style from work to a night out?  Share it with us in the comments!

1 comment December 3rd, 2008

Mens Q&A: What to Wear to Interview for a Creative Job

Q:  I need help with a non-traditional interview outfit.  I’m a designer who moved 2 months ago from San Francisco to New York.  I’m looking for something that’s edgy enough for the job, yet serious enough for a job interview.

Hyden Yoo Harrison Jacket
Pictured: Hyden Yoo Harrison Jacket, courtesy of Oak.

by John Liu

A: It’s hard to go wrong with a suit for any interview, but of course it may be unnecessary given the industry.  Then again, there’s that saying that those who overdress may feel like idiots, but those that underdress are idiots.  Moral of the story?  Wear a (casual) suit.

I really do think that while suits are traditionally a formal look, they can also be made to look very casual.  It’s the little things that matter.  Here’s three ways you can make a suit more casual: no belt, a skinnier tie that’s loosened just a little bit, and no socks.  Oh yeah, cufflinks don’t scream "formal," they scream pretentious—especially for a creative job. Leave them at home.  Skip the contrast collar too; you can wear it when one day you’re on the other side of the interview table.

And suits can still be "edgy" – a suit by Thom Browne takes some real confidence to wear, for example.  I’d be safe (and thifty), though, and avoid the Thom Browne suit, unless you’re going into a really artsy industry (no negative connotation intended).

Sidebar: If you’re trying to get a job on Wall Street, stick to navy or charcoal and a white shirt.  You can’t go wrong with a solid or striped tie, either.  The conservative culture of such firms may cause the interviewer to frown upon anything more.  Besides, you should be more worried about trying to answer questions about WACC and Deferred Tax Liabilities than what you’re wearing.

The general rule is to consider how your potential bosses dress on an everyday basis and then wear what would be considered dressier.  If your boss wears jeans, go with khakis. If your boss wears a blazer, go with a suit, with or without a tie.  Get it?  It’s hard to tell you exactly what to wear to an interview.  But whatever you do, be confident, because the last thing you want to be thinking about is how you look.

Have a great tip about what to wear to a creative interview?  Share it with us in the comments!

1 comment October 29th, 2008

Q&A: How to Wear a Tweed Jacket

Q:  I’ve seen some tweed sports jackets in fashion magazines for men.  Is this something that will be in style for Fall?  I’ve been looking for a tweed jacket and haven’t had any luck. 

Plaid Tweed Jacket at J Crew
Wool Plaid Tweed Jacket | $328 at J Crew.

by John Liu

A: Yes, tweed does seem to be back, but take care in how you wear it.  The tweed jacket can be refreshing and cool, but it needs to be done right.

I think tweed gets a bad rap from old school professors who wear it with patches on the elbows.  It can be worn with style, but I’m a bit more classic than the folks at GQ and Esquire, who seem to be pushing tweed as a trend for Fall.  I tend to think of tweed as “country” wear, where sophisticates sip on cognac and smoke pipe tobacco while wearing a fine tweed jacket.  Maybe that’s just me.

If you want to do tweed in the city at night, you may be able to pull it off with the right fit and complementary clothes.  If I had to make one outfit with a tweed jacket, I would start with a medium to charcoal gray tweed jacket (with a slim silhouette, lapels and no patches, of course).  Under that tweed jacket, wear a sweater or button-down.  And finish the outfit off with a pair of dark denim jeans (navy or black, if you like this Fall’s black jeans trend) or even pinwale cords. 

Whatever you do, keep your outfit simple; you’ll already be attracting attention for wearing tweed.  Let people admire the cut of your jacket—don’t distract them with a complicated pattern.  Oh and contrary to the pictured J Crew example, skip the t-shirt under the tweed blazer look. The wool and the rich tweed texture make this jacket more dressy, and the t-shirt tends to make the look immature, not young. The J Crew guys saved the look by layering the cardigan over the t-shirt.

Style Tip? Or perhaps more precisely, “comfort tip” – the heavier material of tweed makes the jacket both warmer and more formal than, say, a canvas blazer.  I’d recommend wearing tweed on cool Autumn and Winter evenings.  Also, stick to structured blazers, which will complement the formality of the fabric.

Have a great tip about how to wear a tweed jacket?  Share it with us in the comments!

21 comments September 17th, 2008

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