How to Build Your Wardrobe Part II
1. The Foundation Suits
Every man should own at least one suit or equivalent garment in accordance with his heritage. It should be pressed, clean, and ready to go at a moment’s notice. I have a client who works as a computer programmer; although he wears the shirts and trousers we made for him daily, he rarely wears his custom suit as his Microsoft office has a relaxed dress code. Two years ago he had the opportunity to attend a dinner with Bill Gates; he was given 6 hours notice and it was at one of the fanciest hotels in town. When opportunity presented itself, he was prepared and seized it; the sad part is many of his colleagues missed the chance because they didn’t even own a jacket.
If you own only one suit, ensure 1) it fits, 2) its dark in color, and 3) its timeless in style. To ensure proper fit, first learn what it is and then find a tailor who can alter your suit. Dark colors are important as they are the most formal and are more versatile than lighter shades. And by timeless style, I mean you should be weary of trends like skinny or overly thick lapels, suits with more than 3 buttons, or with signature style aspects that look good to you today but will not stand the test of time (that dragon embroidery on the shoulder is a bit too much). Most men look sharp in a charcoal grey, single breasted, 2 or 3 button jacket with double vents and 3 pockets (2 side flap, one left breast). Your trousers should be made from the same fabric as the suit and if pleated have a cuff or if flat fronted, have none.
2. The Core Dress Shirts
The core dress shirts in a man’s wardrobe should fit him and be simple in design. The first three dress shirts in your wardrobe should be solid in color (white or a shade of blue, the darker the less formal). When looking at style, look for point collars and cuffs that fit the image you are trying to present. I love French cuffs, but for most men they are not a style they’ll use enough in their first set of shirts to justify their purchase. Instead, keep it simple with single barrel cuffs. As for fit, ensure the shoulders and neck are as close to perfect as you can find. Remember that every brand has a different set of models they use to design their clothing’s sizes, so a medium in one brand does not mean you’ll have the same fit in another. And if you have to compromise, purchase a larger fit. Sleeves can be shortened and stomach fabric can be tucked; making a shirt bigger though is not an option.
3. Footwear for Men: Your First Dress Shoes & Boots
The first pair of dress shoes a man owns should be black in color; the second pair can be either black or brown, with the determining factor being the color of the suits in his wardrobe. Black is more formal and less interesting but more versatile. Dark brown shoes, assuming their style matches, can be worn with any outfit except black tie. As to style, look to own at least one pair of plain or cap toe oxfords, and a pair of slip-ons for when you travel. Slip-on styles such as Chelsea boots and monk straps are great for moving through airport security with ease, although they are less formal than their laced brethren.
The total number of dress shoes a man should own depends on his needs, but generally speaking he should have at least 3 to 4 pairs that he can rotate through. Rotation is important because while your shoes rest with cedar shoe trees inserted, the wood draws out inner moisture and reshapes the leather which will lengthen the life off all of your shoes considerably. And always brush away dirt after every wear and shine and polish when needed or after wearing them 3 times. If you live in an areas with heavy snow and rain learn how to weatherproof your shoes. Finally, avoid attention grabbing colors and shoes made from materials that require heavy maintenance and are limited as to when you can wear them. Although blue suede shoes make for a good song, they are not for rough winters where salt and water can quickly cause irreparable damage. Also avoid footwear manufactured with extreme square toes or made from shoddy leather and with poor construction.
4. Building Your Tie Collection
When you wear a necktie, you want it to compliment your outfit, not dominate the conversation. As for the number of ties in a man’s wardrobe, I recommend three neckties for every suit. Classic tie colors include blue, green, reds, and gold while classic patterns are striped, dot, plaid, club, foulard, and paisley – start with simple solids and stripes; when you move past a half dozen ties in your wardrobe you can start purchasing brighter and more complex patterned neckwear. Here is a great guide on how to match a tie with a shirt and suit.