Thursday, April 15, 2010

Essentials of a Work Wardrobe - Belt

The perfect belt for work is a simple reversible belt with black on one side and brown on the other. The buckle head swivels to the side that will match the chosen shoe color. The belt and shoes should always match and this belt helps ensure that. It also makes it easier for travel, making one belt the only need to switch between two pairs of shoes, the ones you are wearing the ones you packed.

Reversible belts also ensure that you can buy a higher quality belt and wear it daily, as opposed to buying two lower quality belts. The highest quality belts have leather that starts out stiff and will loosen with wear. This is key for long term use of the belt. Lower quality belts start out pliable and only get more pliable with time. They also have a tendency to crack or split. Another common fault of cheap belts is a buckle that is loose or less effective. The more it is worn, the worse it gets. For a belt, which is worn daily, this is quite troublesome.

One additional thing to address when buying a work belt is the color of the buckle. Do you prefer silver, gold or a dark graphite color for the buckle? This is often based on the color of the watch and  jewelry metal that you wear. The most modern look and the most versatile is a dark graphite buckle. It will go well with silver or gold and does not stand out when wearing it. This is a great trait for belt buckle, since we are not wearing cowboy boots and tight jeans. We recommend a simple graphite buckle, it will work with every outfit in the closet.

The best companies for belts are the same companies that sell shoes, for the most part. We recommend looking at: Bass, Ben Silver, Cole Haan and Johnston & Murphy. For lower quality belts check out: Macy's.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Essentials of a Work Wardrobe - Shoes

Are the most important and the most expensive item in the wardrobe, behind suits. The key is that a good pair of shoes when polished regularly and stored with shoe trees, will last a minimum of 15 or 20 years and potentially will last a lifetime. No other item a man can buy will last as long as a good pair of shoes. Not a suit, not a car, nothing. So it is highly suggested that everyman have at least two pairs of high quality shoes. One shoe in brown leather, one shoe in black leather, both in lace up oxfords. For the most versatile wardrobe the pair of black shoes should have clean lines and a classic look. Either a plain oxford or cap-toe oxford will do. This shoe needs to be simple and basic so it can be worn to interviews, weddings and funerals. This is the most conservative shoe in the closet and will be worn more than your favorite pair of jeans. The second shoe needs to be a dark brown shoe with some brogueing. Depending on your style anything from a wingtip to a cap toe oxford with slight brogueing
will suffice.

With both of these shoes it is crucial to stay away from them being a blucher and stick with oxfords. A blucher has an open throat lacing and is less formal than the oxford. The oxford has a closed throat lacing and is much more formal. To begin with it is best to stay with the more conservative and formal oxfords. They will have cleaner lines and will look better with a suit. Bluchers are a bulkier shoe and don't look as good with a suit, the extra weight typically only looks good with jeans or khakis.

Additionally, if a more casual shoe is desired, than opt for a loafer rather than a blucher. The loafer will add variety to the wardrobe and be quite useful in the hot summer months. Loafers are also perfect for flying as they are easy to remove at airport security. If you choose a loafer stick with a penny loafer as they are smart looking and classic. Stay away from loafers with tassels or any unneeded frivolity. Plain and simple will never go out of style. The loafer should also be in a mid-brown color. Not as dark as the oxfords but also not as light as a tan color.

These three shoes will serve most men well. As you wish to add further shoes to your collection, add varying degrees of brogueing in various colors. We recommend add shades of brown from dark to light tan with brogueing or no brogueing, based on your personal style. Lighter shoes are preferred in the summer and darker shoes in the winter, as they match the weather and the amount of sunlight.

The best places to buy good quality dress shoes are: Allen Edmonds, Alden, Ben Silver, Cole Haan, Johnston & Murphy and Banana Republic. For loafers Bass is one of the best options, but the previous companies will work.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Essentials of a Work Wardrobe - Dress Shirts

Will be worn daily and always need to be clean and pressed. This means that having between 8 and 12 dress shirts will ensure there is always a clean one to be worn. Even if the office allows for polos to be worn, wear a dress shirt Monday through Thursday and leave the polo for occasional Fridays. Don't become the polo on every Friday guy, that looks too routine. A nice oxford cloth with jeans is always a good look. For dress shirts, conservative and classic will ensure the most use out of the shirts and that
they will work with the widest range of ties.

For shirts a young professional should stick with barrel cuffs and have a healthy mix of button down and semi-spread collars. The shirts should include at least two plain white shirts, a light blue shirt, an oxford cloth light blue, a white shirt with blue pinstripes, a blue and white banker stripe, a tattersal and a check shirt. Additional shirts should be more experimental in colors and patterns. These colors should include light pink, lavender, pale green or light gray. The patterns should be multi-colored check, multi-stripes and ginghams. The experimental shirts can include blue checked shirts with an orange or green over check. But like with the suits, these outliers are worn less often than the conservative options.

It also must be noted that a closet full of patterned shirts should have a closet of plain shirts to compliment it. While a closet of busy shirts should have a lot of plain suits to compliment the wardrobe. Busy shirts and busy suits makes for obnoxious outfits.

The best place to buy dress shirts are: Banana Republic, H&M, Brooks Brothers, Macy's & Uniqlo.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Essentials of a Work Wardrobe - Suits

Every man needs at least two suits in his closet at all times, while to begin no man needs more than six suits in his arsenal. The exact number you settle on should be based around how often a suit is needed in the office. Most offices two suits will suffice. The first two suits need to be a Navy and a Charcoal Gray. The Charcoal Gray suit should be plain, this way it can also be worn to weddings and funerals, as needed. The Navy suit can be plain or for some variation be a herringbone, chalk stripe, pinstripe or
nailhead. The third, fourth & fifth suits should first come in varied shades of gray, from darker to lighter or an additional navy. The patterns should remain conservative: pinstripe, herringbone, chalk stripe, houndstooth or nailhead. With the sixth suit and perhaps with the fifth suit (in only the most liberal environments) can some experimentation take place. This experimentation is in colors or patterns, but not both. Experimentation in colors: Tan or Brown. Experimentation in patterns: Windowpane check, Glenn Check, or multi-stripe.

The suits that are to be worn most often are the conservative ones and the experimental suits the least often. In conservative places of business like Law Firms and Banks, the experimental suits should only be worn on Fridays. All of these suits should be two button or three-roll to two button. They may or may not have a vest. They all must have flat front pants with no cuffs. The lapels should be between 2 ½ inches and 3 ¼ inches in width, with the ideal width at 3".

The best place to buy these suits are: J Crew, Banana Republic, H&M, Men's Wearhouse & Brooks Brothers.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Reader's Question: New Job, New Wardrobe

We have another question, this one from Pete in San Diego. To send your questions email us at: Or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

Do you have any suggestions on how a young man newly interested in updating his wardrobe, after college and now starting to job search should begin?

For this exercise let's assume this new college graduate has a typical college wardrobe, which is anything but appropriate for the workforce. This will mean he needs to start from scratch and focus on classic essentials that will last him a few years, or at least until he starts making enough money to buy some real clothes. Over the next week we will explore the essentials to a versatile work wardrobe.

To start, the key is about the fit. Inexpensive clothes that fit well look much better than expensive clothes that aren't the right size. So when buying the first round of clothes, it is better to focus on the fit then the brand. Then upgrading the quality and the brands in the closet as time progresses. The only exception is shoes, which we will discuss later in this essay. The essentials are classic, conservative and safe, as the last thing a newly hired professional wants to come across is anything but. Beyond reputation building a classic and conservative wardrobe will ensure the largest amount of use out of the items. By sticking to classics, the items can be worn again and again without raising an eyebrow or a snide remark. Whereas a young professional breaking out a brown glenn check suit with purple over check is not only seen as unprofessional but wearing that suit more than twice a year will probably roll some eyes.

The items that are needed can be bought for around $3K to $5K, depending on brands and how much is in the closet already. As time goes, additional items can be added yearly or every few months to keep the wardrobe fresh and expand the options. What every man needs is:
  • Suits - a minimum of 2 suits, maximum of six
  • Dress shirts - classic shirts between 8 and 12
  • Dress shoes - one brown & one black
  • Belt - one reversible belt
  • Sport Coat - at least one universal odd jacket
  • Wool slacks - a minimum of four wool slacks
  • Sweaters - wool sweaters, a minimum of two
  • Chinos - 2 pairs of clean dress chinos
  • Ties - at least six to ten ties in classic patterns & width
  • Watch - one classic watch
  • Overcoat & Raincoat - one of each
  • Accessories - Pocket squares, Tie Clips, Socks, etc.
With this list in mind we will further explore each item in detail over the next three weeks.