I like to think I know a lot about dressing women. Especially women who are between 40-65 and want to look their best. But when I sat down to do my research on men’s dressing I realized exactly how little I knew.
My sons and husband always ask me does this go or does this look good on me. And of course I reply yes or no, no always come with a suggestion of what would look better. And of course I know what they have in their wardrobes. I find them easy to dress because basically they pretty much wear what I tell them to. But left to their own devices my husband and youngest son gravitate to sweat pants and t-shirts, graphic for my son. And my older son would wear a hockey jersey and jeans 24/7 if he could. And chances are the men in your lives are a lot like mine.
So let’s start with the basics for your man. Your sons get a bit more leeway in what they wear because they are young and should be fairly stylish, if they want to be. But this blog is for your husband or significant other who looks to you in what to wear, or even looks to a stylist or perhaps that special sales person who he likes working with.
I looked through a lot of men’s blogs and truthfully most are written for young men who have money to spend on clothes. But I found one blog that I love. It’s called the Effortless Gent, https://effortlessgent.com/ and it is written by a gentleman named Barron who totally explains and illustrates how to build a wardrobe and how to maintain it. His principles work whether you are 25 or 65. Below I will try to do justice on what he has taught me about men’s dressing. I encourage you to read his blog and even try to get the men in your life to read it. Sometimes it will mean more to your men if they hear someone other than you say what they need to do.
The first thing that the Effortless Gent advocates is building a lean wardrobe. What is a lean wardrobe? A lean wardrobe is where your entire wardrobe is built with basic items that can be worn together to make outfits. Everything works with everything else. If we were talking in our terms we would talk about building a capsule wardrobe with only the basic things you need. For example a great capsule wardrobe for me would include skinny jeans, black blazer, boots and a couple of shirt and sweaters and a pair of black pants. That would be my leanest wardrobe.
Barron suggests for men to first think about where they live, their climate (is it hot all the time?), their lifestyle (do they work at home or in an office? Is the office casual or formal?) and their income (how much can they afford to spend on their clothes?). To me that is a great place to start. Someone who is retired needs a very different wardrobe than someone who is in court 3-5 days per week.
You build your lean or capsule wardrobe on those 3 pillars.
So basically in your man’s lean working wardrobe you have:
3-5 pairs of chinos (black, navy, olive, khaki) Nordstrom men’s shop has a great pair of wrinkle free straight fit chinos that come in 5 colors including black.
1-2 pairs of denim. Denim principles work the same way for men as they do for women. Fit is the most important thing. Most men don’t pay enough attention to the way their jeans fit. Great jeans on most men hug their frame, they don’t bag in the rear or are too tight in the thigh. Men need to try on many different brands and kinds of jeans to find what works for them best. A slim straight fit will work for most men. This fit is comfortable through the seat and thigh and slightly tailored from the knee to the ankle. This pair is by AG and it is the Graduate Slim Straight Leg jeans in Robinson wash from Nordstrom. A pair like these in a darker wash can go dressed up with a blazer (like in the picture above) and be casual for the weekend with a t-shirt. The other pair could be in a bit lighter of a wash. Here is the same AG pair of jeans just in their 11 years Delom wash. The lighter wash could still be worn with a blazer or dress shirt, especially in the spring and summer, but it will always work for a casual look too.
5 sportshirts and 5 dress shirts. These are pretty essential to every man’s wardrobe. Let’s talk about the dress shirts first.
Dress shirts come in fits: Classic, which is roomy through the sleeves and chest and made for men with broader shoulders. Regular fit, just a little less roomy but still comfortable through the sleeves and chest and fits a broad or medium shoulder. Trim and Extra Trim fit, this is the same as slim fit, it is cut higher through the arm holes and fitted through the sleeves and chest. It will be not that hard to size up what will fit your man the best. For a man, liking his clothes has a lot to do with how comfortable he is in them, so don’t force a slim or trim fit unless he wants it. Of your man’s dress shirts at least one should be white and one should be blue. Nordstrom makes their Smartcare Traditional fit dress shirt in blue and white. The bonus of the Nordstrom Smartcare is that the shirts are wrinkle free. Black and/or a light pink would be additional colors that would be good in a lean wardrobe. I would probably advocate to have 2 white dress shirts and your other 3 shirts in colors you can wear with a suit that compliment your man’s complexion. For example if he has red hair and redness through his skin tone a soft pink shirt won’t work as well as a blue one. Even a nice stripe or soft pattern could work.
Sport shirts can fit the same as dress shirts and can even be worn to the office, but they are more casual than your dress shirts and work great with denim or khakis. Most of the sport shirts your man will wear are either patterned or a more casual fabric than his dress shirt. They come in the same fits as dress shirts, classic, regular and slim or trim. And the fabrics can be cotton or even a heavy cotton. Oxford cloth is a type of cotton shirt with a bit more rugged texture. Collars can be button down or not and here is where you will find a wider selection of short sleeve shirts. Eddie Bauer has a huge selection of casual sport shirts. This is their oxford cloth wrinkle free pinpoint shirt. It comes in solid colors and patterns. I also think a denim shirt or chambray shirt is great for a casual shirt in a man’s wardrobethis one is Rails Colton denim shirt from Nordstrom. It is great with a white t-shirt underneath and worn as a pseudo jacket as well. But denim looks great tucked into your black chinos too. In these 5 shirt is maybe where he would want to throw in a short sleeve shirt in a pattern that looks good on him with denim and with chinos. This shirt is Toni Richards Geoglyphic Print Camp shirt from Nordstrom.
1-2 Sport Coats. One of my favorite look on almost any man is a great sport coat with a casual shirt and jeans. Depending on the sport coat and shirt, it looks good on absolutely every man out there. If you are only buying or owning 2 sport coats make sure they look different. One could be a great check this is the Peter Millar Classic fit wool Sport Coat available at Nordstrom. It works great in the office with a tie and pair of chinos or dress pants but it would look equally good with no tie and with chinos or dark jeans on the bottom if your office is more casual or for a dinner out. Maybe your second sport coat could be a heavier cashmere or even a velvet. This one is Tom Ford from Harry Rosen. Both Cashmere and Velvet would work better in the winter. Maybe even try a cotton or linen blend if you live in a warmer climate. Harry Rosen also has a great selection of colors in their Unstructured Cotton blend Jacket.
1-2 suits. Every man needs a good suit in his wardrobe. It should be grey, navy or even black and fairly simple. Single breasted and no pleats in the pants. One of the most important thing about a men’s suit is that it fits you to a tee. Very few men can buy a suit off the rack without some sort of tailoring. An expensive suit looks like a rag without the proper tailoring and a less expensive suit looks like a million bucks with the right tailoring. Most stores when you buy a suit will tailor it for you, for sure Nordstrom and Harry Rosen both do. I personally wouldn’t advocate buying a men’s suit from a store that won’t tailor it for free for you. Your suit should be simple and elegant on. This one is J.B. Britches Classic fit wool solid suit. Suit jackets come in the same fits we have been talking about, Classic, Regular and Trim. Make sure your guy buys the right fitting suit to begin with. Choose a color of suit that works for you. For example, don’t buy a navy suit if you can’t take the pants and wear it with one of your sport coats or shirts. Every man will know which between Navy, Grey and Black works for them. I don’t think there is one navy suit in my whole house, none of my men (husband or sons) ever would like to wear a navy suit. So we have blacks and greys. If your man is not working in a formal office one suit should suffice, if he needs to wear a shirt and tie everyday or is in court a lot, then go for 2.
Layering items (quilted vest, crew neck or v neck sweater). Finding that one extra piece is really individual. Some men love wearing sweaters and others hate it. For some men a classic crew neck sweater in a neutral color by Bruno Cucinelli at Harry Rosen is all they will ever need. For others they would prefer this John Q. Nordstrom quilted vest. I can’t say that my husband would wear either. However he does own one great V neck cashmere sweater which he does wear occasionally. Pick one in a complimentary color or a bright that goes with everything else. This is one is Nordstrom Men’s shop cashmere and cotton v neck sweater and it comes in 4 colors.
2-3 pieces of outerwear (a trench coat, a pea coat and one other). Again this is where the climate you live in plays a big role. Do you need cold weather items? If yes than or one other could be a puffer coat. If you live in a temperate or warmer climate then your 3rd piece could be a leather jacket. But there are no in stone rules. You may never wear a peacoat and want both a puffer and leather jacket. Just make sure you have one dress coat. The trench fits that bill. My dad used to call them overcoats. But a great one that is for the weather you live in, in a classic color and style is all you need for dress and work.This Schott NYC Wool Blend Officer’s coat from Nordstrom comes in Navy and Camel. Just pick which of the colors work with your lean wardrobe best. If nothing else you are buying is navy then pick camel and vice versa. If you live in a rainy climate a trench or water repellant coat is what you will need Harry Rosen online has a lot of styles to choose from. This one is Hugo Boss cotton blend water repellant jacket.
For your other coats a great pea coat is always in style. This one is from Nordstrom, it is Jared Lang Wool Blend double-breasted pea coat. It comes in black and navy. All pea coats are double breasted and this is the one place in your lean wardrobe where double breasted works.
A puffer coat will work in cold climates Canada Goose, available at Nordstrom is one of the best brands for cold weather. Eddie Bauer also makes great parkas that withstand all kinds of weather. Pick your puffer or parka in the most neutral color so it goes over everything you own.
My other suggestion is a great leather jacket. My husband wears his leather jacket quite a bit all year round. Black or brown leather, a more classic style with stay with your for the forseeable future. So investing in a leather jacket is fine. This one is Cole Haan and it is lamb leather from Nordstrom. Go to a few different stores and try on a whole bunch. Find the one that you love and fits you the best. I believe a leather jacket for men or women is one of those pieces you invest in.
Accessories (ties, pocket squares, socks). Making things uniquely yours is wonderful. Everyone enjoys putting their own touches on things. In your man’s lean wardrobe he can do this with his ties, pocket squares and socks. Let’s face it, so far the wardrobe is pretty basic, a great patterned tie or pocket square or bright pair of socks are going to make him individual. He just has to figure out which place he wants to imprint his style. For some men, they don’t wear jacket and ties everyday, so socks are a great way to be unique. Paul Smith makes great patterned socks. You can find them at Nordstrom. Bugattchi is another brand that makes tons of varieties. I shop on Hautelook (a Nordstrom company) online and pick up Robert Graham socks whenever I find them on sale for my men.Something I love and it would make a great gift is this Harry Rosen Canada 150 Limited Edition pocket square. Remember with pocket squares only the tip peaks out so go as colorful as you like. For ties they are pretty individual. My husband tends to like ones that match in colors and combinations with his suits and sport jackets. A place like Harry Rosen or Nordstrom will have tons of selection.
1-2 pairs of leather dress shoes. So if your man has 2 pairs of leather dress shoes one should be dressier than the other. One could be a classic dress shoe,that is simple and elegant like this Magnanni ‘Colo’ Plain toed Derby shoe. I love how simply beautiful this shoe is. It comes in black or brown and would be fabulous on any man with any suit. The other pair of leather shoes could be more of a loafer or oxford style. I love the detail in this Samuel Hubbard Ivy Legend Penny Loafer. This would be fantastic with a sport coat and dark jeans for an evening out. Both these shoes are available at Nordstrom.
1-2 pairs of sneakers. I am facing facts when I say most men in their 40’s,50’s and 60’s are like Jerry Seinfeld and want to wear sneakers everyday. Well, this year they are in luck as sneakers are a fashion statement. I am not talking about the kind of sneakers they would wear to the gym, but more like a leather or suede sneaker that would work on a casual day with a sport shirt and chinos. J&M 1850 Allister Sneaker comes in different colors of suede and leather and would work so well in our lean wardrobe. Pick your first pair in a color you could wear to the office or out for dinner. For your second pair either go with a slip on Like Cole Haan’s Grand Pro Slip on, in 3 colors or go with a simple white leather sneaker that will be your casual go to shoe. Pick your white leather sneaker with clean lines, this Ted Baker London ‘Kiing Classic’ sneaker would be the perfect casual weekend shoe.
The only other thing I would add is white crew neck t-shirts. They look great under sport coats and sport shirt. They also work great with v-neck sweaters. You could do one white, one black and one grey crew neck t-shirt and they would complete your lean look.
I know this has been a long blog. But I wanted to cover what I thought was essential for a men’s look. All the ideas came from Effortless Gent and my hats off to Barron as it is the best men’s style blog I have read. I urge you to have your man give it a read when he has a moment. I really just scratched the surface.
I hope everyone had a happy father’s day and next week back to women’s wear!
Until next time…