With both the recession and an ever-growing awareness of the villification of all things masculine, men’s style has started turning back to its roots within the last few years. There’s been a huge increase in both the focus on quality and the aesthetic aspects of things that men wore in more masculine and affluent times.
I’ve talked before about shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire having a sartorial effect on what men are starting to wear and what’s being offered (Banana Republic had an entire Mad Men line of clothes for a while); and I personally look forward to a time when a man under 50 can wear a mustache without it looking goofy/ironic/hipster.
So I’ve seen pictures of this guy over the last few months and can’t quite make up my mind about his overall style. Part of me really likes that he’s dressing in such a masculine and traditional way, but so much of it can seem forced or costumey. And looking at the guy, where he’s from and the circles he runs in, I doubt he’s going to be picking bar fights, spitting tobacco or acting the chauvanist anytime soon.
Yes there’s a right way to do it and no it does not involve a polo shirt. Have you ever wondered why shirts even come with collars? They feel restrictive. They’re superfluous fabric. It’s an extra thing to iron. It seems like we’d be better off not having to wear them. The thing about the collar though is that it does exactly what good clothing is supposed to do – draw attention to the features of the person wearing them.
A collar is like the frame of a picture – without one it looks unfinished. Too much and it overpowers the picture by drawing focus to the frame itself. A good collar and a good frame enhance the appearance of what they’re framing without drawing any attention to themselves.
What’s the first thing you see when you look at this guy?
Everything about this is wrong. But the collar is the first thing to jump out at you. It takes a minute to see him.
Contrast that with these two.
Crisp shirts with collars that frame perfectly. Being a movie star helps but you get the point.
Just wearing a button-up shirt won’t do that for you though. Unless you prop up your collar the correct way, it’ll get lost underneath your jacket like this.
Enter the collar stay. These are little pieces of plastic you slide in your collar to keep it from hiding under or popping in front of your jacket lapel when you’re tieless, or from having the tips of your collar roll up when you’re wearing a tie.
You can find little jars like this in almost any clothing store. I found mine at Brooks Brothers but have seen them at places like J Crew and Banana Republic. Mine came with about 15 pairs in three different sizes and cost me less than five bucks. These are what you want to wear any time you have a tie on and do a decent job of keeping your collar sharp when you don’t have a tie, but they’re not quite as good as what you see on the Ocean’s gentlemen.
For that you have to make a bit more of an investment. It’s more than worth it though. In fact, I’m working on a post that includes the top 25 essentials any man should have in his wardrobe and these are one of them.
They’re called Wurkin Stiffs and essentially they’re metal collar stays with a powerful magnet you use to keep them attached where you want on your shirt. The price is a bit daunting. If I remember right, I paid about $25 for mine and got them at Nordstrom Rack but they’ve been worth every penny. It’s the small and subtle things that can really set you apart and these are a great way to step up your style game. And remember to keep that second button undone.
* I have not been offered anything from Wurkin Stiffs to endorse their product. They don’t even know I exist.
Most men will dress casually unless they have a reason to do otherwise. And since casual has devolved into sloppy, most men dress sloppily unless they have a reason to do otherwise.
Transitioning from the jeans and t-shirt uniform to something more appealing is difficult and one of the main reasons why is you can feel overdressed and awkward by outdressing everyone else.
A good way to make the transition easier is by adopting the high-low mentality.
Essentially you mix elements of a dressier wardrobe with those of a more casual one. The go-to staple for this is jeans with a button-up shirt and blazer. It’s the perfect outfit for going out on the weekend, visiting family on Sunday or going to class. Casual enough that you never look out of place but dressy enough you don’t look like a slob.
But there are other iterations of this ideal as well. One that I’ve been toying with lately is wearing dress slacks and shoes with a t-shirt and a leather jacket. By going dressy on bottom and casual on top, you still accomplish the high-low effect but are able to do so in a way that separates you from other men. In a sea of dark jeans and navy blazers, a pair of tweed or flannel pants and some leather is going to stand out – in a good way.
Be careful in how you interpret casual though. Wearing a blazer and tie with holey, boot-cut jeans will still make you look goofy. Choosing more casual fabrics in dressier or more classic cuts is the key to pulling off the high-low. Here’s a good example from Primer.
Same goes for the dressy element. A real sartorialist can pull off a tuxedo jacket with his jeans, but most of us are better off with a blue blazer instead.
By upping your casual and decreasing your dressy, your total overall appearance will look more uniform.
Here are some good examples of high-low
And some bad ones