what it is:
Forever 21 Men's "Burnished Button Plaid Shirt"why I love it:
I just purchased a shirt from Forever 21 men not too different from this one, and I love it, but what drew me to that one and the one pictured above was how much I like it for men (and obviously that's who it's supposed to be for). It's the perfect casual button down and can be worn with jeans, shorts, khakis and a number of types of shoes to give it a very different look depending on what you choose. And it's a great layering piece as well. But for me, I've worn this as a "jacket" over a classic striped sheath dress, and it's great tied up over or tucked into a skirt. It works over leggings and under anything from a jean jacket to a blazer. The square, big fit can juxtapose feminine silhouettes and adds a sense of casual ease to any outfit. But that's true with this shirt for either gender. where to get it: Forever 21
photo courtesy of nordstrom.com
Ah, the white dress shirt. Every man has one, or at least every man should have one (one or a few with an impeccable fit is really a wardrobe must). But just because this is hanging in your closet doesn't mean it can't work against you outfit-wise. Yeah, it's easy to throw on with dress pants and call it a day, but there are definite pros and cons to this essential item, and before you pull it off the hanger, take in a few considerations--especially with holiday dress-up season fast approaching.
-It really is a never fail. If you're unsure about a combination of pants/blazer/suit/tie/etc, a white shirt will never be a wrong turn in an outfit.
-For ultra-formal looks, white really is the way to go. You can get away with other colors, but white will never get a questioning look when you've got to be dressed to the nines, and you'll never appear out of place.
-It goes with everything. Gray, black, blue, green, khaki, patterns, everything. No need to wonder if your suit, pants or tie is going to clash because white will always complement what you're wearing. Now for the other, colored elements, that's a different story.
-You need one. In the event where you have to travel or wear a formal look with several different suits and/or ties in a short period of time, or if you get quick notice that you have to dress up and don't have the time to get creative, go for the white shirt since it will always look good. This is a necessity, and you need to make sure you have a well-fitting, non-stained white shirt at the ready for anything that could come up.
-It's boring. White is kind of a snoozefest. If you have the choice of shirts, try to opt against white unless any other color would actively look bad in a combination of tie/pants/suit/whatever. Because it's a go-to, it's predictable and if you're trying to stand out in any way, you won't.
-It can be costume-y. With black pants, you run the risk of being mistaken for a cater-waiter, magician, you name it. Black and white is the typical male "uniform", with or without a jacket, so go for a pattern or color if you're going with a black suit or black pants. Especially in the times that you're not wearing any sort of jacket, try go for anything but white.
-It's too easy. Easy can be good in a pinch, but if you have time to plan your outfit, get a little more creative. It will pay off because it will look like you took time to think about your look and you'll appear much more stylish and detail-oriented, no matter what situation you're dressing for.
-It can appear too formal. I'm always a proponent of being overdressed rather than underdressed, but a white dress shirt can sometimes seem too formal. Paired with jeans it can be a weird mix of dressiness, and with dress pants, a suit or even just a blazer it can elevate an otherwise nicer than casual, but not necessarily dressy, look a little past the easy feeling you're trying to go for.
FYI: A dress shirt has no pockets. If it has pockets, it can still look nice, but it's not technically a dress shirt.
For summer, you've got your sockless shoe
options for those occasions that you want to look like you put in the time (which should be often). But once the colder months hit, boat shoes with socks are probably something you shouldn't be considering, and only the masterful dressers can successfully pull off the socks with loafers look in a non-dressy outfit.
So for fall, your footwear must have is the desert--or Chukka--boot. The option above is Cole Haan
, but most stores that sell men's clothing and shoes sell this style of boot: Johnston and Murphy
, Banana Republic
, the works. These can be styled with or without socks, tied allt he way up or a little undone, and they look great under jeans, khakis and most things in between. Like the loafer or boat shoe, these are a great non-dress shoe option that really take your outfit to an "I tried" level that makes you seem much more stylish and put together than a pair of sneakers. Also like the boat shoe and/or loafer in your wardrobe, if you're short on shoe options, go with a brown or possibly gray shade that can look good with many outfits and colors. And get them in the material that is most you--suede, leather, whatever. Once you realize what these can do for your look, you'll be finding ways to wear them with pretty much everything you own.
Not only is it easy for women to incorporate a fun pop of color into an outfit, but it's also more widely accepted as a gender norm (which I think is kind of annoying). I think men should be able to have a little fun, too. Because menswear basics usually come in rich neutral colors, a bright accent is the perfect way to bring a fresh spin to old basics. Color can be intimidating for men, so here's a manual for those of you who want to dip your toe, but not quite your whole foot into the color pool.
This might be the easiest way to incorporate unexpected color into an outfit. Either buy a less expensive watch with a bright strap, or invest in a watch where you can change out the straps. Go for a color, like yellow or red, that is bright and offsets the rest of the pieces in your outfit.
soles and/or laces
The casual oxford is a shoe that's nice to keep around to dress up a casual outfit, especially in cooler weather. If you're not in the mood for a boat shoe or a loafer, these are a great sneaker alternative. Take your oxfords up a notch with a colored sole and/or laces. Like a watch, this is a pretty subtle way to wear color, but a pair of shoes are a little more of an investment than a watch or watch strap. If you're an oxford person or looking for a way to amp up your look instantly, this investment is worth it.
This one is a little trickier because in the case of glasses, you wear them every day unless you've spent the money to have multiple pairs. But colored rims are a quick way to trick the passerby into thinking that you are ultra-stylish. It's nice because glasses don't have to match what you're wearing and are kind of separate from your attire as a whole, so if you see some frames you like in a color you don't necessarily wear a ton, it's not something you have to be really concerned about. This purchase is more of a commitment, but if you're ready for it, it will really pay off.
Possibly the safest way to easily add color, these can be cheap and very low-commitment. The only problem is that you can only do this in certain dress codes. However, suits are often the hardest item to make interesting, so go for patterns and colors so you can easily mix up your suit look, especially if you wear suits a lot and can't invest in a ton of different suits.
As far as male accessories go, there aren't many options. As I've said before
, a watch is a must, but beyond that, jewelry can be inappropriate or hard to pull off and cuff links require a specific type of shirt. And as the trend in menswear has become dressing up on a regular basis, the tie bar is the perfect way to accent an outfit.
If you're going to go for this revitalized trend, go with silver or gold (whichever you wear more) in a very plain design. If you're going to go all out and buy a few, you can get creative like the one in the picture, especially to wear for more informal tie-wearing occasions. Make sure the bar doesn't extend past the width of the tie, and don't use a super short one on a regular width tie, it looks disproportional. This is a really easy way to upgrade and outfit or add interest to a plain tie or suit if you get bored with it. The Tie Bar is a good place to start for both ties and tie bars. If it's not your style, it's not a big deal, but if you're looking for an easy upgrade or finishing touch, this is a great way to add a fashion forward accent to an outfit.
Pocket square not required, but done right it can't hurt. Thanks to Suit Supply for perfect styling.
So now you have all the pants you need
, and you know what to look for in a shirt
, but for those formal occasions that don't quite require a suit, you're lost. Slapping a tie on doesn't really solve the problem, especially because a tie with no jacket is sort of pointless. You need a middle ground. Enter the blazer. A sport coat also works here, and they are
different things, but for style purposes they can be worn the same.
Neutral is key here. Navy is the most common, but a black or understated gray can be equally as versatile. The blazer is great because it adds a formal look to an outfit without making you look overdressed, and you can pair it with many different shirt/pants/tie (if necessary) combinations. Dress up jeans with a blazer, or throw one over a shirt and dress pants for an after-work formal look. Wear it with your sockless shoe
in the summer and layer it with a sweater and button down in the fall and winter (see this impeccably done above). The possibilities are literally endless. I'm partial to the traditional navy blazer, but just make sure you get a color that works best with your wardrobe and a fit that makes you carry off this look convincingly. Once you add this item to your closet, you probably will wonder what you did before you had it.
Every man should own a suit, and most men probably own at least one pair of jeans, and rightfully so. But on a daily basis, if you don't have to wear a suit to work every day, you have to find other ways to mix it up. Things can get boring, so color variety down under can bring your shirts and ties (if necessary) back to life.
The first thing you should do when you're shopping for pants, is find a pair that fits. As always, they don't have to be expensive, as long as they fit well. Which means you might have to visit a tailor. They shouldn't be too low rise, and if you can't find a length that's good for you, err long and get them hemmed. Especially for work, these shouldn't be too skinny, you shouldn't feel like they're about to rip off of you; baggy pants are also a crime, your legs shouldn't have too much room to move around inside the pant leg. And no pleats. Ever. Straight leg is going to be your best bet, because even those should taper about an inch from your thigh to your ankle. Even if you're a set size, every store's pants will fit a little differently, so find your magic pair...then buy all 6 necessary colors in that style (plus more, if you wish!).
And so for the six. In your closet, you should have the following: black (non-suit) pants, gray pants (light or dark, but both is preferable. You can do dress pants or khakis, depending on which your life demands more), darker khakis, lighter (but not too light) khakis, green (hunter, not kelly) and navy. Owning these will insure a wide variety of shirt/pants combinations, and no matter which pants you choose to wear, you will always look better than casual. These will span a range of different dress codes and you won't always look like your mom laid your clothes out for you to go to a school dance. This mix will give you neutral staples as well as updates to those so you can vary what you wear and easily give your work or nighttime attire a more stylish edge.
For some good options in all price ranges, try: Express
(got their start selling better-fitting pants), Mr. Porter
(for the über trendy), Suit Supply
. All pants pictured above are various colors of the Bonobos straight leg style.
This brown will go with anything you'd want to wear short of a dressy occasion, more versatile than even the original Sperry color.
The laceless design and rich leather make this a slightly dressier alternative to the boat shoe, but the two are nearly interchangeable in an everyday outfit.
As men, you don't really have many opportunities to free your feet. Mandals are not universally accepted, and most other footwear requires socks. In the summer, that can get hot, and with shorts....let's not even go there. That's why it's essential to own at least one pair of sockless shoes. Now, I'm not talking about any shoes that you buy with the intention of reserving them only for sockless occasions. There are shoes that are and are not acceptable to wear without socks, and you need to at least own one pair. These are most likely going to be for casual or dressy-casual (worst dress code ever) occasions, and most basically I'm talking a boat shoe or a loafer.
Get these in a good not-too-dark brown so they can go with everything and will look good dressed up or down, with pants or shorts, the works. If you're only going to have one pair, it doesn't really matter whether you go with the loafer or the boat shoe, but the loafer is going to be able to be dressed up more. Go with traditional shapes and colors and you can't go wrong. Most men don't realize the difference opting for the sockless semi-dress shoe over the sneaker can make in an outfit. It's an across the board instant upgrade, and not only will your feet thank you for some freedom during the summer months, those around you will thank you for leaving the mandals at home.
Note: In colder months, socks with loafers (NOT boat shoes) can be acceptable. But it can also be tacky and disastrous. Study up and make sure you do it right before you jump in.
Photo via GQ.com.
While women have their earrings, bracelets necklaces and rings, men really only have their watches. Yes, there are an assortment of other accessories men can choose from, but I don't see many men sporting a tie bar on a regular basis, and I bet most can count the number of times they break out their cuff links in a year. The watch is the only every day accessory a man gets to have, and every man should have one.
Your watch is a pretty important decision. You'll have to see it most days, and it has to work with everything from a suit to shorts and a t-shirt. While in a perfect world, every man would have several watches for different occasions, that can get pretty pricey. I believe that watches, like all menswear, are not about how much they cost, but about how they look and how you like them. In my semi-limited experience with watch consulting, I haven't found an expensive, aspirational watch
that doesn't have a satisfactory affordable counterpart
So for your one watch, pick well and don't settle. It's one of the few places you really get to distinguish yourself in an outfit. If it takes a little more time to find the one you want, it's okay, it's worth it for the amount of time you'll wear it. And don't be daunted by the choice, with just a few easy steps (below, the whole point of this post), your wrist will no longer be naked, and you'll have no excuse to pull out your phone when someone asks you for the time.
This is bold. And he's carrying a murse. Probably don't do this for a first impression.
odds + ends
There are a lot of other things to consider when polishing off your outfit, once you've got the basics down. Pending your destination, not all apply, but for the final post in the series, here are some last little details to consider before stepping out the door.socks
Socks have become a thing
these days, but for an interview, keep them toned down. If you want to go fun, keep your socks in a dress color and go with a pattern. If your place of interview is a little more relaxed or creative, you might be able to get away with a fun red, yellow or other bright under the pant. Wear this trend with caution. What would be fun for a daytime summer wedding might not impress your future boss.watch
Just yes. You should always wear one. Always. The intricacies of the right or wrong watch are far too long for this post, if there is even a right or wrong. Watches are a personal preference and there are a lot of really nice and a lot of really questionable options out there. Just know that your suit will seem pretty incomplete without the watch, whether it's the only accessory you're wearing or not. It doesn't have to be a Rolex, but it should be on your wrist.belt
I'm of the belief that a belt isn't an absolute necessity, but a lot of people would disagree with me. I also don't necessarily believe that your belt has to match your shoes (especially if you go with an oxblood or lighter brown), but people might yell at me then, too. For these purposes, I'm going to say, if you feel like you need to wear a belt, make it match and keep it simple. The buckle should be minimalistic and should not attract attention to your waist, and neither should the hue of the belt, especially if it's because it doesn't appropriately complement your shoe color.tie bar
If you have a nice one, go for it! Nothing too showy or cheesy, but this little detail might tell your interviewer that you pay attention to the little things and care about polishing yourself up. If it's not your style, don't sweat it, it's definitely a take-it-or-leave-it accessory.cuff links
In the off chance you're wearing a french cuff shirt, keep the cuff links simple and understated. You don't want to send the wrong message at the first handshake, and too much glitz by your wrist might do that if the light strikes your cuff links just right. Opt for your plainest pair and don't think too hard about it, they're a means to an end in this case.the bag
If you want to bring one, keep it sleek and nice-looking. An interview is no place for your dirty, nylon messenger bag. Opt for a leather choice that complements the other leather aspects of your suit and isn't so ambiguous in style that it will cause questions
. A briefcase or simple messenger are going to be your safest bets. If you're bag-averse, go with a traditional padfolio. This is another matter of personal preference. There's a standard, but not a rule, so meet the standard and you're good to go.
a few last words
Jewelry. Take it off for an interview, or make sure it is completely and permanently out of sight. Jewelry will most definitely be part of a first impression, and apart from a wedding band, there is no reason it should be, because it will nearly always make you stick out in the wrong way.
And after all this preaching, you might be wondering what I ended up telling my brother to wear. His options were limited, so we went with a navy, 3-button suit (middle button only buttoned), a light blue button down and yellow tie with dark and light blue check pattern. He only had black dress shoes (I would have gone with something different if I had the choice), and of course a watch. His has a metal band, yours doesn't have to.
He got hired on the spot, so I'm not going to not say that my advice leads you in the right direction. When you're suiting up, use your head, look in the mirror and wear your interview look with confidence.