Often, I come across many people, who ask me for advise on how to start a professional wardrobe for work, social events or special occasions. I remember myself at 20, just getting out of training, ready for work and not knowing what to wear on a casual Friday or how to dress for a potential happy hour afterwork when you have a meeting the sameday.
Slowly but surely, I started building my wardrobe with key pieces i believe every man should have in his closet. I don't care if you never see a boardroom - there is no excuse, when the Mrs. wants a date night, sometimes jeans, boots and a "button-up" may not cut it. By the time i looked I assembled a foundation of items that not only created several combinations of outfits, but allowed me to add different pieces and accessories that up til today still turns heads, for anyone starting life and you need to know where to start.. allow me to introduce the Debonair Start Up Kit:
The Navy and Tweed Blazer
I said it once, ill say it again, the blazer is your best friend. On a cold day - wear the tweed blazer (tan, grey) with a pair of jeans or slacks. The Tweed Blazer could be worn as a jacket on those chilly days over a sweater and shirt add a scarf and you have a smart, handsome look. On other days you could wear the Navy Blazer, with a pair of khakis or jeans, wear with a shirt and sweater, add a tie and it wears like a three piece suit. Both Blazers you can find at almost every department store or Men's apparel. However the best money for your buck would be at your local consignment store - such as in Brooklyn, NYC Beacons Closet on 5th Ave, you could find a Ralph Lauren Navy Blazer for $15 or a Tweed Blazer which are real popular at thrift stores this season for a cool $10 - $20. Just think of all the outfits you can produce with just a Navy Blazer or Tweed Blazer.. still have problems.. well look at these Gents:
The Perfect Shirt - H&M Easy Iron Shirt
I swear by this shirt for many reasons, as a New Yorker i was born with time being my arch enemy - getting ready in the morning can be a hassle for someone like me. I need to have my shirts ironed and my outfit correct for the day. With my H&M Easy Iron Shirt that's one task done. Durable, Modern and oh yes the small collar, what more can you ask - of yes did i mention only $15! and available in every color. I believe the lifeline to every shirt is the collar a big 1980s collar in a 2010 tie world will ruin your outfit, the H&M shirt collar is designed to handle regular, skinny and bow ties. I recommend you start with 2 white, 2 blue shirts and 1 purple or pink shirt.
Its Gotta Be The Shoes
Now that you got the outfit, its time to put the finishing touch on your outfit by adding shoes. Most Men don't really put too much thought into shoes.. but little do they know that its all about the shoes. For the starter kit I suggest Brown Wingtips - for your slack, blazer, shirt with tie days. I would pair, Black Loafers with Jeans, a shirt and Blazer or perhaps a simple v-neck for those casual Friday's; its also wise to invest in some rain boots such as Hunters.. you can get them at J. Crew. For the rest of the shoes I mentioned I would go to Aldo.. the average shoe cost about $40, and if polished and treated properly - you can get good wear out of your shoes.
The Three Piece Navy Suit
When you think of the three-piece suit, you think of Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II, looking as fierce as any actor ever. You think of high-powered attorneys and CEOs roaming the courtrooms and boardrooms of the 1970s. You think of Justin Timberlake onstage. The question is: Do you ever think of yourself in one? You might want to start. The three-piece suit no longer suggests you have the corner office (or a tommy gun); it suggests you have style. Of course, it's not as easy as one two three. There are rules to adhere to:
a) Know where to wear it.
If your intentions are to stroll into a corporate workplace sporting a three-piece suit, you might want to reconsider. In the past few years, the suit has migrated to the world of high fashion, making it geared more toward creative types than Fortune 500 types.
b) Know how to wear it.
1. A three-piece suit announces itself loudly and clearly—which means you should opt for a relatively subdued shirt-and-tie combo to provide balance. Do like this guy here, or check out Steve McQueen in the original Thomas Crown Affair.
2. Understand fit. Let's start with the vest: It should hit at your belt buckle (not dip past it), and it should wrap snuggly around your torso.
3. The jacket should be just as fitted; you don't want a sagging layered look.
4. Finally, the pants should fit like any other suit pants—comfortably on the hip, straight down the leg.
The Raincoat and the Wool Topcoat
• If your trench fits as well as it should, you don’t need to cinch the belt around your waist (which can be a little too ladylike). Let it hang or loosely tie it behind your back.
• A khaki trench always works, be it in a darker tan or a lighter shade like cement. Black is also a great option, but it says fashion more than it does business.
• Your trench should hit anywhere between two and six inches above the knee. And it should feel snug, with slim, clean lines.
Now, about the Topcoat - How to wear a Topcoat?
Fit Is Everything
A great suit plus a bad topcoat equals a half-assed outfit. A topcoat should be trim. It should reach to just above your knee, and it should be the same size as the suit you wear (not a size larger). You can be like this fellow and go for a dark single-breasted version (it never fails), or maybe you want something bolder. Maybe you want something with a little more check-me-out attitude.
Get That Winter Tan
Yes, camel-hair topcoats really are made from camel hair. But camel-colored topcoats can be made from a variety of fabrics, including wool, cashmere, and camel-hair blends. Bottom line is, in an elevator crowded with gray, black, and navy, it’ll get you noticed.
Double Your Power
Problem: You buy a double-breasted wool topcoat and you feel like it’s wearing you—way too much coat, leaving you swimming in it. Solution: Look for one by a more fashion-minded label that’s cut a bit trimmer, with no excess fabric. Once you find that coat, you’ll achieve a rakish—almost militaristic—look. Sure, it’s a bit more aggressive than your typical business attire, but who ever said being aggressive was a bad move?