How do you build a wardrobe?
Have you walked into a store and been overwhelmed at the options that are available?
Or maybe you look in your closet and you want to know if you have everything you need? How can you tell if your wardrobe is good?
In the spirit of maximizing time, let's quickly go over a few looks you should know.
Specifically, there are 6 looks that every man should be able to master. You should shop with these looks in mind or if you do wardrobe assessment, with the goal of being able to create these dress codes with your existing clothes.
Let’s discuss the looks below!
1. Semiformal / Business Attire
Professional attire is the look that gentlemen wear in very professional environments. It's the uniform of lawyers, bankers, professors, Wall Street traders, and other business environments where decorum and professionalism are woven into the culture and fabric of the organization.
As such, the first step to mastering this look is to know your environment. Most businesses are explicit in saying that the dress code is professional attire so there is no second-guessing.
When a gentleman is dressed in professional attire, he's communicating that he is about taking care of some serious business. His outfit says that his focus is sharp, that he's intellectually capable, and he's intent about the work that needs to be accomplished. There is a high level of respect that comes with this look.
- Suit: Navy is considered the power color but gray and black are also strong business suits
- White shirt: Plain white shirt is always a great option but you can spice it up with textured shirts or inconspicuous designs like window pane stripes or gingham print
- Neckties: Blue, gray, black are standard business colors for ties. Don’t feel limited as there are varying shades of blue and grey and designs such as polka dots, stripes, and paisley are great ways to add more style.
- Pocket Square: White, straight fold handkerchiefs adds a crisp and classic element to the overall look. Colored pocket squares can work depending on the environment.
- Oxford shoes: Shoes should be the same color as your belt; brown or black. Again, shades of brown vary so there is still a lot of variety available.
- Socks: Trouser socks that that matches the pant leg of the suit. It’s the safest bet to stay with solid socks.
2. Business Casual
If you are unsure how to dress for a job in a creative industry or wondering what to wear as a teacher then this may well be what you're looking for.
Business casual is exactly what is implied in the name. It's a casual look made for the professional environment. Just because this look is more comfortable, it’s still supposed to illustrate a high level of professionalism. A traditional business casual look is no suit jacket. It has now evolved to “no suit and no tie required.”
Business casual has been expanded to trousers and a nice button up or even slacks and a polo style shirt. Workplace environment is everything when it comes to professional attire so make sure that your version of business casual is in line with the culture of the office.
- Moccasins – Wear with or without socks if the work culture supports it.
- Oxford shoes
- Double Monk Straps
- Colored buttoned down shirts are acceptable
- Suits with no tie can be spiced up with a lapel pin and colorfully patterned pocket square.
The key to this look is no neckwear. The collar can be open or the top button can be buttoned up. Either way, there should not be a tie. Also the polo can be worn with the top button fastened as well. It’s personal preference.
If you’re not going to button up the top button, make sure you have magnetic collar stays in the collar of your shirt. This will keep the collar upright and keep the look sharp
3. Casual Attire
As a man of style, the days of the dad jeans and your favorite tee shirt is no longer allowed. Also, sporty doesn’t mean a jersey and gym shorts -although they definitely have their place. There is a way to be sporty and still be stylish. Think of it as weekend attire. It’s comfortable, fun, and flexible.
This look can be a pair of well-fitting raw denim jeans, a t-shirt, and some stylish sneakers. Another option would be a henley, khakis, and a pair of boots. It is the undefined look when you don't really know what you are doing for the day but you want to be comfortably sharp.
- Chinos: Casual pants that can be dressed up with blazers
- Polo shirts: These shirts were originally for athletes and are a stylishly comfortable option that can be paired with jeans, chinos, or shorts
- Shorts: Jean shorts or chino shorts are acceptable.
- Casual deck sneakers: These are sneakers that are not for competing. They are usually made of canvas material with a rubber sole.
- Casual t-shirts: Solid colored or patterned t-shirts that can be dressed up with a blazer. They are versatile and comfortable. Do not confuse a casual t-shirt with a screened tee. An example of screened t-shirt is your favorite childhood marvel comic t-shirt.
Formal wear can be broken into three (3) different categories: Black Tie, Creative Black Tie, and White Tie. Most guys have no idea that there are three formal aesthetics, let alone the difference between them.
4. Ultra Casual
Admittedly, this type of look is the simplest to pull off. It's for style and comfort. The Ultra casual look is a spring and summer go-to look as it's for warm weather and functionality. That being said, there is still a way to stylishly pull it off.
- T-shirt: The type of t-shirt is totally depending on your preference. Whether it's a crew neck or v-neck is not as important as the fit and quality of the shirt. Make sure that both are stellar
- Shorts: Shorts should be funtional and worn above the knee. When shorts are worn below the knee it makes you look shorter (regardless of your height) and disproportionate.
- Shoe: Sneakers or moccasin/loafer. Wear either shoe with no socks or “no show” socks if your feet sweat. Socks with these kind of shoes are an absolute no-no.
- Accessories: Watches and bracelets are great additions to this look. They will stand out because of the outfit's simplicity. Both classic and sporty watches will work well and leave a strong, fashionable statement.
Gents, grooming will play a big part in this look as well. There is a lot of skin showing so make sure that you are well lotioned. Shorts and ashy legs are not a good look.
5. Creative Black Tie
This can be considered the least formal aesthetic in the formal wear category. It's a new school twist on traditional formal wear. It's seen most often at Hollywood events such as red carpets and award shows.
The creative black tie look has a playful element that intelligently substitutes bold colors on subtle pieces for a bit of pizzazz.
Being that formal wear is a uniform of sorts, the creative black tie fun way for your formal attire to stand out in a crowd. This look is popular amongst millennials who typically defy the traditional conventions of menswear
Recommendations: The looks almost identical to traditional black tie with colored accessories such as:
- Bow tie
6. Black Tie Dress Code
Less formal than white tie, but more formal than creative black tie – it is reserved for social functions and evening events. It is less regulated than white tie dress so more latitude for variations is given for this aesthetic.
Black Tie Recommendations:
- A jacket with ribbed silk facings on a shawl collar or peaked lapel
- Trousers with a single silk or satin braid covering the outer seams
- A black cummerbund or a low-cut waistcoat
- A white dress shirt, French cuffs and cufflinks, and a turn-down or detachable wing collar
- A black ribbed silk bow tie matching the lapel facings
- Optional shirt studs and cufflinks
- Black dress socks
- Black shoes—highly polished or patent leather Oxfords, or patent leather court shoes
7. White Tie Dress Code
White tie is the most formal style of dress and is usually reserved for high society events such as state dinners, formal balls and evening weddings. It is typically considered only appropriate after 6 p.m., but it has been extended to anytime after dark.
White Tie Recommendations
- Black or midnight blue dress coat with silk facings, horizontally cut-away at the front
- Trousers of matching fabric with one single wide stripe or two narrow stripes of satin or braid and are worn with suspenders
- White plain stiff-fronted cotton shirt
- White stiff wing collar, preferably detachable
- White bow tie
- White low-cut waistcoat matching the bow tie and shirt
- Black silk socks or stockings
- Black court shoes
Click Here For A Full Infographic On A Social Guide To Dress Codes For Men