How to Build Your Wardrobe: Part II – Men’s Clothing Specifics

by Antonio on May 13, 2010 · 74 comments

in Accessories, Dress & Grooming


In How to Build your Wardrobe Part I we discussed why a man’s clothing is important, broke men up into four groups, and then listed the clothing they would need.  In How to Build your Wardrobe Part II we will give you 5 general wardrobe building guidelines and expand on the clothing checklists by discussing in detail many of the items we listed in Part I.  Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments!

5 Wardrobe Building Guidelines for Men

  1. Master interchangeability – The secret of the best dressed men is that they wear clothing that neither draws attention nor strikes observers as flamboyant; they are simply well put together.  The good news is this can be achieved with very few sets of clothes, and if selected carefully a man with only two suits, four dress shirts, four ties, and two pairs of shoes has 64 different combinations at his disposal (2x4x4x2=64 ).  The key here is making sure your clothing is interchangeable; a core of classic colored suits and dress shirts complimented with time tested tie patterns will yield a higher return on investment than any trendy garment that only matches one other item in your wardrobe.
  2. Make sure your clothing fits – The clothing in your wardrobe should fit your body as it is today not as you wish it to be two months from now.  If it’s too tight, look to have it let out.  If it’s too large, learn to how to select a tailor and have alterations made.
  3. Select classic colors, patterns, and styles – There are colors that compliment your complexion; discover what they are and use them to your advantage.  Look for patterns that existed when your father bought his clothing – chances are they’ll still be around when your son borrows your ties. Always select timeless style in your high dollar items and avoid trends like the plague.
  4. Avoid cheap, instead seek value – Purchase quality; you’ll often pay more but in the end it will save you money.  How does that work?  Simply put, you’ll wear the clothing more often, feel better when you wear it, and it will last longer.  Those $35 dress shoes that you hate wearing because they look cheap and are uncomfortable are wasted sitting in your closet; those $350 Allen Edmonds that you wear every chance you can and receive compliments on every time you wear them become a great investment when you find yourself having worn them 100 times in the last year.
  5. Give yourself time – Building a wardrobe can take a decade; the time frame is important as it not only gives you time to select items that are priced in accordance with your budget, but it gives you the time to develop and refine your style.  No matter how much you read and plan, a man’s style evolves over years as he perfects his personal presentation to the world.

Clothing Specifics

The Foundation Suits

Every man should own at least one suit or equivalent garment in accordance with his heritage.  It should be pressed, clean, and ready to go at a moment’s notice.  I have a client who works as a computer programmer; although he wears the shirts and trousers we made for him daily, he rarely wears his custom suit as his Microsoft office has a relaxed dress code.  Two years ago he had the opportunity to attend a dinner with Bill Gates; he was given 6 hours notice and it was at one of the fanciest hotels in town.  When opportunity presented itself, he was prepared and seized it; the sad part is many of his colleagues missed the chance because they didn’t even own a jacket.

If you own only one suit, ensure 1) it fits, 2) its dark in color, and 3) its timeless in style.  To ensure proper fit, first learn what it is and then find a tailor who can alter your suit.  Dark colors are important as they are the most formal and are more versatile than lighter shades.  And by timeless style, I mean you should be weary of trends like skinny or overly thick lapels, suits with more than 3 buttons, or with signature style aspects that look good to you today but will not stand the test of time (that dragon embroidery on the shoulder is a bit too much).  Most men look sharp in a charcoal grey, single breasted, 2 or 3 button jacket with double vents and 3 pockets (2 side flap, one left breast).  Your trousers should be made from the same fabric as the suit and if pleated have a cuff or if flat fronted, have none.

Other fabrics you should consider for your core suits are medium grey and navy blue solids, grey, charcoal grey, and navy semi-solids, and black if you have very dark hair and medium to dark complected skin.  Try to purchase a suit made from 100% wool, although price sensitive men can find blends that have an excellent hand and breathe just fine under limited use.  Early on in your wardrobe building journey you should avoid memorable patterns (if people remember it, you can’t wear it later in the week with a different shirt) and double breasted suits (not flexible, hard to dress down, save for a 5th suit).

The Core Dress Shirts

The core dress shirts in a man’s wardrobe should fit him and be simple in design.  The first three dress shirts in your wardrobe should be solid in color (white or a shade of blue, the darker the less formal).  When looking at style, look for point collars and cuffs that fit the image you are trying to present.  I love French cuffs, but for most men they are not a style they’ll use enough in their first set of shirts to justify their purchase.  Instead, keep it simple with single barrel cuffs.  As for fit, ensure the shoulders and neck are as close to perfect as you can find.  Remember that every brand has a different set of models they use to design their clothing’s sizes, so a medium in one brand does not mean you’ll have the same fit in another.  And if you have to compromise, purchase a larger fit.  Sleeves can be shortened and stomach fabric can be tucked; making a shirt bigger though is not an option.

Button Down Collar

Casual Button Down Dress Shirt Collar

Once you start to move past three dress shirts, you should consider semi-solids, stripes, and checks.  The key here is to remember that the plain fabrics are more formal while the fabrics with complicated patterns are less so; also for interchangeability purposes you’ll want to ensure your base collection of dress shirts are devoid of features that make them too memorable. As for patterns, pick and choose based off of which style best compliments your body type.  Point collars, medium spread collars, and regular business collars are all solid options for 80% of the population – if you have a round or extremely thin face, you’ll want to choose a collar that balances your facial features.  On cuffs, single or two button barrel cuffs should be on the majority of your shirts although you could substitute them for French cuffs if that’s your style.  Finally, avoid dress shirts made from fabrics with more than 50% man-made fiber; try to find 100% cotton and avoid silk unless you can afford high dry cleaning bills.

Footwear for Men: Your First Dress Shoes & Boots

The first pair of dress shoes a man owns should be black in color; the second pair can be either black or brown, with the determining factor being the color of the suits in his wardrobe.  Black is more formal and less interesting but more versatile.  Dark brown shoes, assuming their style matches, can be worn with any outfit except black tie. As to style, look to own at least one pair of plain or cap toe oxfords, and a pair of slip-ons for when you travel.  Slip-on styles such as Chelsea boots and monk straps are great for moving through airport security with ease, although they are less formal than their laced brethren.

The total number of dress shoes a man should own depends on his needs, but generally speaking he should have at least 3 to 4 pairs that he can rotate through.  Rotation is important because while your shoes rest with cedar shoe trees inserted, the wood draws out inner moisture and reshapes the leather which will lengthen the life off all of your shoes considerably.  And always brush away dirt after every wear and shine and polish when needed or after wearing them 3 times.  If you live in an areas with heavy snow and rain learn how to weatherproof your shoes.   Finally, avoid attention grabbing colors and shoes made from materials that require heavy maintenance and are limited as to when you can wear them.  Although blue suede shoes make for a good song, they are not for rough winters where salt and water can quickly cause irreparable damage. Also avoid footwear manufactured with extreme square toes or made from shoddy leather and with poor construction.

Building Your Tie Collection

Matching Tie to Suit

A Simple Match – Charcoal Suit, White Shirt, and Striped Tie

When you wear a necktie, you want it to compliment your outfit, not dominate the conversation.  As for the number of ties in a man’s wardrobe, I recommend three neckties for every suit.  Classic tie colors include blue, green, reds, and gold while classic patterns are striped, dot, plaid, club, foulard, and paisley – start with simple solids and stripes; when you move past a half dozen ties in your wardrobe you can start purchasing brighter and more complex patterned neckwear.  Here is a great guide on how to match a tie with a shirt and suit.


Casual Shoes & Boots

Classic Converse

Classic Converse

The difference between a dress and casual shoe is the nature of the clothing that it is intended to be worn with.  The types and styles of casual footwear are wide enough to fill a large book – in the dressier range are moccasins and both tassel & penny loafers.  More casual options are Converse’s classic chucks and Timberland’s line of loafers and boat shoes; it’s important to note local climate and culture has a strong effect on what casual footwear is worn.  Growing up in Midland the roper boot was the footwear of choice for many men working in the dry heat and dust of the Texas oil fields and ranches.

Consider stepping a bit out of your comfort zone here.  Don’t limit yourself to sneakers – saddle shoes are a bit dressier but infinitely more stylish and if taken care of will last decades and draw compliments.  Instead of sandals, look at boat shoes which can be worn without socks and are more presentable than displaying to the world your dirty toe nails.

Saddle Shoes

Saddle Shoes courtesy of

As with dress shoes, the number of casual shoes a man needs depends on his lifestyle.  When looking for casual shoes for your core wardrobe, give more weight to muted colors that will never go out of style.  Brown, beige, black, and occasionally navy and other assorted low tone colors are solid choices.  The more it draws attention to itself with color, the harder it will be to match and wear more than a few times a month. Seek out quality and you can expect a long life from your footwear if you take care of it.  When worn in conjunction with similarly styled clothing, it will look great today and over time develop a worn look that will make it look even better.  Finally, replace worn out footwear that is torn or permanently stained.  Although casual footwear doesn’t have to have a shine like dress footwear, it should still be neat, clean, and presentable. Rotate your shoes, and store your unused pairs in a dry place where they can air out – this prevents mold growth and smells from developing.

Semi-Casual Boots

A pair of semi-casual boots I scoped out in Austin, Texas at the men’s store Stag on South Congress. Thanks for driving me there Eric!

A Man’s Belts

Your belt’s color and style should closely match the shoes you would wear with them – it’s very possible that a man with 4 pairs of shoes will need 4 belts.  In fact, I recommend when you buy your shoes to buy a belt that matches while you have them in the store with you – you can always return the belt if you feel the current belts in your wardrobe are sufficient.  As for matching, typically the thinner the band and the simpler the buckle the more formal the belt is.  And always match metal with metal – monk strap dress shoes with a silver buckle should be worn with a thin belt with simple silver buckle.

Denim Jeans

Denim Jean Comparison

On the left we have denim you can wear with a sport jacket – on the right are jeans more suited to an untucked T-shirt.

Jeans are arguably America’s greatest gift to menswear. They have come a long way from their humble beginnings as work trousers to their current iconic status as the trouser of choice for lumberjacks and movie stars.  Equally at home with a T-shirt and sneakers or monk strap slip-ons and a blazer, jeans are a rare combination of image, functionality, and comfort.  It’s these three traits as to why every man should have at least a few pairs of denim jeans in his wardrobe.

By their very nature all jeans are casual; however, there are levels of separation and the darker the jean the more “formal” it becomes.  Thus it’s better to mix a sport jacket with dark jeans than light jeans, although the latter can be pulled off especially in the summer.  Anything with obvious signs of wear or holes should be reserved for more casual wear unless you have sold over 10,000 albums.  What you own depends on your lifestyle and needs, but have at least two pairs that are dark and look sharp when worn with a dress shirt.   For those tired of reading, here is a great video on understanding quality denim.  For those who want to read more, here is a more detailed analysis of denim and what the difference is between a $5 and $500 pair of jeans.



Slacks, or odd trousers, come in a wide range of styles and fabrics and are differentiated from suit trousers as they have no matching jacket cut from the same cloth.  The dressiest slacks, aka those suitable for wear with an odd jacket, are cut from a dark wool and styled in the same way suit trousers are.  Once we start moving toward lighter colored fabrics cut from cotton we become less formal, with chinos being the most popular example.

I advise most men to own at least one pair of dark wool trousers and one or more pairs of chinos in various colors.  Chinos are dressier than jeans and an excellent option for warm weather.  As for the wool trousers, most men are best served if when they buy a grey suit to purchase an extra pair of trousers as well.  Because no matter how often I tell them not to, most men will wear their suit trousers as odd trousers at some point.  Knowing this, it’s better to have two pairs, that way, when you tear or stain them, you will not have lost your whole suit.

Button-up Short Sleeve Sport Shirts

Distinct from the infamous short sleeve dress shirt, the button up dress shirt has a closer fit in the torso and often certain style features such as epaulets, double button patch pockets, and finished straight bottom so it can be worn untucked.  It’s a fine shirt to wear on weekends or evening out in Vegas, but understand its limitations (and the limitation of all shirts worn without a jacket) are that they will draw attention to a large midsection.  In general this shirt will move with trends, and it should be viewed as a fashion piece more than a classic item in the wardrobe. I like to have two in my wardrobe, one light and one dark.

Polo Shirts

Polo Shirt Formality

From Left to Right, we can see how Polo Shirts Rank in terms of Casual (Safe for Work on Friday) to Ultra-Casual (Beach Wear)

The polo shirt’s origin is in sport – developed by the great French tennis player René Lacoste out of the frustration he felt for traditional clothing on the court; it was later adopted by other gentlemen sports such as polo and golf.  Today there are dozens of types and brands. When choosing one remember this hierarchy: Solid muted colors made from smooth and soft cotton or wool are the dressiest – patterned polos made from rougher cotton weaves are the most casual.  While companies like Lacoste make polos appropriate for casual office wear, you’ll want to be careful wearing the polo you picked up for $5 at Old Navy to a business event.  I recommend keeping your professional polos separate from your “play” polos, and stick with solid classic colors until you have a half dozen.


Shorts are casual wear; there is no getting around this.  Think twice about wearing them to any company event unless it involves sport, water, or a luau in Hawaii.  Now I know many of you are thinking the author must be some type of stuffy old guy, but such is not the case; my point is that around the world shorts are not as accepted as they are US, and that they are rarely if ever acceptable when looking to make strong first impressions.  With that being said, when a man wears shorts he should wear pairs that provide ample room in the hips and rise no more than 6 inches above the knee and never extend past it.  Cotton and linen are great choices because of their fiber properties.  Classic colors such as tan and khaki are two great colors to start with; be careful with white as it draws attention and stains easily. As for swim trunks, they are for swimming.  Unless in San Diego, then you can wear them anywhere as long as you are never more than 5 feet from your surfboard.



The two most important attributes of a sweater are fit and the type of fibers used in its construction.  Color and style are important, but more so than other garments a sweater must be functional.  This article is a great place to learn more about sweater styles and their fiber properties.  As for the sweater types a man should own, this depends on both the climate he lives in and his budget.  Men in living in cool regions are well served to own four plus classic sweater styles that they can wear into the office; men from warmer regions can get away with one or two they pull out when they travel.  Finally, when selecting sweaters for your wardrobe pay very close attention to fit – altering a sweater is an art and most alteration shops won’t touch this type of high risk work.

Sports Jackets & Blazers

If a man is to own only one odd jacket, he cannot go wrong with either a classic navy blazer or wool sport jacket made from a dark solid or semi-solid fabric.  Distinct style attributes such as silver/gold/brass/leather buttons, patch pockets, or a ticket pocket are key to signal the jacket is indeed not part of a suit.  Navy blazers, because of their formal history and fancy buttons, are more formal than sport jackets and may not be the right choice for a man who rarely wears a suit – however they can be dressed down by ensuring they are single breasted and by selecting horn or mother of pearl buttons(a great summer look).  Sports jackets on the other hand can range from sleek dressy worsted wool to more casual tweeds, and are a great compliment to a country living man’s wardrobe.  I live in a rural town of 1000 people, and never feel out of place wearing my sport jackets and dress shirts with jeans.  For more information about the strengths of the sports jacket, visit this classic AOM article.

What To Look Forward to in Part III

Next we’ll cover the often neglected parts of a man’s wardrobe such as how to incorporate hats, watches, & accessories along with clothing storage & protection.   FYI, we read the comments so please suggest more ideas!
How to Build Your Wardrobe: Part I 
How to Build Your Wardrobe: Part II – Men’s Clothing Specifics
How to Build Your Wardrobe: Part III – Men’s Hats, Watches, and Other Accessories
How to Build Your Wardrobe: Part IV – Protecting, Storing, and Cleaning Your Clothing

Written by
Antonio Centeno
President, A Tailored Suit
Articles on Mens Suits, Dress Shirts, etc.
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{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Torrey May 13, 2010 at 11:28 pm

This is a great comprehensive series! I really like the mindset of purchasing quality pieces that will last. Sure, you may pay a bit more up front but in the long run it will worth it.

2 Blake May 13, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Sock pairings with suits and casual wear?

3 Zachary May 13, 2010 at 11:41 pm

First of all, I really enjoy this article and the entire website as well. Maybe an idea for your next article: How does one form his personal style?

Thanks and keep writing!

4 Paul May 13, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Thanks for the great overview!

Any specific tips for professors? I often feel out of place among colleagues when I wear suits (they are typically in odd jackets), but feel the ‘tweed look’ is a bit premature for a guy not yet in his 30s. Thanks again for this series.

5 danielkines May 13, 2010 at 11:55 pm


6 uncballzer May 14, 2010 at 12:26 am

I agree with Blake in that I was wondering about sock pairings as well, which may come with the next installment. I do want to thank you for the comment near the end with jeans/dress shirt and sports coat. I live in a rural area as well, and being only 25 I was reserved about wearing such. I am curious what type of shoes you would wear with that combo–as I don’t feel comfortable wearing some of the black dress shoes I have, but have been wearing dark brown and black Sketchers which on occasion I don’t feel comfortable going with the jacket as well.

7 The Counselor May 14, 2010 at 1:44 am

Yet again, another article which proves why this is the most informative site on the internet.

8 Ben May 14, 2010 at 1:44 am

Really? This would be better titled “How to dress like an accountant”, or “Lemming’s guide to fashion”.

9 Richard May 14, 2010 at 2:37 am

Well Ben, I suggest you tell us your own version of wardrobe neccessities, if this is for “lemmings” or “accountants”

10 Chris Mower May 14, 2010 at 2:49 am

Hey Antonio, another great article!

You’ve packed a lot of useful information in the article–so much that I’m going to have to go back through and read it again tomorrow.

I’ve got a couple pairs of really sweet shoes. The first pair is a custom-made all-black leather weave that I absolutely love to wear. THe only parts that are not woven are around the shoelace holes, the back by the heel, and the (of course) the sole.

My second pair of awesome shoes are a pair of two-toned (black and white) wing tips. I love wearing these ones as well. Whenever I wear either pair I get compliments like crazy.

I also have a couple other pairs that aren’t as “attention driven.” Hmm… it must be late… I’m talking about how in love with my shoes I am…

Once again, a great article. Looking forward to the third part.

11 Greg M May 14, 2010 at 3:40 am

“Make sure your clothing fits – The clothing in your wardrobe should fit your body as it is today not as you wish it to be two months from now.”

It took me well into my 20′s to finally realize this concept. I was so used to buying clothes that I would “grow into”. I took a look at a photo of me at a work function in baggy slacks and a too-big shirt and realized how terrible I looked. As soon as I started wearing clothes that fit, I noticed that I started getting compliments right and left. The NICE kind of compliments.

12 Tayo May 14, 2010 at 3:45 am

Hey Antonio, great article. I have been following your advice closely since you wrote the first one. You were right, “Ignore your wardrobe at your risk”. Keep it coming.

13 Dan Gaston May 14, 2010 at 5:51 am

Another great article and follow up Antonio, I really liked it. The end of this month I start making some extra money (not having to pay tuition anymore in my PhD studies) and will be really beefing up my wardrobe. I have been a little limited the last two months because of budget constraints but no longer! This guide is very useful.

14 Sagar Behere May 14, 2010 at 5:52 am

It seems that you (and everyone else) lays great emphasis on “clothes should fit well.” Could you explain more what a “fitting well” means? I am a random nerd and don’t really have a clue what parameters to look at when thinking “Is this fitting me?” For example, when I buy a pair of jeans, I see if it too loose/tight around my stomach and if the length is too long/short. However, I can’t help feeling there must be more to this.

So could you do a series on “What does ‘fit well’ mean for jeans/slacks/shirts/T-shirts/suits(I think you’ve covered suit jackets)” That would be really, really helpful.


15 Dan Gaston May 14, 2010 at 5:55 am

I’ll echo the “buy clothing that fits” mantra as well. I have been losing weight since January, which has been a big force behind me re-building my wardrobe, and changing my wardrobe has done more to draw attention to the fact that I have lost a bunch of weight than just losing it in the first place did! Even I notice.

If I was still wearing the XL T-shirt you could tell I was getting smaller, but the baggyness hides it. Slim down to a L and wear nice pants and a dress shirt tucked in… makes a world of difference even to me.

16 Keith Brawner May 14, 2010 at 7:03 am

In true Strongbad style: “Holy Crap!”

This is among the best and most practical reads on this site. Kudos to you, my friend, on your fairly comprehensive and navigable guide to fashion. The inclusion of links to more information, in addition to the basic necessities is the cherry on top.

Readily Religous Reader
– Keith Brawner

17 Schmidty - Man Vs. Style May 14, 2010 at 7:58 am

I love the way you break it down Antonio.

As we are first building our wardrobe, I think one extra point to think about is to stick to natural basic colors, such as Black, White, Gray and Brown. I remember when I tried to start building my wardrobe and tried to get color and patterns in their early which was a huge mistake, because as like most men I had not much idea about matching colors :-). However, once I realized this and built on classic colors it become so much easier.

18 Charles May 14, 2010 at 8:01 am

Bookmarked. Fantastic guide!

19 Impulse Magazine May 14, 2010 at 9:08 am

This is something that men struggle with a lot. Putting the right combination of clothing together to make everything work. I think it is a skill to know how to dress good.

20 Shmikey May 14, 2010 at 9:18 am

I think that this may turn some men off, but if you have taste and patience, you can find excellent deals in thrift stores, especially charity related ones. I find what I like to call dead men’s clothes, which are those that are donated by the family after a loved one dies, I know that this seems morbid, but I constantly find quality shirts and suits that still have the dry cleaners tags attached, and if you know what your size is, you can typically find one or two tailored suits a year that are alterable to your fit. A suit at a thrift store can run anywhere from $5 to $25, and a shirt or slacks typically costs less than $5. Even a thrift store that sells high end items, will charge you less than 20% of the original price. My wife is always amazed at my ability to dress properly with my limited clothes, but I stick with neutral colors for my suits and slacks, and liven it up with the shirt and tie.

21 Nick May 14, 2010 at 9:20 am

Outstanding article. This is by far one of the best men’s clothing guides I have seen. Well written and to the point. Keep ‘em coming!

22 jk May 14, 2010 at 9:46 am

I really cant wait for the next one.

23 Adam May 14, 2010 at 10:54 am

I only ask for more pictures demonstrating the difference between two items (ex. what is a chino). I (of course) will Google for an example, but it would be nice to have everything together. I am currently a fashion disaster and truly appreciate the effort put forth to help me straighten out my wardrobe. I read and re-read each wardrobe article try to put into action what I learn. Even my wife has noticed more attention to fashion detail.

Keep up the good work!

24 John May 14, 2010 at 11:59 am

Re: Ben’s comment calling this the “Lemming’s guide to fashion”

I work in advertising where people dress much more fashionably or trendy so I can see where he is coming from. However I also think it is important to understand the base rules and decide where you will branch out. If you show up dressed completely differently that everyone else you look clueless not brave, if you have the core down and have a couple of interesting details then you’ll get the points for creativity you’re looking for.

The fit is really the most important thing for suits and jackets. I found a set of videos on GQ once where they grab guys off the street and redo them in the same general style but with better quality and it really helps clarify the value of those details.

25 CC May 14, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Will there ever be a “How to Dress in the Summer (Part 2)”? Or have you decided to scrap it?

Keep up the good work.

26 Len L May 14, 2010 at 12:57 pm

I’ll have to second Shmikey’s comment on using Thrift stores. When I went to put on my Navy Blue blazer I bought when I was graduating college (in 1998)…it didn’t quite fit right (to say the least….I was doing the Chris Farley’s “Fat Guy in a Little Guy’s Coat” impersonation). A new Blazer would have run me ATLEAST $100+ in the department stores I looked at.

Went down to the local Goodwill on a whim and found a Navy Blue blazer (100% wool) that fit perfectly for $5….a significant savings I’ve been wanting to pick up a couple of Sports Coat, specifically a casual tweed based one…I’ll be checking the thrift stores first!

As for Ben’s comment regarding “Accountant’s Guide to Fashion”: I am an accountant (a Corporate Controller) and I approve of this article.

27 Mary May 14, 2010 at 1:07 pm

My hubby needs to read this. Expect a new reader soon. thanks.

28 Ty May 14, 2010 at 2:19 pm

This is a great series. Looking forward to the next segment because I love hats!!!

29 Jonathan R. Baker May 14, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Excellent series. I have printed these off for easy reference. I am looking forward to the next installment!

30 Matthew May 14, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Great article! Looking forward to part 3. Would like to hear some ideas on outdoor apparel. What spring, fall, and winter items should be in my wardrobe?

31 Brian May 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Great job as always Antonio!

Re: Ben’s comment. It’s about style not fashion.

32 John Wright May 14, 2010 at 5:54 pm


Thanks for the great article. Do you have any recommendations for a graduate student who works in lab with various acids, bases, and stains? I typically wear grubby clothes to work in the lab for that purpose, but when I leave at the end of the day and don’t have time to go home, I need something to change into. Do you have a recommendation of something clothing I could carry in my car or, if this isn’t heresy, in a bag that would be appropriate for going out in the evening.



33 Derek May 14, 2010 at 6:33 pm

No “man” should ever spend $350 on a pair of shoes. Especially when there are millions without ANY shoes. Frugality is manly; putting your money where it’s ACTUALLY needed is manly.

34 Tom May 14, 2010 at 7:39 pm

@ Derek – $350 for a pair of DRESS shoes is tremendous value and is actual more frugal than spending $100 on shoes (assuming you are wearing the shoes frequently). $350 shoes are usually of superior quality and can last in excess of of 5 years with the right amount of maintainence. A pair of $100 shoes cannot be maintained mostly due to the fact they are glued together. In the end you will have to replace $100 shoes annually. So which is being more frugal? Buying quality that will last you a long time or buying garbage that you will need to replace each year?

35 Rob May 14, 2010 at 8:04 pm

When should an article of clothing be replaced? For example, I am starting to see very tiny “pills” on one of my white shirts. I also bought a new shirt and noticed that it was whiter than my other shirts. Is it time to use these to check my oil or am I being too fussy. What of slacks, shoes (repair or replace), jackets, etc…

36 Anton Roder May 14, 2010 at 8:13 pm

I must agree on the quality issue. I’ve always been a bit of a miser when spending on clothing. One of my female friends eventually took me shopping and I ended up with 2 t-shirts and a pair of shoes which cost me more than I usually spend in a year on clothing. The shoes lasted almost 4 years of exclusive, continuous wear. The second of the t-shirts eventually became a bit ratty last year – about 10 years of wear later.

PLEASE include a section on colour selection. I’ve tried to research it, but the advice given is either vague to the point of being useless or conflicting.

A note to those of you with issues about buying cheap clothing versus quality, expensive stuff: Your cheap stuff is most likely made in factory in a third-world country where the workers are underpaid and exploited. The expensive stuff is generally made by qualified craftsmen or well-regulated production lines. (There are definitely exceptions – some major brands are also guilty of exploiting as close to slave labor as you can get in this day and age.)

37 Anton Roder May 14, 2010 at 8:17 pm

A note to John Wright i.r.o. of the lab work. I was a goldsmith for several years, which involves the use of various caustic materials and hot metal. A leather apron will go far towards protecting your clothing. In the four years I did this I don’t think I lost any clothing to either hot metal or acids. The trick is to get the full-body apron that goes around your neck and middle.

38 Antonio May 14, 2010 at 8:57 pm

@Torrey – Thank you Sir! Keep up the great work at Men’s Playbook!

@Blake – Noted and will look to include in a later post.

@Zachary – Make sure to check out

@Paul – Please stay tuned as I’ll be releasing wardrobe article for over 20 professions this summer to include the academic!

@danielkines – I told my wife this was the best compliment I ever received on a post! Thank you!

@uncballzer – I have the same issues and solve it with a dark brown pair of cap toe bluchers with visible stitching that makes them more casual…..but not too casual. Have you considered loafers or saddle shoes?

@The Counselor – Thank you Sir!

@Ben – I am ready to learn sir, please send me a link to your writings!

@Richard – Thanks!

@Chris Mower – Thanks Chris! And loved your recent post on networking – the case study was great and I’m going to look to implement parts into my system!

@Greg M – It took me a while as well

@Tayo – Will do sir!

@Dan Gaston – You are welcome Dan – the blog continues to look great and the new haircut is sharp!

@Sagar Behere – Good point – I’ll look to write something for AOM down the line that gets into more casual clothing as well.

@Keith Brawner – Thank you sir!

@Schmidty – Thank you sir, and I thought about spending more time on color but that’s for another day. Are you on Skype – I would love to hear more about your thoughts on Style and what influenced your series on it.

@Charles – Thank You!

@Impulse Magazine – Exactly!

@Shmikey – Completely Agree!

@Nick – Thanks – Where do you hunt and fish? You have some great info and I especially like your guide on choosing a taxidermist.

@jk – Thank you – I’ll start here soon!

@Adam – I agree, we need more pictures. I actually shoot most of my pics internally as good ones are hard to find. But space is also an issue.

@John – Great Point Sir!

@CC – I think the rules on sequels are that they have to have more action and come within ten years of part 1. But don’t worry, we won’t make you wait….especially since @danielkines might not make it till next summer.

@Len L – I love thrift stores!

@Mary – We need more women like you Mam!

@Ty – Thanks, what types of hats do you love?

@Jonathan R. Baker – Yes, we are on paper now !

@Matthew – Outdoor apparel…I may have to bring in help for that one.

@Brian – Thank you sir!

@John Wright – That’s a hard one, but I would say in your case having a change of clothes in the back of the car, like a soft jacket and nice casual footwear like loafers might work. Don’t fold, that causes wrinkles – instead us a hanger or roll your clothing.

@Derek – Thanks for the comment, but I think buying quality once and taking care of it is being frugal.

@Tom – Agreed

@Rob – The short answer is when it no longer is presentable, but it’s a judgment call. The Duke of Windsor, aka the once King of England, actually had his shirt tails cut and the fabric used to make new cuffs and collars so that he could save his favorite shirts.

@Anton Roder – Another vote for color …………..looks like I have work to do. And great points about quality and the leather apron sir!

39 Jake May 14, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I hate shorts.

40 Eliot Tedcastle May 14, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Excellent article. Alas, I have little chance right now of upgrading my wardrobe from decently casual to polite, presentable, and put-together.

Now, to echo several other comments, how does one dress well in 110 degree weather? Shorts aren’t formal, certainly, but they don’t cause heat-stroke neither.


41 Steve May 14, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Thanks for the great advice! I also need tips for hot, humid weather.
I live in Malaysia where it’s either 85F with 80-90% humidity or raining. Suits are rare, most businessmen wear dress shirts and pants, a tie is very formal and French cuffs are the norm. It’s also common to see sandals worn with slacks and long sleeve shirts.
The advice on quality is very sound! My shoes from the US lasted about 3 months here, then they literally fell apart.
Even laundering is different, most homes only have cold water to sinks, washers etc… and very few dryers, every one hangs them out to dry, so an iron is a necessity.

42 Tim May 15, 2010 at 8:19 am

I just bought a pair of Chucks and am very glad to see they are a good choice.

43 Bruce Dean May 15, 2010 at 8:37 am

While im not in opposition to this artical, its not what i would call manly. No don’t get me wrong a man should be well done up for the enviroment he is in, but I think it would do that in the next version of this, or even to touch up this one a little, you should really stress that its actions and thought, not clothing, that makes a man. Good job on the content though, im sure some men needed help with this.

44 The Baltimore Chop May 15, 2010 at 10:57 am

Oof. Go buy a pair of Chucks? That’s your best advice? I know they’re ‘classic’ and all, but that’s kind of like recommending Turkey for Thanksgiving.

I’m also surprised that you borrowed a photo from Street Etiquette for an article directed at beginners. Those guys are pretty smart dressers, and anyone new to building a wardrobe could easily go wrong using them as inspiration without a comprehensive understanding of fashion, such as Street Etiquette has.

45 Zack May 15, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Wow. Excellent post on an excellent blog.

I’ll throw in a few comments and suggestions.

It’s great reading defenses of thrifting. There is so much to be had with a little work and patience. Though us bigger than average guys, 48Lish, have a rougher go at it, I’ve scored some nice stuff at less one percent of the original price. Some of it was never worn.

In my situation, a store manager, work can include some lifting, carrying and dollying. Yet I wear a coat and tie to work most days. This makes much more sense than a suit because I sometimes have the jacket off for mobility or to cool off. This would be too much uneven wear for the pants part of a suit. Once or twice a week I wear a polo and slacks. Far from being thought of as a stiff, my mostly working class customer base likes the sports coat and tie.

I have found that a dressier appearance is an amplifier of sorts. If I have a good attitude, kind manners and overall respect for people a suit or sports coat enhances my relationship with a person. However, nice dress can serve to make a cantankerous and disagreeable man come off snobby and indifferent. Dressing up helps me be more aware of how I treat people. The more sanctified of us may not need such crutches but I am more fallible.

One more thing on the quantity vs. quality thing. It is possible to strike a middle ground for those of us who can afford to buy neither a large number of quality items or put the few we can afford at risk due to our job description. For example shoes. For some us that can’t afford three or four pairs of Allen Edmonds or Aldens, a nice shoe wardrobe can be built from likes of J & M, Bostonian and Florsheim (I just resoled an Indian made pair a couple of months ago. They look great and others have said so). With proper care coupled with a decent size shoe rotation you can look sharp and avoid having to be worried sick about ruining your one pair of shoes. This will buy you more time to budget for better quality stuff later on. The principle can be applied to suits and sport coats.

46 Bobby May 15, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Re: Bruce Dean

Although I agree with you that it is “actions and thought, not clothing, that makes a man,” first impressions mean everything (sometimes more then your thoughts and actions), and the very first impression you give is with the way you dress. How you dress tells people things that you may or may not want to say about yourself. Pride in ones appearance is losing ground to individuality. Individuality is a good thing, but society will always judge you first by how you look and then, if they give you a chance, by what you do.

47 Bruce Dean May 15, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Re: Bobby

I understnad your point and agree that most people do put alot into a first impression, but i disagree with the action of supporting there first impression based judgement by being a good man dressed sharply. Its supporting a stero type and even if its a positive one, the action in it self of supporitng it is wrong. An example from this very day i can use here is while i was hauling a load of branches to a local dumping gound ( i had no use for them in my appartment, couldent mulch them for a guarden or such) a man infront of me doing much the same thing had 2 large branchs fall out of his truck. I stop, got the branches that had fallen and put them onto the back of my truck, and went to the dump site. While there the man who had lost them erlayer and saw me pick them up came to drop the rest of his lumber. He saw me and kindly thanked me but what was most pleasent about it was that he looked suprised. Im a 18 year old boy whereing a headband made from a tea shirt over a head of to-long curly hair, I have on an slightly to big plad shirt with roll’d up sleeves and a badly fiting white tea shirt under that with a pair of blue jeens. This kinda ragged looking kid took his time to help an older man with some small choir and I really think that did him, and by effect, the world alot more good then a sharply dressed man who looks like he’d do good, doing it. Make people understand that doing good isn’t for certian people but for everyone and i think this world might turn out ok.

48 The Counselor May 16, 2010 at 4:52 am

Re Bruce Dean:

Although I understand your larger point that, in a perfect world, we could all be judged on our character and virtues in an instant, the unfortunate fact of life is that first impressions do matter and will always matter. Just like studying the color patterns of a coral snake will give me certain information about it, if I’m walking down a street and I see a guy wearing saggy pants and a hoodie shuffling towards me, I’m not going to assume that he’s a Rhodes scholar who enjoys sipping peppermint tea while reading Wordsworth to his elderly grandmother. He certainly could be, but instead I’m going to—for good or ill—make the initial judgment that he’s a street punk and, as a result, my wariness around him will increase.

This is not to say that the man in the aforementioned example is any less a worthy human being than the man in a suit or that he doesn’t have valuable contributions to make to the world, but simply that most people aren’t going to take the time to discover who he really is because he has chosen to present an image that sends a certain negative signal. Criticizing this article for giving out fashion advice seems to miss the point of the larger website, which emphasizes a holistic approach to manliness that stems from certain internal values. You could have the purest heart of gold the world has ever seen, but if you dress like a ruffian people aren’t going to give you the chance to reveal it. It may be sad and unfair, but this is life.

49 Bruce Dean May 16, 2010 at 9:11 pm

RE: The Counselor

I suppose Im just subject to the naivete of youth. It was a very good artical as I said in my first post, this sight as a whole is fantasic. Much due to the intellegnet conversation in the comments. Thank you gentlemen.

50 Pipp May 17, 2010 at 8:43 am

A quick note to the tie. I would personally put that in the accessory division. Of course if one is dressed up a tie is the norm but here is something that you cannot truely get away with ‘classic style’. Maybe a little picky but the width and length of ties are a constant changing fashion and although you might not want to go to the extremes of whatever is hot at the moment you should be aware of the current style (not to mention the knot!). This is also an area that after you have a few ‘standard’ patterns you can get a little whimsy in the patterns, but you do have to know when and where is it appropriate to wear them.
You can have a classic suit with a good shirt and nice shoes but you will blow the look with an out of date tie or knot! If you are not sure of what is the current style, watch the news, your average male news reader will be wearing the conservative version of the current fashion.

51 Brucifer May 17, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I often lament that there are so very many like Ben out there who equate dressing well, heck, even dressing halfway decently, as tantamount to being an elitist or else, a fashion slave. It is often people like Ben who cant be bothered to put a clean T-shirt on over their usual ‘uniform’ of sweatpants, backwards baseball cap and sock-less sneakers. Too many in modern society seem to think the more uncouth and boorish one is, the more manly. Those who equate dressing well with not being manly are missing the boat. For the record, my work clothes are usually Battle Dress uniforms. I’d love for someone like Ben to catch me off-duty in my civilian sartorial splendor and have the temerity to call me an “accountant.”

52 Zack May 17, 2010 at 3:49 pm


Here here. Furthermore, dressing well (whatever that entailed) in past years was to convey respect to others as much as an indication of social status. For example, forty-five years ago when people went to the neighbors for cocktails and dinner in a suit, or jacket and tie, was to respect the host. All the love in your heart wouldn’t overcome the perceived disrespect to the host if you showed up in a loin cloth.

53 Zack May 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm


I tend to agree. Furthermore dressing well in previous years was at least as much about respecting others as it was desplaying social status. Most today are preoccupied with avoiding the latter (In dress anyway).

54 Zack May 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm

@All Sorry. Didn’t mean to double post my point. My browser hung up and I though I’d lost the orignal post.

55 Edward May 17, 2010 at 6:06 pm

articles like this one are why the Art of Manliness is on my top five visited sites. Its not often that the internet coughs up something so well written and direct in its approach. There’s tons of blogs that might ramble about mens fashion, but precious few that truly aim to educate.

56 Jeff May 17, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Another great article. I’m really digging this series so far, Antonio!

I’ve got one question, and it’s related to the fit issue. I’m getting into a pretty heavy fitness regimen (well, heavy for me.. ) anyway, I’m setting out to build muscle and lose fat. I’ve got a decent baseline wardrobe (intechangable, tame shirts, slacks, jeans and shoes). What I’m wondering about is when I should go ahead and start getting new clothes? Should I wait until my body’s stable with the new exercise and food plan? Or perhaps get a few new things here and there as it goes, to avoid the poorly-fitting clothes look.

Once again, great articles!

57 Kevin Marsh May 17, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I love the general advice, but would love to see some specific recommendations in terms of brands and retailers to build my wardrobe.

58 The Counselor May 18, 2010 at 4:32 am


I concur with your lamentation and salute you for using the words “uncouth” and “boorish” in an internet comment post.

59 JMan May 19, 2010 at 11:36 am

I’m about 6’1″ with a lanky frame and narrow shoulders. I like slimmer cut clothing; however, the slimmer clothing is usually cut, the shorter the shirts are. As such, my gf always complains that my shirts aren’t long enough.

Anyway – I would really appreicate an article on which clothing labels most appropriately match which body types. Thanks!

60 Dan May 19, 2010 at 11:51 am

They say there are no dumb questions, so here goes. Can I use a suit jacket as a sport coat? I have a suit that the pants got ruined on and I would hate to throw it away.

61 Nigel May 19, 2010 at 5:32 pm

First off great article and one that evry man should read. As I walk around in public places I couldn’t even imagine the number of men who would benefit from this info.

One suggestion would be maybe a section on leather jackets(I don’t think I’ve seen one in this series yet). Few things are as classic American as a broken in leather jacket but there is definitely a right and wrong way to wear them. Thanks for the article.

62 Nataraj Hauser May 23, 2010 at 12:34 pm

My current life (professional photographer) seldom requires a suit, though I do own two. More often I pair neat black or blue jeans with a sport coat, of which I have several (black, brown, navy, and tweed). Shoes and shirt vary according to the situation: black or brown dress, black or brown creeper (Dr. Martins), or black Converse All-Stars. My best score was a vintage coat (seems to be from the ’60′s) in a sedate brown and navy simple plaid (it’s sedate, really). I could never pull it off as a dress coat, but paired with jeans and a tight navy tee it rocks and I draw routine compliments. It’s unorthodox style is quirky and fun. Women friends love it, and even my wife has realized it is not “grandpa wear”. I have a similar but more ordinary jacket I can pair with a button down shirt and fine slacks if needed. I’m fortunate to be a fairly true to size 38 regular, and fit, so off the rack (even second hand) works with few alterations required.

As for personal style, I allow my choice to be guided by feedback from friends I respect. I have shed all logo shirts. I choose form fitting pants to show off my fit, dance and martial arts honed body. And, in a choice not for everyone, I wear a kilt, generally paired with black lace up boots (think SWAT team style), tall socks scrunched down (shows off my strong calves!), tight tee shirt, and if needed, a well broken in black motorcycle jacket. My long curly hair is worn loose. ( Women who comment L-O-V-E it and I don’t care about others. For the inevitable rude/drunk comments I keep an array of witticisms on the tip of my tongue to fire back. “What’s worn under my kilt? Nothing. I assure you it is all in fine working order.” LOL

63 Johnnyboy May 24, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Great article. From a ma that doesn’t have much time this blog is a great way to get some quick advice on important “man” topics

64 Michael May 25, 2010 at 2:18 pm

What a fantastic source of information, just came across it today! I’ve struggled through life with clothing, either buying an entire “look” as seen in a photo or display mannequin, or sticking with just one clothing designer and mixing and matching based on their seasonal color choices, much like geranimal’s for adults, lol.

I’m so Lost about shorts and short styles these days. I’m not one wear them, but now living by the beach it’s casual weekend attire, and I tend to stand out in a group when I have long pants on. I’ve gone out shopping, and while I’m 5″9′, it seems like every seller makes them so long they break below or at the knee, be it a casual pocked “painter’s pant” look for shorts, or a finer cotton short, and again the style seems to be with pockets on the sides. I’m of an age were the gansta in da hood look would not be an appealing view. Any direction would be most appreciated. Keep up the great work!

65 S.V.Aldred May 28, 2010 at 8:43 am

Nice article, but I have to point out that in England we consider striped ties to be vulgar if they don’t carry connotations (that is to say school, college or club ties). Polka dot, plain and tastefully patterened (paisley for instance) are the only real choices here.

66 mke May 29, 2010 at 2:28 am

Great articles, what I always struggle with is that I have a skin condition (ichthyosis vulgaris) that lends itself to sever dander and tend to avoid dark clothing especially in winter. What would you recommend in the power/formal section as an acceptable substitute for dark colors?

67 Dan May 31, 2010 at 12:12 am

Antonio – thank you for an excellent series. I’d like to ask how you feel about 3-piece suits (i.e. those with a matching vest). I’m 31, tall, lightly complexioned, and fall somewhere in between your descriptions of a “Business Owner” and the “Constant Professional”. I wear suits much more regularly than “occasional”, but do not have to wear them every day and greatly prefer a more upscale casual look when it’s not required. As a consequence, I have a wardrobe that leans heavily on the Constant Professional, but takes down a couple notches the number of suits and bumps up a couple notches the number of jeans I have.

But where in the style or formality dimension do you feel a 3-piece suit would fall? Is it overkill? Is it from a bygone era or is it really only appropriate for formal businessmen in London, politicians in Congress, or bankers on Wall Street?

I spend most of my time inside government, non-profit, and high-tech industries, though my work does vary among several industries.

68 boomer babe May 31, 2010 at 8:05 pm

ooooooh I love a man in a suit when appropriate. I can’t stand it when a man is overdressed though. My pet peeve is this; I CANT STAND PINK ON A MAN it’s the color of little girls. Also, piercings anywhere, has GOT TO GO. in ancient times, its a symbol of slavery or submission…thats why i HATE IT WHEN BLACK MEN DO IT (im black) ‘brotha,arent you a slave” if you arent, DONT PIERCE.

69 Adrian June 4, 2010 at 4:46 am

In addition to good taste in clothes, I believe it is imperative that the visual image is not lessened by poor posture. Deportment and carriage enable the image to be properly projected. How many times has a good appearance be let down by a slovenly walk or slouching disposition?

Also, diction, pace of speaking and vocal timbre play an important role in enhancing the overall image.

Both aspects are unfortunately lost in today’s society which seems hell bent on striving for mediocrity, anonymity and cretin-adoration. Sadly, this is as much prevalent in women’s as well as men’s culture.

Great site, by the way.

70 Matt Rosser June 16, 2010 at 10:08 pm

I didn’t spend time reading through all the comments, but as I was scanning the section on semi-casual shoes it said to make sure your shoes get air keep out mold and help the smell. One suggestion I got that works great is putting your shoes in a grocery store plastic sack, then putting them in the freezer over night. The temperature is supposed to kill the bacteria that causes smell. I thought I was going to have to get rid my brown leather Rockport’s because they stunk so bad, but the freezer recommendation worked!! Hope this helps some brothers out there! Great website!

71 Mike August 9, 2010 at 8:38 pm

I found a great deal on ties the other day, and I am trying to match a particular tie with a nice, colored dress shirt. Any suggestions on what kind of shirt you would match with this tie:

(It is the first tie shown)

72 Ryan August 22, 2010 at 4:31 am

Couldn’t have said it better myself. I am actually in Hong Kong as I write this, as just picked up a very nice, fully canvased, made to order 100% wool suit. Grey with a light stripe. 3 Custom made to man shirts, blues with contrasting colllars and french cuffs with my monogram on them. And 3 Made to man Shirts with standard 2 button barrel cuff, matching.

I fell in love with made to order suits in Iraq where I had a few made up, but I will say the ones in Hong Kong are MUCH nicer. great stiching, you can feel the full canvas inside. And even my name embroidered on the inside along with my order number, that will tell them who i am and my measurements incase i need something made and shipped home.

Not saying it’s worth coming here for just a suit, but if you happen to find yourself in Kowloon Hongkong, email me and I’ll give you the name of a great tailor.

Also the Suit and 6 Shirts came to $550 USD…..which is actually a little high for the area, but I like him, and he does great work ( if you shop around you can get the same for about $425/$500)

73 Kieran Rogers July 25, 2013 at 11:35 pm

I think that briefs and socks deserve a mention.

74 saleem awan March 15, 2014 at 10:37 am

I really am very impressed by these articles on how to build your wardrobe. Actually, I learnt alot from your site about style and fasion. Keep it up

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