In today’s episode I talk to Antonio Centeno, founder and owner of Real Men Real Style as well as the resident style expert at the Art of Manliness. We discuss men’s style, why it’s important, and things men can do to improve their personal style.
- Antonio’s style philosophy
- The biggest style mistakes men make
- How to dress well on a budget
- The items every man needs in his wardrobe
- Which style rules men follow too religiously
- And much more!
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Special thanks to Keelan O’Hara for editing the podcast!
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another episode of the “Art of Manliness” podcast. Well some of our most popular content on the artofmanliness.com is our style content. A lot of our readers are young men who are making that transition from college to the professional life, so they want to know how they upgrade their wardrobe to something more professional, mature something more masculine. And we also have a lot of older guys who maybe didn’t get any advice on how to dress professionally.
So they are working for that sort of content on the Art of Manliness and the men who has written most of our style content is Antonio Centeno. He is the founder of two, I guess men’s style businesses. The first is “A Tailored Suits”, an online custom suit provider and then he also has realmenrealstyle.com which is a mens’ style advice site where he provides content on how men can improve their styles as well as provides classes and consultations, one on one with men on how they can improve their personal appearance and style.
Today we’re going to have Tony on the podcast and we’re going to talk about how Tony got into mens’ wear. How he became kind of stylish as an expert in mens’ style and we’re also going to answer some common questions that men have about improving their style.
Alright Tony, well welcome to the Art of Manliness podcast.
Antonio Centeno: Well Brett, thank you very much, I’m very happy to be here.
Brett: I’m shocked that it took us this long to get you on the podcast, I’m glad we could finally do this.
Tony: Yeah, you know for some reason I just thought that you didn’t like me.
Brett: I didn’t, I don’t, I mean. I don’t like you Tony.
Tony: That’s understood, that’s understood. I mean, I think I did go to that school down south, so.
Brett: Alright Tony, we go back a long way. I mean you were with us since like beginning of the site and I’m sure lot of people who are listening have been following and reading articles in the Art of Manliness as well as your content on Real Men Real Style. But for those of you who are just sort of new to the site, new to the podcast what’s your story? You’re like a primo men’s style expert, how did you become that, the man, the legend you are today?
Tony: Well first up, I’m a regular guy just like anyone else out there and I think it’s very interesting how on the web and nowadays with all of this stuff that we have got going on, how you can become anyone that you want to. I don’t think I started off wanting to become a men’s style expert. In fact I started off, if I go back I won’t go back too far but let’s start graduated from Cornell College, went into the Marine Corps. I wanted to be a jet pilot and I’m flying T34s and I blew out my sinuses, I went straight to the infantry, the Marine Corps in their wisdom said hey, let’s send him to 31 out at Camp Horno in Camp Pendleton that’s out just near San Diego in California and after numerous deployments and returning from a sandy vacation known as Iraq at the time.
I decided to take some time-off, went lived in Ukraine where I was at the time dating a woman now who is my wife and we have three beautiful children. But I ran a non-profit over there, released I knew nothing about money. My background was actually in biology and philosophy and I had no business background so I went to business school at the University of Texas and upon graduating from the University of Texas got a job up in Wisconsin, was promptly fired and realized that I don’t want to work for anybody and this is a great time now that my wife is pregnant with our second child and I’m bringing them here to the United States, just start a company.
I started my clothier “A Tailored Suit”. That was late 2007 early 2008, started putting out content on the web because it was really me teaching myself about men’s style. I had a number of good partners who were enabling me to make really good, very high quality, custom suits and I was trying this new idea of being able to build them and have them delivered via the web. I’d take your measurements and I think that’s about the time that you contacted via this very ugly blog which is actually still there and you just like left a comment. I am like “Who is this guy?? Okay, it’s not a spambot, so I reached out to you and we just started writing together. I continued to run A Tailored Suit I sold on the custom clothier. But over the last couple of years we have really transformed the business and we have found that there is a huge hole, a niche, a need to simply teach men about style and that’s where I am at now. So we’re using video, we’re using audio, oh no we need to do better with the audio. But video wasn’t my primary means, I’ve also written between you know writing for you, writing for my own blog and just putting out content across the web. We have got like a thousand articles on men’s style, over 300 videos.
By throwing out that wide net, we have been able to build an audience of men who are very interested in being able to use style and the way they dress and present themselves to basically live up to the man they know themselves that they know that they can be. I think that’s what really drives me, as I look at–. The clothing is cool but I don’t stay up late at night thinking about dress shirts. I don’t sleep in a suit contrary to what some people might think. When it comes down to it I’m a very regular guy. I’ve got three young kids, I spend most of my time with them and my wife and I like to think the clothing is just a tool that we use to be able to send the message we want to send. So that’s what I’m at now.
Brett: So, okay alright. So let’s recap, you were a marine, then you went to the Ukraine, I remember you mentioned sometime in one of conversations you actually like drove across the United States on a motorcycle.
Tony: I did.
Brett: Okay, alright. So you did that and then you got fired from your job in Wisconsin. I mean why did you decide like custom suiting, I mean did you have like a style background at all, were you like one of those guys who are like you know, you’ve always been interested in men’s fashion and style?
Tony: I need to probably put up some pictures of me before, I mean it was really bad. I was in the oversized T-shirts, everything for some reason, I’m 5.9’ 170 pounds and I thought extra large was my size. So it was pretty bad Carpenter jeans and I’m not a carpenter but it I came down to when I was in Ukraine I was getting married back in 2004 and I just went out and looked for a suit. I could not find anything and I tried on my first Italian suit and I was amazed at how it made me feel, and then what happened is I could never find that when a price point that I was willing to pay. That Italian suit was $3000 and I wasn’t going to pay that for not really needing a suit except for my wedding.
Fast forward a year from 2005, I’m going out to Cornell University, they were flying me out for this program that they were having and I needed to look that I was going at a Ivy League school, I’m flying into New York city and all I had left over was this Russians suit that I bought when I was in Ukraine. It fit me horribly and I ended up finding a clothier just wander, I mean this guy was–, I met him up on the street I remember in Kiev, Ukraine and I got a friend that introduced me to him and I was amazed at what he could do for $1500. And I thought you know this needs to be more readily available. I read about Mark Cuban buying a jet online and I just thought if Mark Cuban is willing to buy jet online, I think guys will be willing to buy really nice suits online.
So I took that idea, went to business school kind of forgot about it until I’m in a business school in Texas and I go through the same custom clothier experience. I was going to go down the consulting, investment banker path, I’m very happy I did not, but during those interviews I needed a nice suit, a set of suits. I had some custom made and again I met a guy who had a 4th grade education was from India and he was making about half a million dollars a year.
I was like you are doing what? And I am about to sell my soul into investment banking. You are making this kind of money and you have this type of education and now this guy had built for 40 years he had built a client base, that’s how he was able to make that kind of money and he was only working six months out of the year. So I thought can I accelerate that? I think it was, was it Roosevelt that said “A man with a highschool education can steal a rail car but with the college of education could steal the railroad”.
Brett: Yeah, yeah.
Tony: I always thought I am like ok, I can take my business education and go into an industry which is just full of very, I mean they are good people but many people are myopic. They are very myopic in the sense they don’t want to learn anything new, they want to do it the way it’s always been done and that’s great. But let’s flip it on its head.
After I was fired, again I put the ideas to the side it’s like you trip over the truth so many times but you just keep picking yourself up and go on like nothing happened. Eventually when I got fired from the company within a couple of months of working there I am like you know let’s start a business. I have had this idea, I talked to my wife about it and she said let’s see who is doing it. We saw a company over in England doing something similar but they were the only ones I could find searching on the web for a week. I’m like let’s try to do this except do it in the U.S. and that was how “A Tailored Suit” was born and it still exists.
Brett: That’s really comforting to know that you are just like this regular guy, you dressed in baggy t-shirts and carpenter jeans. Alright, Tony you kind of mentioned this a little bit earlier in your into telling us about your story but can you tell us like your guiding philosophy when it comes to men’s style?
Tony: Alright yeah I can do this Brett. You know I have written probably 40 or 50 articles for you. So anyone who wants to dive into that they need to go check them out. I think I hit on it in the style pyramid and really the three things, it is not the style pyramid by the way but it is, your clothing should be timeless, it should be functional and it should enhance whatever it is you are seeking to do.
So I will break into each of those. Timeless I really stress on because I want men to buy quality clothing that is going to last them and they are going to get their money’s worth. Whenever somebody goes out and they make a major investment, let’s say in automobile people break it out. They look at ok I am going to spend $25000 on this truck and I am going to get this many years out of it. I am going to be getting a truck because I haul stuff all over the place, so I am going to get a lot of use out of it. I am going to be–, you know so you break it out and that makes sense.
Well I think many people should do this with clothing. So instead of going to Walmart or Target, which are both fine stores and there are some great things there, but oftentimes people go straight to price. They don’t think well they end up not ever feeling good, the clothing never makes them look good and it really does not serve the purpose that they buy it for. So they end up going through really disposable clothing.
The idea is to buy something that is going to work for you, that is going to look great and a quick way to show this is let’s look at the economics of a suit. If you go out there and buy a $1000 suit that you wear a hundred times and every time you wear you feel great and you look like a million bucks, comes out to 10 dollars a wear.
Now if you go out there and buy a $500 suit or let’s go $100 suit and it feels like a $100 suit. It makes you look like you are wearing a $100 suit. You only wear that whenever–, just because you have to sometimes. You end up only wearing that 5 times before you throw it out. That was $20 a wear. So that suit was actually more expensive. I try to really stress that’s why you should buy timeless.
Then think about function. I use the example Brett of the article I wrote for you about dressing for cold weather. A lot of times, I used to climb radio communication towers when I was in college. I got paid 20 bucks an hour which I could get paid 7 or 8 dollars an hour flipping burgers but if you climb these big telecommunication towers and risk your life hey, you get 20 bucks. So that was my deal. When I would do that I would wear clothing that had…this was in Iowa during the winter and it was cold up on those radio communication towers. But you need to be able to move and I remember having to buy clothing that cloistered the body, I would layer it and I would also make sure it had high arm holes, the jeans that it fit me well in the crotch area so that I had full freedom of movement. And I feel a lot of guys when they are going out there and buying clothing they are not looking for how is this going to function? Is this really going to serve the purpose?
So if you are in sales you need to buy clothing which conveys trust. If you are a technician or you are a blue collar you work with your hands, you want to buy clothing that protects your body. Whether it be work boots, whether it be a suit, buy clothing that is functional for what you need it to be functional for.
Last thing is always look for clothing that is going to enhance and make you look better. So that one of the reasons I always tell guys if you can try to wear a sports jacket, always throw a sports jacket. And you need to get used to wearing it, you have to practice wearing a sports jacket. But there is nothing that a man can wear that is going to make his shoulders look a little bit bigger, making him look a little bit taller, that is going to trim up his waist area and it is going to make him just look more masculine.
So if you are going out, you are meeting other guys and you want to simply send the message “Hey, I am a good potential. I have got your back. I am a strong healthy guy and you want to form a good business relationship”, a sports jacket. If you are meeting a woman for the first time and you want to turn this into a long term relationship you are sending the message that, “Hey I am a provider”. These are very subliminal things but they are things that people do pick up on. There is just tons of scientific evidence behind this.
Brett: That’s one of the things that why I reached out to you so many years ago was that philosophy, because I could tell from the content that you are writing that it was just very practical. I feel like there is a lot of men’s style blog, there is even like–, there is tons now. Everyone it’s just like everyone is starting a men’s style blog. But a lot of them I don’t know, they just don’t seem very functional or practical. They really get fastidious about these like small details and it never resonated with me. But I just love how practical your philosophy is. If you are going to be out in cold weather look good but the first thing you should think about it is, is this going to keep you warm?
Tony: Exactly. So let’s get down to the fabrics, understand the difference between wool, between cotton, between synthetics and how they insulate differently. It is not so much about the clothing. It is about you being able to do your job and not falling over because you wore too much clothing that did not let you breathe and you over heat. Those things happen. Many of us have seen those things happen. And or that you sweat so much and then you get a chill because you strip it off and next thing you know you are losing too much heat.
Maybe it is some of my background in the Marine Corps but the marines besides being the storm troopers of the US military and being a bit [laughing] I would say a little bit war fanatical of the many of the other services, is they care about the way they dress. I was a staff officer with an inventory battalion. We would go do inspections I remember on Friday nights all the young and listed marines are going out. They were dressed to the knights.
These guys everything fit them right, they were sharp, they were going out. You could see the guys leaving and stuff and I would be on duty a lot of times on a Friday night, you just see them going out. They did care and they knew that it made a difference, that by wearing that type of clothing it would enhance their overall physique. The guys they dress sharp, they would make that connection. Putting forth this effort would result in well having a little bit more luck that evening.
Brett: [Laughing] I am also amazed, you have done some pretty manly things. Marines, motorcycle, I did not know you worked on giant antenna in the freezing Iowa weather, that’s pretty manly too, that’s impressive.
Brett: [laughing] Alright, Tony you have consulted and coached I’m sure at this point thousands of men about men’s style. What are the biggest style mistakes you see men making?
Tony: So the biggest one is and you can go look and you can see this in the comments whenever we post some things, somebody is always taking the time to let us know that they don’t care. If you really don’t care why are you even leaving a comment? I think if you don’t care the apathy, you know to me really that sense is you don’t really care about yourself. This isn’t about the clothing, it is about you giving yourself the best shot to succeed. I don’t care if you have got the Harvard MBA in your back pocket, nobody sees that if you dress like a hoodlum.
It is just something I want, that’s the biggest thing because if a guy understands and if he cares, he is going to find a way. And the same way if you are hungry you are going to find a way to feed yourself. You are going to make a sandwich, you are going to cook yourself a lasagna, you are going to go out, you are going to find a way to feed yourself. That’s probably the first thing is you have got to care. Now specifically what I notice is that most men wear clothing that’s way too big. I did this.
The vast majority, we do this because we are in a society. If you go back a hundred years most people they had their clothing made for them. It was just common, it was less expensive than buying that expensive clothing that was premade. Let’s move a hundred years now into the future all of a sudden that is complete opposite and most of the clothing is made to fit as many body types as possible. As a result we wear things that are just not made for us. They are made to fit as many people and it looks bad. Probably I would say if I was to give one tip, if I was to tell people one thing that they could do to change this is to learn the name of their tailor. And why this is important is if you know the name of your tailor then you have got a relationship with him. You are going in there, you are engaging with him, you are taking him your clothing to get adjusted, and it is such a small price to pay for really improving the way.
You can take a $100 suit, get it tailored, adjusted and if its made with decent material, it is going to look better than a $1000 suit that has never been adjusted.
Brett: Yeah I have learned to do that. Whenever I buy things off the rack now if it is just like a dress shirt or a pair of pants, to right away take it to, I don’t have like a fancy tailor but there are just like little shops around Tulsa right where you can get things adjusted. It is amazing. It is like 10, 15, 20 dollars and it just makes all the difference. Your shirt fits better, it’s not that baggy looking thing, it looks more athletic. It is just amazing what that extra 10 or 15 dollars can do.
Brett: Alright so big mistakes are just not caring and wearing stuff too big. I think it is a very American thing too. You don’t really see that problem so much in Europe. I don’t think or in other countries. Yeah wearing stuff big, we like to do things big here in America, right?
Tony: Yeah that’s part of it. I also just think it is we are also products of our environment. I mean try eating healthy in the United States, it is very difficult. I have got three children. We try to feed them at home and we try to feed them healthy food all the time but we are bombarded by all of these get this latest style, get this–. The fashion industry and I do make a distinction between style and fashion. Fashion’s job is to try to sell you something every season whether it be a new hat, a new pair of sneakers, a new pair of jeans, the coolest belt, they are trying to and it goes to many other things.
Think about that with tools. Many of us have tools, we go out there and we are buying all the new coolest looking tools. We do this for our cars so it doesn’t just apply to clothing. It comes back to that principle of finding timeless, functional pieces that enhance you.
Brett: Awesome, alright so you mentioned just knowing your tailor as a simple style upgrade. Any other tips that men can do to upgrade their personal style?
Tony: They can start to set up systems in their life and you are going to hear me hit on this a lot. So you know I have got my courses – “The Style System”, “A man’s guide to timeless style”. I find that whenever you make a commitment and you start to take action and you for the book, I think is “Habits”, it’s by what’s his name Duhigg.
Brett: Duhigg, yeah I did a video about it, actually.
Tony: Great book. And you remember part of changing habits is understanding how we change. Imagine Brett if you woke up and you’re just telling me that you had Gus was sick I mean everything probably went out of whack because you are not getting sleep. When the kid is sick it just throws all of your systems out the door because getting sleep and sleeping through the night is a system. I mean you could sleep during the day but we choose as a society oftentimes to sleep from 10 O’clock at night till 6 O’clock in the morning, solid 8 hours, not everyone gets it but we try.
If you have a sick kid that doesn’t apply, they are throwing up in the middle of the night. You are up checking the temperature every single hour, your sleep system is wrenched. We do this to ourselves all the time because we have no system in how we dress ourselves. We need to set up those systems, you need to lay out your clothing the night before. It sounds simple but if you do that, what are you going to do if your dress clothing is all laid out the night before, your shirt is already ironed, your suit is pressed, your shoes are shined, everything there is ready, are you going to go fumble through your closet in the dark and try to find clothing that just looks bad on you. No you are going to go on the simple path which is to wear the clothing that you have got laid out.
Brett: Alright so systems. I know you love systems, we talked about systems.
Tony: I love systems.
Brett: Yeah Tony loves systems, let me tell you guys Tony loves systems. [laughing] Everytime we get on the phone he is always telling about his new system that he is developing. It is actually been inspiring because I have tried to implement some systems in my own life that have helped me.
Alright Tony so are there any like style rules that you think are followed too religiously because I know if you go into some of the style forms like Reddit, there is like a Reddit menswear form there. You can see people get very zealous about some style rules. Are there any ones that you think just like ok you guys are taking this way too seriously, it is not that set in stone or do you think most of them are appropriate, that you should be that zealous about them?
Tony: The number one is whenever you sit down and you have to unbutton your jacket [laughing] could you believe that [laughing].
Brett: Yeah for those of you who don’t know, Tony did a series of videos with me when he came through Tulsa a few months ago and he left his jacket button when he sat down and just like every comment–.
Tony: I was overwhelmed by your manliness.
Brett: Yeah you were so overwhelmed by my moustache you forgot to unbutton your jacket. [laughing] But everyone on YouTube was just like oh, you need to–, that was just so jarring that you didn’t unbutton your suit jacket. So is that one of those rules or you are just like “OK guys there are bigger fish to fry”.
Tony: I think most of the rules out there, rules are guidelines and if you have got a 4 wheel drive truck and you have got to get from point A to point B and you know as–, let’s say we have got a zombie apocalypse going on. You watch “The Walking Dead” Brett?
Brett: You know I haven’t. I have been wanting to do it, it is just I haven’t had time to get into it.
Tony: I have to admit that’s probably one of my guilty pleasures on Netflix but there is this part–, I have always watched it. They like show one side of the highway and there is all these burnt out wrecked cars and the other side of the highway is completely clean. Now rules are meant to be followed, but if I had a zombie apocalypse going on I will tell you I will not be driving on the other side of the road. [laughing] That is one thing I love about when you travel, whenever I go back to –, I was in India or Ukraine or a lot of places where people really drive crazy, they don’t follow like rules are there for other people I think is the philosophy of them.[laughing]
Rules are there as a general guideline to get you started. But if you understand the rules then you can oftentimes go through and break it especially if you have got a bit of confidence. But I would say one thing that I think people are too stuck on, here especially in North America, the United States is gory and spending time in Europe, other parts of the world it is perfectly fine to wear a couple extra rings, to wear a necklace, ear rings.
This is just something–, every time I post about it people just go crazy that you are only supposed to wear one ring and people zero in on these things. I would say that that’s and it always makes me smile and its good. I love writing about it because I always get lots of comments but I would say gory is something that guys get a little bit too fanatical on. Just because you wear a ring on one finger does not really send any signal.
Brett: I think it is funny too and you have talked about this before like with your style pyramid, that a lot of, what I have noticed too just interacting with readers and following the comments on your blog post is that so many men when they are getting into like they want to improve their style the first thing they do is they go into like these little small details. Ok what sort of pattern do I wear with this suit fabric? But they are not even thinking about looking does your suit fit well? Does the suit even look good on your body frame?
The only thing they care about is these little small details and I think that is going to make all the difference but without having that nice solid base of clothing that fits well, that serves its function right for the purpose you are wearing it and there is loose side of the big picture I guess is what I’m trying to say.
Tony: No and just to equate it to an article that you just put out which actually just made me smile because I have this on one of my boards and I have had it here for about a month now is the Eisenhower matrix of 1, 2, 3 and 4. Most things that are being written about on the web are 3s and 4s. People are getting, for anyone that doesn’t know just go back and check out the Art of Manliness and you will understand what we are talking about. But basically people are focusing on what seems to be urgent and it is not important. You know those little details they are like 1 percent affecters or it’s like 0.2 percent.
Focus on fit, focus on fabric and the quality of what you are wearing and focus on the style. You focus on those three things, boom you have got 80 percent. You have passed and everything else is just extra.
Brett: Alright let’s get little more specific here. I’m sure this is a common question that you get and there is people who write tons of blog post about this sort of question. Question is what are the pieces of clothing that every man should have in their wardrobe? I’m sure this is causing a lot of debate but you just want to have general use go to wardrobe that for any occasion you are good to go what should you have?
Tony: Ok the first thing is you need to have a suit. You’ll hear this and I know some guys will say, “Well I only wear the suit one time a year.” When you wear it one time a year you are wearing it because it’s probably something pretty important, someone has died, someone is getting married. If you are ever going to look good this is when you need to look good.
Make sure you practice wearing that suit. Just putting on a suit does not make you look good. You need to practice wearing it and you need to make sure it fits, that it looks good. Every year you put it on make sure moths haven’t eaten through it. You make sure to seal it properly but have one suit. I don’t care if you are a master, we have talked about this I think in one of the articles I mean you may be a plumber and you may make tons of money. Yeah, you don’t have to impress anybody but you know what your little girl when she gets married, you want to look good because you are going to be there at that wedding and you don’t want to embarrass her in the photos when she looks at that. Focus on that one suit and everything that goes with it, have a nice crisp, simple white shirt that fits you well.
Have shoes, just go with a pair of classic black oxfords. The suit color – you can go with navy or charcoal grey works better for probably most men. Navy is nice it can make a man look a little bit younger. So if you are 18 to 22 years of age and you have got a baby face perhaps just go with charcoal grey, don’t go with navy. So that is the first thing.
Next have a pair of jeans that look really good on you. This could be something where you go in and you speak with someone that you trust and have them look at you, but a dark pair of denim is you are going to go for because you can dress it up, you can dress it down. Focus on that fit, maybe try sizing down just a little bit. I’m not talking about going with skinny, super skinny jeans here, that’s an abomination.
If you are used to wearing really loose jeans, maybe wear the regular or the classic and see what it looks like on you. Focusing on getting a good fit, make sure that they are not worn, make sure that they are dark and you are going to be able to use them in lot of different ways.
Now let’s talk about a sports jacket. A simple sports jacket, go with something in brown, go with something in blue. Again make sure it fits you, that it works well and right there that is going to go with your jeans, you could dress it up by getting also a pair of dress slacks. But I’m not going to say you have to have those. But if you are going to go out with some friends or you have got a let’s say for a wedding you have got a reception dinner that you have been invited to, well all of a sudden you are really able to wear those nice jeans with that sports jacket.
You want to have also a couple nice collared dress shirts that just fits you well, that you have taken and gone and adjusted. You can go to places like Target and you can find some nice ones. You are going to need to take them to a tailor, it is usually made with a bit more billowing. But maybe you can find a slim fit if you are a bit slim. If you are a bit larger of a guy that does not mean you have to wear your clothing loose. Believe me being a large guy I have written the book on it, wearing big clothing is never–. We have got a great resource over at the Art of Manliness as well so go check it out. But wearing all that loose clothing does not hide the fact that you are a large guy. It just makes you look like you are a large guy with no sense of style. Get it trimmed up, go to your tailor and look like you are large and in charge versus honestly fat and sloppy.
Moving on from there – shoes. Invest in a pair of– find something that works for you but something that is a step up from the $50 or $20, you know don’t running shoes. If you are not running or you are not working out, try to avoid the running shoes. Find a pair of casual leather shoes that look good, these don’t have to be–. I mean usually I throw out dress boots or Bluchers or Derbys or saddle shoes or a pair of loafers. Those are all fine but find something that at least is made from leather and that has a more presentable look to it. Don’t wear your running shoes you’re your jeans and your t-shirt around town.
I mean you can wear that, that’s great working around the house but if you are going out look to upgrade it. Try to throw on a collared shirt. Polos are nice but there are various degrees of Polos and I am going to say having one nice polo that is made from a little bit more finer fabric. If you need to get an example go in and look at the difference between an old navy polo that is made from a very low quality fabric and those are fine for wearing around the house but you want to go look at one that’s made by a high end menswear company, a few brands that are decent – Ralph Lauren they have got the iconic polo out there. Then Nautica is a fine brand as well. Go look at those and look at the difference in the actual weave of the fabric and that is what you are aiming for.
So we have talked about the jeans, we have talked about a polo, we have talked about at least three nice dress shirts, stick with whites and blues, very simple, very interchangeable. Don’t go with hot pinks and all these other colors, don’t go with black those are all casual and then those are fine. But they are not part of that core wardrobe that we are talking about.
Brett: Awesome, OK, guys listening to this and say ok I need to do this but I have a limited budget. Maybe like he’s in college right or he’s just starting out on life, any advice to these guys who have a limited budget that they can’t go out and buy all of this all at once. What can they do to build a wardrobe like this?
Tony: They can do a Google search for the Art of Manliness – How to dress like a million dollars on two hundred dollars. [laughing] that’s great.
But I will go into a little bit detail there. One we talk about thrifting, going in and finding amazing finds and not everything in thrift stores is used. Oftentimes you have just–, someone that had a whole bunch I mean you have a state sales that come in. Literally a guy passed away and he had like 20 dress shirts that were still wrapped in the packaging that were just donated and these are $100 dress shirts going for two dollars. There is a great website called “Thrift Store Runway”. Again and again and again I see people assembling amazing outfits for less than $50 and that includes the shoes.
So let’s talk about the shoes. You can go into a thrift stores and you can find a gently used pair of Allen Edmonds, Alladin, a lot of higher end brands and you can send them back to the company and have them rebuilt for a hundred dollars. So you get a $500 pair of dress shoes for a hundred bucks.
Moving on to your trousers, keep those simple, focus on the fit. This is usually an area that you can go with an El-cheapo brand Lee, Levi’s these both make fine. Lee just came out with a really nice modern series. Levi’s has a number and Levi’s has kind of lowered the rise, so you got to be a little bit younger of a man. They don’t really have anything that midsized but you can easily spend 30-40 bucks find them on sale at J.C.Penny’s and boom, you have taken care of your jeans.
Also don’t be afraid to go to Target and look at some of the slacks have them then taken in. Now where are you going to want to spend your money and spend a lot more time looking is going to be something like the sports jacket. That’s a bigger ticket item, it is worth spending the investment but you know what many of us look like our fathers, we look like our uncles because we share the same genetics. Well, you know what ask that stylish uncle who doesn’t wear his clothing much, worthless stuff and say, “Hey, you have any clothing that maybe you have got stored up, you have got boxed away in a storage unit?” Don’t be afraid to ask people. You would be surprised what’s out there. I had one gentleman on my e-mail list e-mail me that he basically had an uncle open up a storage unit and he had just like five boxes of amazing clothing. Yeah half of it was kind of dated to this 1970s but the other half was perfect. And even that stuff, he even started wearing some hit 70s stuff saying well you know it really gave me a bit of flair and he is having a little bit of luck out there with the ladies.
The point I’m saying guys is don’t let money, I have a couple excuses down and I think we have been talking about this communal problems that guys and money is one of the biggest problems that guys throw out there. But I think it is a lack of creativity and it is not just–. Look at Robert Rodriguez, his first film “El Mariachi” have you heard the story about that?
Brett: I think I have but I have forgotten about it.
Tony: $6000 he made that movie.
Brett: That’s impressive.
Tony: Yeah and he raised that money, and he made about a million dollars in the Mexican market. He made that movie because he just got friends and family to be the actors. He used ketchup as blood and he basically volunteered himself as a summer to take pills and give away plasma and that’s how he raised all the money. But you know what he did it and he got creative because he wanted it bad enough. So if you want to improve yourself don’t–, forget about the clothing. It is not about the clothing, it is about understanding what is your why and where do you want to be in life and understand that clothing is simply one way to enable. It is one of those multipliers that will enable you to be able to get your foot in the door at that bank that you want to work at and you don’t want to just work at, you want to manage. And use the clothing to dress like what they expect a future manager to look like.
Brett: Awesome. That is all great stuff and one thing that has helped me to with this like budget issues is understanding you don’t have to build a wardrobe all at once. A lot of guys think I have to go out there and I’ve to get it all right now. For me I have just sort of learned that you can slowly build up your wardrobe over a year, multiple years. Like you pick up a suit one year, then the next year you make a big investment in the pair of shoes or whatever and then pretty soon you have got a pretty awesome wardrobe. Have you seen “Gran Torino”, there is a scene where Clint Eastwood is with this young kid and the kid is like, “I want to all these tools that have in your garage but I can never afford this” and like Clint Eastwood told him, “Well, you know it took me years to get this awesome tool collections. So it is going to take you years to develop your collection as well.” I think maybe some patience could help too.
Tony: And we have got that four part series over the Art of Manliness. We have got check list there of what to add in to build your wardrobe. I think we have even broken it out in certain categories. If you are a professional, if you are a uniform man, we talk about that and where to invest your money, where to possibly save some money, and yeah you compromise on the favorite, but that’s OK. At this point this will do. It’s kind of like with the tools. You know you want to invest a lot of money in certain tools simply because you want to get it right the first time and you compromise in the other areas and as you get the funds then you start to build up the other areas.
Brett: Awesome I have a question, I think a lot of people have this question because you are Mr. Style Guide. You are like, and in your videos you always rock in the sport co with the pocket square, sometimes a tie, sometimes a knot. What do you wear on a day to day basis because you are not always filming. I know you work from home in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin. So are you always wearing a sport coat and a pair of slacks at all times 24 x 7.
Tony: Normally I dress in black tie at 6 a.m. [laughing] and then I will wear that till–, well actually I’ll wear my stroller and then I transition to black tie but and on occasion on the weekends white tie.
But the truth is that I wear jeans. I have got jeans and a polo. So the whole reason that the old navy polo came out just because I got an old navy polo on that I have had for quite a while. I have a pair of Lee jeans on. This is their new modern –, that’s where those words actually came from Brett because I’m wearing them [laughing] Isn’t that from the what was that movie in which he is looking at the board and pulling bits of info from the board – “The Usual Suspects”.
Brett: Yeah, yeah, alright so you dress like an average guy during the day.
Tony: I do, now there is research out there – how we dress. I’m not sitting in my boxers, now also I am wearing the clothing that works for me that I feel comfortable in. I live in a town of just over a thousand people. I am surrounded by farmers and when I go out I interact with people. It just makes sense to dress. And I am still dressing most of the people here. But I do want to be dressed in a manner that I feel at least presentable, if I need to quickly drive up to my school although if I did drive up to the school with the current weather what I would do is throw on a very nice sweater. That would enhance my current look. But it is something that you got to pay attention to your environment. I don’t want to say it is just not practical for me at this point to wear a suit every day. I am not having to commute or anything like that. No one is seeing me but it is something that there is a lot of research coming out of NorthWestern University and other places in the field of Enclothed Cognition, New York Times wrote about this and you can do a quick Google search if they want to learn more.
But they talk about how we are affected by the clothing that we wear and how it changes our mind set. We will actually perform better if we dress in a manner that makes us feel good. So some people listening may say, “Well you know when I have got a test I dress sharp for that test.” Well if that makes you feel better do it because guess what you will perform better and they have shown this again and again.
Brett: Yeah occasionally when I really need to punker down and get some good work done I will switch out of the t shirt and jeans I typically wear because I work from home too. And I will put on something a little nicer even though I am not going out, it does change your mind set for me at least.
I think it is interesting you mentioned something Tony about you live in a rural area and this is actually we had a question from Twitter from Mantic59. He is the man who has probably taught more men how to shave in the world than that’s out there. But he asked about dressing well in really rural area, should you even try to like wear your Armani suit or sports coat all the time when you are out strolling main street in the middle of nowhere America or should you be more cognizant of your surroundings and dress to the environment that you happen to be in?
Tony: So Brett let me ask you a question. If you were to go, let’s say you guys took Gus to the doctor and you are a little bit worried. Everything is ok but you take him to the emergency room 2 o’clock in the morning and a guy comes out, he is dressed in t-shirt and jeans and running shoes and says, “Hey I will take him.” what are you going to think here?
Brett: Well I’d be like you are not a doctor. I don’t know if you are a doctor.
Tony: Exactly, so what does a doctor look like?
Brett: Well, he’s got a lab coat on, he has got that thing on his head.
Tony: Exactly, so the answer is what is your position in life? Who are you and I am the owner of a custom clothiers and I am the owner of a style channel. I need to live up to their expectations because if I betray people’s expectations of that it is going to send a mixed signal and it is going to create distrust. The best dressed people in this town actually are the teachers and I like that because they take their–, even in a small town. But when I go to my son’s school I notice that teachers are always well put together, they try to put their best foot forward and you know some of the guy teachers got to work on fit, they wear those kind of outlandish funny ties with Yogi bear on them or Fred Flintstone or something like that. I smile but they do that for the kids. I respect that and whenever I go take my kids to school and I am going to go and meet with the teacher I always dress well.
I don’t over dress but I do send that signal I am a business owner, I represent my family and that is who I dress for.
Brett: Awesome and this is kind of going back to Mantis’s question one thing I remember learning during some sort of professional development class when I was in law school was about dress because when you are an attorney particularly when you are at trial you are basically putting on a performance and trying to convince a jury to go your way with the case. One of the people that came and speak to us really hit on the point, you want to dress and present yourself for that performance so that you get the results that you want.
People will say oh, this is so manipulative and whatever. Well let’s just tell people are, we are very emotional and like you mentioned there is research and studies that show that people pay attention to how people dress and whether they trust them or not. He hit on the fact like if you are presenting a case in New York City or even like Tolso, Oklahoma, an urban area you will want to wear a conservative grey suit, nice white shirt, very crisp conservative just like your typical, stereotypical power attorney because that’s how people in urban areas perceive. That is how they like their attorneys right, that’s how they imagine an attorney looking. But he said if you were to try a case and present a case in some district court in the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma and you wore that same sort of outfit you know the people there are going to look at you a little suspicious because they are going to say this is some hi-falutin big city attorney, I don’t know if I can trust this guy.
So this guy said for that situation if you are in a district court in a kind of a rural area you want to dress it down where they are little more informal. Even though it is a court of law they are much more informal in that area so you might want to go with a tweed coat or a brown suit, some suspenders, a bow tie right and just make it a little bit more homie so that people trust you. A lot of people I have tried to do this in my own life is like it is not all about you. You also need to take into consideration what other people and how they perceive you to get the maximum result with what you are trying to do with your wardrobe or your clothing.
Tony: You said a very interesting word, you talked about manipulation. Manipulation is wrong because when people are manipulating they have an ulterior motive and there is something negative there. What I am talking about and you know what we write about what we both agree on is that it is more about you allowing, you being able to reach your goals and to not let to make sure the message is very clear as to who you are and what you represent. So if you are a plumber you need to dress like a plumber and dress like a professional plumber because when you knock on that woman’s door, who is at home alone and she is wondering if she wants to make–. She is going to make a very quick decision, “Can I trust you to come into my house? My husband is gone. I have got my baby here in the next room sleeping.” And it is not about manipulation that you are wearing a very set uniform and clothing that sends a signal of trust. You are just simply doing your job and you are doing it to higher level.
Brett: Awesome, alright Tony we are running out of time here but before we go are there any other places that you recommend men going besides Art of Manliness and your awesome site Real Men Real Style and any of the various style systems. Any other places that you enjoy on the internet or books about men’s style that you find helpful, that you think guys should check out?
Tony: I will really quick give them a list of blogs actually created in the last week. We put out a list earlier this year, The Top 10 and I ranked around 236 men’s style blogs. Now we are at like 500 so I will give this so based of my and there is a lot of personal opinion here but I really like what Raphael is doing over at The Gentleman’s because that is a bit more formal. But for anyone interested in history, I mean he is really hard to beat, his information is great.
There is Joe over at Dappered. We talked about a lot about saving money and finances and things, go get on Dappered’s e-mail list Joe is just aggregating some of the best deals out there on the web. There is the guys over at Kenowear, not as many people know about that website. I rank it on my top 5, Kenowear is really a great website because I think they talk about systems as well. There is Baron over at the Effortless Gent, he is doing some really great things and Baron really targets I think the younger man and the urban male.
There is the guys over at the style blog, they are a little bit more fashion forward. There is “Put This On” Jesse has done a great job over. Lastly once you have got your foundation built I would advise go check out the “Style Form” and “Ask Annie About Clothes?
Brett: Awesome, Tony thank you so much, it’s been hopefully a very helpful podcast for people who are listening. Where can people find you Tony, where can they go to find more about Antonio and his work?
Tony: Go check me out at Real Men Real Style, there is a contact form and have a little bit of fun, you have gone through my contact form I would like to make it fun. Go check it out and people can reach me that way.
Brett: Awesome thanks Tony so much for your time.
Tony: Thank you Brett, bye bye.
Brett: Our guest today Antonio Centeno. Antonio is the founder and owner of realmenrealstyle.com. I highly recommend you check it out and you can also find Tony’s writing about style and men’s wear at artofmanliness.com, do definitely check it out.
Well that wraps up another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast, for more manly tips and advice make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com. Until next time stay manly.