Trends and fashion advice ebb and flow pretty routinely, but do you nail those basic staples of fashion? Menswear Editor Harry Read is on hand to lay down the groundwork you need to look sharp.
Before I dive into anything, I want to say welcome! This is the first instalment of a regular contribution to the Style File, designed to help any discerning gent find their feet in the fashion world. I wanted to share with you my passion for dressing well, as this gives me a feeling of confidence like nothing else does and it can do the same for you. I will be putting guides like this out pretty regularly, so you can expect more of my tips every two weeks.
The fashion world is filled with an overwhelming number of faux pas and potholes, and you’re constantly bombarded by how-tos and never-dos about the latest trends. But when we strip it all away, what really is dressing well? Those solid backbones of style that you can rely on? As this is the first article of the series, I thought it best to outline these very things.
And so, here it is – an introductory guide to the brief but absolute basics of dressing well:
Get The Fit
This rule applies to any aspect of good dress; you need to get clothing that really fits you. It might sound so basic it seems silly, but you need to know your body shape and dress for it. That’s not to say that clothing doesn’t come in different fits: sometimes you want a more tapered look, other times you need it to fit a bit looser, such is the case of more military or work-wear inspired fashion. All clothing is built to fit in a particular way, so make sure it fits you as it should. 90% of dressing well is getting the fit right, so if you are ever unsure, just ask one of us in-store!
Don’t Try Too Much, Too Soon
So, you’ve got the fit of your clothes down, but do you ever think things look just a little too… over complicated? We all love a statement piece in our outfits from time to time, but being too adventurous can leave you looking like a poster-boy for the latest lads’ bad-shirt bar crawl. Don’t run before you can walk; put together a selection of staple pieces and build up from there. Invest in versatile pieces that will look just as good in the bar as the boardroom and stick to neutral colours that will work well in combination with each other.
Once you’ve got these right, you can incorporate something patterned or bright for a touch of statement style without overcomplicating things. In the meantime, stick to the basics, and avoid acquiring lots of pieces that don’t really go together, as they’ll only end up stuck in the back of your wardrobe for years to come.
When it comes down to it, you have to think: do I have other pieces that could make this outfit work, and how would I wear this? It’s questions like these that aptly bring me to my next point.
Context is Important
Know where and who you are dressing for. You wouldn’t go to a business meeting in swim shorts, and treating the rest of your sartorial life with an equal measure of consideration is essential. One thing I find that men most often struggle with is that spot between casual and formal wear. You don’t have to go getting completely new wardrobes for each. Simply use key pieces to build outfits that work for all occasions; if it’s formal, trade in your trainers for a pair of classic oxford shoes and your jacket for a plain shirt. And remember, when in doubt it’s always better to be over-dressed than under.
You Can’t Look Neat if your Shoes Look Beat
Or so my grandfather says, who instilled in me from a young age the importance of keeping your shoes in good form. There’s no excuse for grubby footwear; get a shoe care kit, and use it. There really isn’t anything worse than seeing what would otherwise be an impeccable outfit ruined by poorly maintained or dirty footwear. You wouldn’t go out in a mud-smeared shirt, so why would you go out in equally dirty shoes? (Yes, this includes trainers.)
You don’t have to spend above your means, but figure out how much you can invest in an item of clothing and buy the best possible piece you can. One of the benefits of contemporary fashion is that there is a range to suit all budgets, but when creating a foundation for your wardrobe it is important to acquire premium pieces that will last. You really can tell the difference, and if you aren’t convinced, try it for yourself. Come into the shop and try on something you might not initially have considered – say, an extra-fine merino John Smedley jumper – and notice that it will feel so much better than its cheaper counterparts. While I can’t speak for all brands, I know that here at Jules B we buy fashion that we believe in. Come in and try some on, you won’t regret it.
Keep it Trim
My next piece of advice doesn’t really have much to do with clothing at all, but is one of the basic style rules that will make your wardrobe shine. Remember to keep yourself well groomed, as an unsightly neck-beard and wisps of overgrown hair won’t work very much to your style’s advantage. Have a routine of personal care: keep yourself well trimmed, and you’ll avoid looking scruffy or unkempt, giving your clothing the opportunity to do the talking. (Also please, please remember to iron your clothes.)
My final piece of advice is that you need to build your confidence when wearing your chosen clothing. Style and confidence come hand-in-hand, benefiting one another enormously. If you don’t believe in your clothing then no-one else will. Likewise, if your clothing doesn’t inspire a feeling of confidence in yourself then you need to work out why. Building a sense of belief and confidence in your wardrobe takes time, so start small and build your way up. Swallow any negative feelings you have and wear those staple pieces out and about in your daily life. I guarantee, the compliments will fly in, and your confidence will be all the better for it. Once you’ve built up this sense of conviction in your outfits, then is the time to experiment. Until then, stick with the basics.
With these key style rules at your fingertips, putting together simple outfits that work will be a breeze. Take some time to get back to grips with the basics of dressing well, and you’ll soon be making the right impression wherever you go. Just as a house needs a solid foundation, your wardrobe needs a rock steady base from which it can flourish and grow.
We’re always happy to help out and ensure you get the perfect look. If you’d like more advice in person, come see me on the shop floor in Jesmond every Wednesday-Saturday, 9:30am-5:30pm.