I’ve had a number of people ask me about putting together some basic tips for whipping their wardrobes in shape, so here it is.To make this a more useful and dynamic resource, I’ll always try to include links whenever possible to the companies, products or terms I use throughout the posts. If I miss anything and you have some information, let me know and I’ll add it in. Now, while there are any number of things I can recommend to get started, here are five that are fairly strait forward and easy enough to address right away:
1. Polish your shoes and re-sole if needed. This is both the worst offense and quickest fix. Scuffed up, beat up shoes are one of the first things people tend to notice when it comes to professional dress. Ask any women, or Italian for that matter, bad shoes = bad impression. Being wealthy isn’t called “well heeled” for nothing. When you let your shoes’ sole or heel wear down, it doesn’t just look bad it damages the shoe itself. Get the best shoes you can afford and take care of them. Well-made footwear is an investment, will last years and is worth every penny.
2. If you wear a suit or sport coat to work, know your size and get it tailored correctly. Have the store take care of this at the time of purchase or find a good tailor on your own and keep them in business. Though this is number two on the list, having your clothes fit properly is the single most important thing you can do to improve your appearance, increase your sense of style and take care of your wardrobe investment.
A suit jacket should feel comfortable. If it doesn’t, then it’s either the wrong size or was not properly tailored. This means that your jacket sleeves should not bunch down at your hand and your shoulders don’t belong halfway down your bicep. Generally speaking, sleeves should fall at your wrist bone and show about a half-inch of cuff and your jacket’s shoulder should sit at your own shoulder. From the back, there should be no bunching at your collar or stretching across your shoulder blades. If you are wearing a jacket with a center vent, it should never be pulled open – that’s a really bad look. The front of your jacket should not pull taut when buttoned and overall, when you look in the mirror, your reaction should be something like, “damn, that looks good on me.” Not only that, you should want to be in a well-tailored suit, the fit is that comfortable.
Not surprisingly, the better made the suit the better the fit, so buy the best you can afford. Remember though, the best often has little to do the label or the price, but that’s another posting.
3. Know what colors work well on you. This is not as hard as it sounds and you probably already have preferences based on the colors to which you’re naturally drawn. If nothing else, ask a friend to honestly assess what looks good on you and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.
4. Invest in a good bag. This aspect of style often overlooked but it makes a real difference both in your appearance and your confidence. Your bag is a real statement about your personal sense of style, now more than ever. Men today are far more likely to have some sort of bag with them at all times, the demands of modern life almost require it. Cell phone, wallet, PDA, books, laptop, sunglasses, planner – the list goes on and we need it with us. While the debate still rages about what is and is not a man purse (remember Jerry Seinfeld, “it’s European!…), the fact remains that for day-to-day use, we need a bag. And I’m not just talking about a leather briefcase from Coach or Ghurka (which are both excellent, albeit pricey, brands). If you prefer messenger style, Jack Spade makes some truly elegant and functional bags; while not cheap, many are still affordable investments. Another classic maker of messenger style bags is Manhattan Portage; in fact, they invented the bike messenger bag.
5. Lastly, you’ve heard it before but it’s still true: go through your closet and toss anything that you have not worn in more than a year. If you are the type who can’t easily part with anything, try this trick. Take all the clothes you don’t wear, that don’t fit or are out of style and move them to another room and close the door. Just get them out of your closet and out of sight. This way you’re just taking them out of rotation, not throwing anything away, so relax.
When it comes to sentimental or non-negotiable pieces, that’s fine too. Just set them aside. I have a classic Ralph LaurenHarris Tweed sport coat that I almost never wear. Why I never wear it is irrelevant; I’m not getting rid of it, so it has a permanent home off in the corner of my closet and that’s fine. The point is, to get to that place where you can deal with what you really wear and what you really need. It’s a start.