If you’re in the beginning stages of learning how to dress well, it may be tempting to try and mix things up, but it really is important to stick to the basics for a while. Learning what pants you should wear with which shirt, how to dress for each type of situation, and how to buy clothes that fit properly are much more important than trying to stand out or look unique.
Without experience to guide you in deciding how to stand out appropriately, adding a “unique” item can end up making you stand out in a bad way.
Once you have the basics down, though, it’s natural to want to do a little more with your wardrobe. You know what the term “monochromatic” means and why it shouldn’t be used to describe what you’re wearing, you know your clothes shouldn’t also be able to fit a man who weighs 50 pounds more than you do, and you’ve burned everything you still own from American Eagle. What’s next?
You could try imitating guys you see on TV or Parisian runway models, but before you take that kind of fashion risk, try changing things up with what you use to accent what you’re wearing.
One of the first things you should look into is buying different socks. They’re generally inexpensive, which means you can try out a lot of different ones to find which ones work best for you. Nice Laundry has some great deals, and friends who have purchased a pair of socks from the retailer have been very happy with what they’ve received.
Ties are another great way to make your basic wardrobe look better. You want to make sure you’re only wearing them in appropriate situations and with appropriate clothes — i.e. not with shorts — but an outstanding tie goes a long way toward making even the most basic navy blazer and khaki pants look good. Buying new ties can get expensive, though, so I recommend not springing for name brands. Instead, look somewhere like The Tie Bar for more affordable options.
You should also consider buying a few bow ties. Except for the ones you wear with a tuxedo, they tend to be more casual, and it’s entirely acceptable to have fun with them. Buy a few with patterns you enjoy, and mix it up to your heart’s content.
If you’re wearing a properly-tailored suit, adding a pocket square will make you look even better. Not to talk up The Tie Bar too much, but it has great prices on pocket squares as well as ties (and bow ties), making it a solid place for most guys to start experimenting. You can easily buy a few and see which ones work best.
Cufflinks are also a great way to give your suits fresh style. They’re a little different than the other accents I’ve mentioned since you also have to buy French-cuff shirts to be able to use them, but if you like the look, it’s probably worth it as long as you avoid those old-fashioned, Gordon Gekko-style contrast collar shirts. Amazon has an extensive selection, but if you’re to avoid spending a lot of money, CuffSmart has plenty of inexpensive options.
Finally, adding accents to your clothes is just as much about what you don’t wear as it is about what you do wear. A poorly-tied bow tie will look worse than it would if you hadn’t worn one at all, as will a poorly-chosen pocket square.
You also have to be very careful about choosing to wear jewelry like earrings, necklaces, and even watches. On the right guy, in the right context, the look can work, but they’re much higher-risk items. A chunky, gaudy watch might work for a professional football player, but a thin guy looking to wear a watch to the office is usually better off with one that is smaller and more classic-looking.
Pick your accents right, though, and you can easily and affordably refresh even the most basic wardrobe and showcase your own personal style.