I’m tired of seeing people who have no clue how to dress for business. I don’t give a hoot that you’re a “creative” person, or that you feel “more comfortable” in jeans. I don’t think that you’re hip or trendy because you’re wearing square-toed shoes—I just think that you shop at Kohl’s. I’m not impressed that you went to the gift shop at Pebble Beach once—stop wearing golf shirts to the office.
But I’m a giving, generous man, and I always say that you shouldn’t complain about things without offering a solution. So, I’m going to give you the Bark-approved man’s must-have closet items. It’s damned close to a listicle, but whatever.
Click to read what’s missing from your wardrobe, and how you should rectify it.
You must own at least three suits, but you may only wear two of them.
I’ve already confused you, haven’t I? No worries, I’ll explain.
Every man must own one of the following colors of suits:
- Navy blue
However, you must ONLY wear the black suit for funerals. Don’t ever show up to a meeting in a black suit. Like, not never. As I heard my father say several times, “Whenever you think it’s time to buy a black suit, it’s really time to buy another blue suit.” He was absolutely right.
Your suit can only have two buttons. Three buttons or more is incredibly passé. This is 2015, not Aaron Hall circa 1994.
So, if you already own a navy suit, then feel free to buy another one with a stripe or a light pattern. Then you should buy another gray suit—perhaps a lighter or darker gray or charcoal. THEN, you may buy an earth tone color, preferably a brown. Tan is okay, but you should only wear it in southern climates. Don’t buy a green suit. Just don’t.
Bonus: When you travel, you can pack your navy suit and your gray suit, and you’ll actually have FOUR outfits—you can mix and match them. I do this with my navy and charcoal Jack Victor suits. Works like a charm.
You also need three sportscoats/blazers.
Again, gray and blue are your friend. Every man needs a Hart Schaffner Marx blue blazer. You also may own a charcoal blazer, or black if you plan to wear it with gray pants. I like earth tones for sportscoats, as long as they are of the tweed variety.
Own both black and brown shoes, but wear the brown ones more often.
Black shoes are for black suits. That’s really about it. Brown shoes with gray suits? Yes, it can be done, and done quite well. However, I won’t begrudge you if you decide that’s a bit fashion forward for you.
But, wait—there’s more!
However, my favorite shoes for nearly everything are my Allen Edmonds Park Avenues in Merlot.
Closed-lace, captoe shoes that are perfect for nearly any occasion. Can you wear them with navy or brown suits? You bet? Black? Sure—be fashion forward and spice up that boring black suit. Gray? Okay, let’s not go TOO crazy. Of course, you need the matching belt to go with it.
Shirts have to be on point.
I’ve covered this before. Keep your shirts simple and elegant. White is almost always right (I know it sounds racist, but I don’t mean it that way). Any other colors can lead to potential fashion disasters—if you know what you’re doing, you can get away with a blue or pastel. But, for G-d’s sake, stop wearing red, black, and gray dress shirts unless you sell furniture at Value City.
Solid colors (or close to it) for ties are never wrong.
Listen, if you need my advice here, you probably aren’t capable of picking out a shirt/tie combo for yourself. That’s okay—I’ve done it for hundreds of people in my life, so there’s no shame in that. Keep it simple. Solid color ties that are made out of high quality silk (preferably US or European made) are a safe bet. That way, you can avoid the whole patterns vs. stripes thing when it comes to coordinating with your shirts and suits.
However, if you’re feeling adventurous, just remember—no more than two patterns can be going on at any given time, meaning that of the three things on the upper half of your body (jacket, shirt, tie), only two may have a pattern. Jacket+tie=okay. Shirt+jacket=okay. Tie+shirt=okay. Jacket+shirt+tie=NOT OKAY.
Keep the socks simple to start.
I admit it—I like a splash of color with my socks, especially with a dark suit. But if you want to stay under the radar, just match your sock color to your pants color, so that there’s a single line of color from waist to toe. Here’s a pic of what I’m wearing today:
Leave the accessories alone.
Dude. Nobody wears tie bars or pins anymore. Just stop it. Unless you’re a vampire or an Italian gangster, just ignore the little doodads counter in the men’s department. Possible exceptions to this are cufflinks—they’re appropriate with a suit or a blazer. But don’t try to make them interesting, ok? Nobody wants to see your Harley Davidson cufflinks.
Keep your watch simple and classy. Sport watches aren’t okay with suits. I have a gazillion watches, but I never wear a flashy watch for business.
So what should I buy?
Okay, that’s all fine and good, but what brands should you get? That really depends on your budget. I’ve tried to give you a list of the essentials here, assuming that you need to dress well for work on about a thousand bucks or less.
I recommend Jack Victor suits. You can find them on Sierra Trading Post for $350 or less during most of their sales. They’re cut conservatively—you don’t have to be built like a male model to wear them. They’re mostly two-button, single-vent jackets with flat-front pants—in other words, they’re exactly what you want for the modern office environment.
I’ll go ahead and double down on Hawes and Curtis shirts. I’m wearing one as I type this. They fit well, they look great, and they don’t cost very much money.
Don’t be afraid to let shoes eat a lot of your budget. If you’re spending less than $200 on a pair of shoes, you’re probably buying something disposable. Allen Edmonds are the best, bar none. You can spend more money, but you won’t get much more shoe. And they’re having a big clearance sale RIGHT NOW on their website.
Remember, in today’s business environment, lots of people are dressing down—EFF THAT. The way you dress says everything about you, and you might want to reconsider the message you’re sending with your pleated khaki pants and black square-toed shoes.