This guide is inspired by Mark McNairy’s book F–k Ivy and Everything Else.
There’s a ton of guides for starting a wardrobe. The problem is most give generalizations instead of a concrete path. Also, most focus entirely on clothing when style is so much more than clothing. I made this guide as an alternative. You don’t have to buy everything here. So for example, if you don’t like wearing button downs just don’t get one. This is NOT the only way someone should dress, this is just the most foolproof way to change from dressing like hot garbage to dressing alright (Though you will look a little bit boring and the style might not be congruent with your personality. If you want a look completely personalized for you consider my Virtual Makeover service.) These are semi-timeless items that I think every man should have and even the guy wearing $700 Balenciaga Crocs most likely has in their closet. You’ll notice that there are no patterns, that’s because certain patterns on certain body types are unflattering. You’ll also notice that mostly everything is some shade of blue, brown, white or green. That’s so you can grab literally any combination of clothes from your closet and have it match and look stylish instead of having to painfully match clothes every time you go out. Everything works with everything because they’re neutral colors. You’d literally have to go out of your way to mess it up. I’m not saying you shouldn’t wear other colors but matching starts to get weird and depending on your skin’s undertone some colors can drown out your complexion. Use this as a baseline and experiment. There are no rules but it sure as hell helps to have a solid foundation. I’ll try to update this semiannually but if there are any dead links go ahead and shoot me an email at juansloan@damnfire and I’ll get to fixing them.
There are some things you may want that I didn’t include because I don’t really think they’re 100% necessary such as:
Uniqlo is a great option for those but to me they’re beyond the scope of this article.
Before we start I’m going to make some assumptions:
- You are between 5’8 and 6’2 and not extremely overweight, underweight or muscular. Why? Because if you’re out of that range you’re going to want to shop at certain stores and possibly even specialty brands to get clothes that fit you properly. In the future I may possibly make guides like this that cater to specific body types.
- You can order clothes online and live in the United State. Why? So that you can actually purchase the items. All of the links in this guide are for Uniqlo’s US shop.
- You own a measuring tape. Why? So that you can measure yourself and buy clothes that fit.
Warning: A lot of these are items I personally know are great for their price point. If you stray to other brands you WILL have mixed results. For example, I list a pair of shoes from the Stafford JCPenney line and they’re $75. If you decide to go to Sears thinking you can get decent looking leather dress shoes for $75 you’re going to end up VERY disappointed.
Before we move on, fit is super important. GENERALLY SPEAKING, as long as you follow the sizing guides on the websites everything should fit gorgeously. Anomalies happen though because of vanity sizing. Your pants should be tight enough to stay up without a belt but not so tight that you have trouble fitting your hand into your pockets. They should also end at the ball of your ankle or above it (if that’s your style.) Your shirt’s shoulder seam should also hit your acromion bone, pictured below.
All of the sites I used for this guide have good return policies so do NOT compromise on ill-fitting garments. In fact, a common strategy with pants is to buy two or three sizes and to send back the pairs that don’t fit.
None of these links are affiliate links. I’m a personal stylist, not a blogger or affiliate author. No sponsorship or kickback nonsense is involved here either. A lot of products I recommend are going to be from Uniqlo but that’s just because they’re just so damn good at entry level basics. Now let’s begin.
For your first pair of grown ass man shoes I’d recommend the Stafford Mason Men’s Leather Wingtip Oxford Dress Shoes in cognac. Open laced brogue dress shoes can be worn with anything from a suit to jeans and dark brown is hands down the most versatile color for dress shoes. For these you’re going to want to size down half a size (so for example, if you wear a size 12 order a size 11.5.)
In terms of socks I highly recommend getting no-show socks or just not wearing any. If you’re not a fan of no-show socks navy is a great color I just don’t wouldn’t cotton socks with dress shoes. I highly implore you to get dress socks instead.
I really didn’t want to do a sneaker section to this guide because there’s so many options. If you already have a pair of good-looking sneakers just skip this section. If you don’t I really only feel comfortable recommending the following:
If your budget is EXTREMELY tight I’d just go ahead and cop these:
These are also really sexy for a nudge more
Notice how they’re all white, low profile, low tops? These definitely aren’t the only type of sneakers that are stylish but they’re the easiest to wear. It is very possible that in the near future I may do a separate guide focused entirely on sneakers. (Update: damn. fire’s Guide To (Mostly) Versatile Sneakers For Under $100)
In terms of value per dollar, no brand except for Levi touches Uniqlo when it comes to denim. American Eagle is another close contender but they’re pricier. The added stretch makes them extremely comfortable and they’re cut so that they’re not super tight.
Oxford Cloth Button Downs
For oxfords, Amazon’s in-house brand Goodthreads is my go-to choice for extremely budget conscious clients. Don’t be put off because it’s from Amazon and not a fashion brand like Uniqlo or J. Crew, these are punching hard at their price point. You’re going to want to pick one up in blue and white.
We’re going to Uniqlo again for shirts. These four colors are very versatile and won’t wash out any complexions. Note: While not a rule, you should probably avoid wearing the same color t-shirt and jacket.
Navy is the perfect color for your first blazer. Generally speaking, blazers are typically wool but this blazer is a synthetic cotton blend. This is because the step up to wool is another $70 that could be spent elsewhere. No one except absolute snobs (and I mean the snobbiest of the snobs, real filthy traditionalists) is going to judge you for wearing a blazer made with a synthetic blend. One thing I really like about this blazer is the fact that the lapels aren’t super tiny (shouts out to J. Crew.)
Uniqlo has plenty of options for budget casual jackets. The ones colors shown below are just for the sake of display. Navy, brown and olive are all acceptable versatile colors for any of these. Do note that these probably won’t keep you warm if you live anywhere with a real winter.
If you live anywhere with a real winter I’d probably spend a little more and invest in an actual parka. The best budget option for a real parka is hands down Alpha Industries. The Northface and Canada Goose are great but they’re not quite budget friendly. The Slim Fit N-3B Parka is a compliment monster that will actually keep you warm.
Guides almost never include underwear but it’s so important. Your underwear will stick out occasionally no matter how perfectly your pants and belt fit and to be honest you just feel sexier wearing a good pair of undies. I recommend buying a few pairs of Calvin Klein Micro Modal Trunks. They’re more pricey than most pairs of underwear but once you start wearing good underwear you can’t go back. Uniqlo’s Airism briefs are a nudge cheaper and are great as well.
Expanding Your Wardrobe
Once you have the staples you can then experiment with rings, necklaces, tasteful graphic tees and even start incorporating some gaudier pieces to develop your own uniquely dope style. Why not just buy a bunch of crazy shit in the first place and skip the basics? Because unless you have some EXTREME innate talent you’re going to end up looking ridiculous and wasting a LOT of money. Picasso didn’t just start drawing the way he did, he had a foundation that he slowly started deconstructing. Good affordable brands to try new things with are H&M, Zara and ASOS.
Style is, unbeknownst to some, more than clothes.
- Don’t wear hella wrinkled clothes. You can get away with clothes that are slightly wrinkled but if your shirt could be mistaken for an accordion go iron it. If you don’t have access to an iron throw your clothes in the dryer with a damp rag and ice cubes for 20 minutes or take a shower with them in the bathroom without letting the steam out.
- Get a haircut every other month. Four weeks is about how long it takes for your hair to go from sexy to unkempt. It’s hard to generalize hairstyle recommendations because it’s highly dependent on your face shape and personality but if you don’t know what looks good on you wear your favorite outfit to your appointment (also: as a rule of thumb you should always dress your best whenever you go anywhere where tips are expected, you get MUCH better service) and tell a stylist to cut it and style it the way they think would look best on you. If you know the type of cut you want and you’re getting it cut for the first time or going to a new stylist BRING A PICTURE. Also, go to a real salon and not a place like Supercuts and style your hair when you go out if possible.
- Don’t try to grow hair where you can’t. If you have hair growing in thin or patchy anywhere just shave it when it’s more than a few millimeters long.
- If your teeth are yellow whiten them. I highly recommend getting them professionally whitened. With Groupon, you could get it done for less than $100. Carbamide peroxide whitening systems and activated charcoal based products work great as well if you’re on an extremely tight budget but honestly I would just save up and get them professionally whitened. Whitening strips are pretty much a waste of money.
- Take care of your skin. This is so vital and so many men don’t do it. Improving your skin can literally move you a whole point in attractiveness, There’s a reason girls will wear concealer without putting on any of their other makeup. There’s too much to fit in this post about skin care without deviating from the point of it but the basics are: exfoliate and moisturize. Use products specifically formulated for your face. If you have adult acne see a dermatologist. https://www.reddit.com/r/SkincareAddiction/ is a great resource.
- Be hygienic. Keep your nails cut and clean. People notice this, especially women. Pluck the hairs between your eyebrows. Shower if you start to smell gross. Either cut your pubes to a #0 to #1 with clippers or shave them. If you have calluses on your feet get a pumice stone or use a foot peel. Brush your teeth before you go out and carry breath mints.
- Take care of your clothes. Read the garment care instructions on your clothes and launder them properly. Replace your hangers with wooden hangers (added bonus: acts as home decor.) Buy shoe trees to prevent your shoes from creasing. Condition and polish your leather shoes, they will literally last twice as long and look twice as good.
I don’t want to look like every other guy.
You won’t. Most guys dress like hot garbage. If you want a look completely personalized for you consider my Virtual Makeover service.
I don’t want to look feminine/metro-sexual.
Nothing I listed is “feminine” or metro-sexual. Being hygienic and grooming yourself is not feminine or metro-sexual.
I can’t afford to spend X on Y.
Almost all of the pieces listed are at about the lowest you can go in price before you’re literally throwing away money unless you buy on sale or secondhand. Be frugal, not cheap. So for example, if you can’t justify spending $50 on Uniqlo jeans instead of wasting $25 on poorly constructed ill-fitting Lee Jeans try and find a used pair of Levi’s on eBay or your local thrift shop.
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