What to Buy When Starting Out

Sometimes I take for granted that not everyone has the same, let us say, extensive wardrobe I do :P. This was brought to light recently when a friend of mine asked me to help him get his sartorial game in order. I accepted only too willingly, because, well, I like it. I also know personally the transformative effect that nice, stylish, well fitting clothes can have on ones self esteem and presence. I mean it is not the only thing, far from it. Read more books, be more active, try new things, these all go a long to improving ones self, but clothes hold a special place. They communicate to the outside world before words do, so clothes do mean something.

So where do you start if you are literally building from the ground up? Well here are my thoughts:

Know Yourself:

Basically, don't try to be something that you are not. Take stock of your likes and hobbies, your job, your social circle and all of those influences. Are you just starting a career in Banking or Law? Well, I see your future....hold on....ah yes....you will be wearing lots of suits!!! Knowing that, it is best to get started now buying them even if you are not required to wear them on a day to day basis. Better to have them and look and feel good in them for those functions you have time to time than have to scramble to get it together when you do. It will also make the financial outlay more manageable then having to buy them all at once, but we will get to that. Not a suit wearer? Well, that doesn't mean you have to exclude yourself from tailored clothing. Adding a button up shirt and a nice textured sport jacket on occasions out will only draw comments of I should get something like that! - trust me on that. Basically, take a honest look at yourself, and take a look at the internet and try and establish what would fit you as a person.

Take Stock:

Take a good look of what you currently have in your closet. Still have a bunch of band shirts and tattered jeans that you never wear? Well, get ride of them. All those old hand me down suits and ties can be donated to Sally Anne or Value Village (those will most likely be the only people that will take them). Be honest with yourself when you are going through your closet. Have your worn it in a year? No? Pitch it or donate it. Be brutal.

Not All At Once:

Men seem to think that they can get all the clothing they need for the next ten years in one trip out. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is not that simple. You need to buy things slowly over time to properly build a wardrobe. You have to experiment and try different fits and styles. Buying a whole whack of clothing at one time might leave you feeling very regretful in two years time when you grow more in to your and realize all that stuff you bought is not for you. There is also the possibility that everything will need to be replaced at the same time, making it a ticking time bomb.(Authors Note: I learned this the hard way. I got really in to menswear and wanted to be at my A game after a year. Most of that early stuff has either been donate to friends or willing thrift shops).

Get Basic:

"There's three things in this world that you need: Respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis, and a navy blazer."

Sticking with what is stated above, early one, stick with the basics. A man can never really have too many white or blue shirts and no one ever regretted buying a plain navy suit. No, it is the paisley jacket that you bought early on that you will regret. The good news? There are surprisingly few items a man needs in his wardrobe as he gets older.

Here is a short list:

  • A navy/ mid grey/charcoal suit in a conservative cut (get it tailored - nothing fits exactly off-the-rack)
  • A navy blazer or blue odd jacket.
  • Blue or White plain dress shirts in broadcloth and oxford cloth (button down is my preference for oxford cloth)
  • Grey dress pants (Grey flannel trousers work with just about anything)
  • Dark Denim that flatters your body.
  • A good pair of black lace up dress shoes.
  • A nice wool, alpaca, or cashmere sweater in grey, navy or wheat.
  • An outwear piece like a car coat ( length of body) coat in wool or wool blend (cashmere is nice ;) in a single breasted button up in navy, charcoal, tan or black.

There a more pants then jeans?:

Jeans are not a silver bullet. Though you see them worn A LOT, they are not always the most comfortable or stylish choice. Here is a tip - there are other fabrics apart from denim. Try a nice pair of wool trousers in a Super 100 (like our dress pants from GALA. I cannot recommend them enough). Or how about a pair of flannels, or cords, or linen, or even just a nice pair of cotton chinos? Life is too short to wear jeans every day.

Less Is More:

When you are starting out, it can all seem a little overwhelming. You want everything now, but we already discussed this. If you take anything away from this, take this: Quality trumps Quantity. Buying things just because they are a deal is not really a deal. Get the things you really want, and get the best you can afford. These items will last longer and wear better over time then any deal.

Lastly, have fun! While there is a knack to all this and tonnes of rules you will hear along the way, the main thing to keep in mind is that this is not rocket science or brain surgery it is getting dressed, so have some fun with it. You will make mistakes, you will wear outfits you will regret, you will buy pieces that end up relegated to the back of your closet, but as long as you do not go crazy and spend well beyond your means, you will recover (yes, even your ego will).

Jason Byron Reynolds

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