New York Fashion Week doesn’t mean much to most guys out there. Maybe for some young bankers, it’s an excuse to go out armed with business cards, pay for bottle service, and probably still go home alone.
Still, there’s no shortage of advice when it comes to men’s fashion. And there’s obviously no real consensus. You’ve got Mark Zuckerberg showing off his closet that enables him to “focus on more important decisions” in life. And on the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got people creating charts to help color-coordinate suits with every conceivable color and style of shoes. Both are equally pretentious.
The problem with men’s fashion is that people try too hard or not at all. The vast majority of guys can’t pull off an azul indigo suit, cerulean socks, and tan brogues. As I see it, particularly in banking and in the business world, men’s fashion is a function of risk reward. Guys need to be pragmatic, live in the safe zone, and keep it simple, yet elegant:
• You can’t go wrong with a two-button, notched-lapel suit. It’s a classic look that fits nearly every body type.
• If your suit stands out or is too distinctive, your colleagues will remember it as the one you wear all the time.
• In terms of color, keep it to various shades of gray and navy, with a few varieties of pinstripes. That’s all you need. Brown suits are for back office guys.
• Skip double-breasted and three-button suits altogether.
• Buy as many suits as you can reasonably afford. And go bespoke or, at least, semi-made to measure. Remember, “an architect is only as good as his builder, and a fashion designer is only as good as your tailor.”
• Pocket squares are for bucket shop bankers and CNBC pundits. Skip it.
• No pleats and no cuffs. Cuffed pants are for limo drivers.
• A belt is generally optional, but in the United States, you should wear one.
• Go with a small, symmetrical, half-Windsor knot. And the general rule, especially at banks, is that you can’t rock an Hermès tie until you have some clout. So, again, play it safe with Zegna or Giorgio Armani.
• Picking out shoes doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Keep it simple with some classic Prada loafers.
• Don’t be cheap with the shoes either; women notice. Besides, quality $700 shoes last 3-4x longer than anything you can get in the $300 price range.
• Contrary to popular belief, flamboyant socks don’t add flair or personality. They just make you look British. Instead, buy twenty pairs of identical black socks. Throw them away and refresh every six months. It feels great to start the day off with brand new socks.
• Get your shirts made. The value of a custom shirt far exceeds the cost, and the relative value is a no-brainer.
• Have new shirts made every year and donate the old ones to a charity that provides clothing and career guidance to low-income men.
• Stick with a stiff spread color; it’s versatile enough to work with or without a tie, and goes with jeans or a suit.
• Oxford collars and shirt pockets are for Bernie Sanders supporters.
• If you sweat, wear an undershirt. Even if you don’t, having a visible undershirt destroys the entire outfit. You can’t beat NVSBL – they’re longer (stay tucked), more comfortable, sweat and odor fighting, and totally invisible. Hygiene and aesthetics aside, quality undershirts will significantly prolong the life of your dress shirts, and generally make you less disgusting.
• Monogrammed shirts are passé. Get your gun monogrammed instead.
• Please, no khakis, unless your résumé still says you were president of your fraternity investment club. Wear jeans instead.
• If you’re wearing a blazer, make sure it doesn’t look like a suit jacket. Try a one-button, peaked-lapel, which looks great in the office, or out on the town.
• No country club golf shirts, especially when the Masters is on.
• No Vineyard Vines, unless you’re still quoting Will Ferrell movies.
• Wear whatever socks you want, but you still have to wear socks.
• The era of baggy shorts is over. And mesh shorts are only acceptable in Myrtle Beach or the buzzer waiting room at Applebee’s.
• Get rid of the Ivy League apparel, unless you like barefoot running on a treadmill or pursed-lipped nodding at every person you pass on the trail.
• When it comes to name brands, Under Armour is for guys who think Chateaubriand is a French cabernet.
• These Birddogs are the best shorts on the planet – perfect for the gym, playing tennis, or (how I use them) chasing a toddler around a playground.
• While you’re at it, spend less time on a treadmill and more time playing a competitive sport. After all, the squash court is an extension of the office.
• There is no such thing as a “going out” shirt, especially on a first date.
• If you insist on wearing cologne, no one should smell you from five feet away or five minutes after you’ve left the room.
• Get your haircut every 3-4 weeks. And if you’ve got problems up top, shave it or transplant it.
• Always keep decent facial moisturizer in your desk or gym bag.
• Don’t be an idiot when it comes to buying jeans.
• Cedar shoe trees are a must, especially when you travel.
• Backpacks might be “suddenly cool for grown men” but not with a suit. Grow up, and get an adult bag.
• When it comes to watches, they serve a purpose – presenting yourself as “high-status” is proven to make you appear more attractive to women. But avoid Panerai – it’s action hero watch for guys who brag about cheating on their wives. Here’s everything you need to know about that.
• Other than wedding wings, watches, and cuff links, no jewelry. The only thing worse for a woman than meeting a guy she likes with a ring on his wedding finger is meeting a guy she likes with a ring on any other finger.
Again, this advice is all about risk reward. Because the vast majority of men are fashion illiterates, the smartest thing they can do is keep it simple and stay in a safe zone.
So, these tips won’t get you noticed at Soho House or on the cover of GQ; but on Wall Street and in business world, you can’t go wrong with this advice, which is more important..
John LeFevre is the creator of @GSElevator on Twitter, the editor of The Graze, and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Straight To Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, And Billion-Dollar Deals
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