The Less Obvious Choice
A suit, altered by a tailor. A watch, found at the start of a half hour conversation which was, in effect, pointless – because the first one you liked you bought. Shoes, the only ones with their own shoe tree; the ones you never wear when it’s raining.
Standard investment pieces are well understood: they all reward extra spending, and are seen as the pinnacle of a man’s serious wardrobe.
Is this always the most efficient way of using your money? Yes, spend £500 on a suit, £1,000 on a watch, £200 on shoes – but before you spend substantially more, consider some other options.
When you meet a man who you consider well dressed, what strikes you? Undoubtedly those things we’ve already mentioned – but not just that. If a man had only a nice suit you would think, “he has a nice suit”. The step between appreciation of what he is wearing and how he dresses is made when you consider all angles. It may sound obvious, but detail counts. A nice suit, a nice belt, a nice shirt. Then the next time you see him; nice watch, nice sunglasses, nice shorts… That gives the impression a lot of us want to give. That consistency is the basis of being well dressed.
Which is why investing in those standard pieces shouldn’t be your only option. You want an overall image. And how do you create a strong overall image? By sharing the wealth.
Alternative Investment Pieces: Less Obvious
I want this to become a straight-up rule: when wearing a quality suit, always wear a quality tie. When you’re suited and booted the need for colour in your outfit is provided by the trusty tie – it is a central part of a suit. It draws the eye more than any other feature (apart from, maybe, the fit of your jacket), and therefore you should always use it to maximum effect. No matter the quality of your suit, a bad tie will let it down.
Now we’ve hopefully all agreed on my new fashion law, what are we looking for in a tie?
- Silk. Almost universally, good ties are made from silk.
- A simple pattern/design. If you spend a lot on a tie you can’t afford for it to be too bold for normal wear or for it to only match a few of your shirts. Blue with red dots, navy and gold regimental stripe, and plain colour designs will all work almost across the board – avoid complicated patterns when you’re aiming for versatility.
- If your budget extends, a seven fold tie. Usually handmade and containing much more silk than a usual tie, a seven fold is very high quality. A tie like this with a classic design is a true investment piece, fitting of the suit you’ll pair it with.
- Nick Bronson Navy White Embroidered Spot Silk Knit Tie
- Hardy Amies Knitted Silk Tie 113801
- Navy & Gold Seven Fold Tie
- Polo Ralph Lauren Woven Repp Tie
- Charvet Wide Woven-silk Tie
- Burberry Logo Silk Tie
When you wear a leather jacket you tend to rely on it. Worn with jeans and a white t-shirt it is the casual version of a suit – an armour plated look that makes you feel as confident as you can be. In exactly the same way as a suit, it is the focal point and main component – the very core of casual manhood based on the icons of James Dean, The Sex Pistols and Steve McQueen jumping a fence on a motorbike.
Then, if you rely on it much as you do a suit, why are you spending half as much? Assuming you wear it every autumn/winter (and most of spring) casually it can last for over ten years, maybe over twenty. Money spent here won’t be lost, just make sure you follow our leather guide and look after it.
Much like a suit you often have to buy this in person because the fit is all important. Look for supple grade 1 leather and a slim fit, alongside the kind of small details which indicate quality: linings and all varieties of detail.
- Allsaints Axis Leather Biker
- French Connection Nappa Leather Mod Jacket
- Edwin Blitz Leather Biker Jacket
- Reiss Orpwood Leather Bomber Jacket Mid Brown
- Dolce & Gabbana Funnel-neck Leather Jacket 55781
- Levis Vintage 1930s Medlow Leather Jacket
Does it distress you to see a clearly expensive suit worn with a satchel-strapped laptop case? How about a casual outfit – something like fringed loafers, a polo shirt and chino shorts – worn with a knackered and over-branded messenger bag? Well, without getting too uptight I think they both should (although the first one is far worse.) Man bags can be an amazing accessory… or the point at which a suit or other outfit falls apart. They are vulnerable to pretty intense scrutiny, and therein lies the case for investing in them.
Like shoes, man bags are noticed because of social convention. We look at shoes to avoid eye contact, and we look at bags for much the same reason. They are about as far from the person as possible and are probably the most detached thing you have on you. Therefore you can look at a man bag much in the same way as you would a pair of shoes – to size up someone without the mutual discomfort of staring at their face.
Next time you take public transport, notice how you and other people pay much more attention than is warranted to other people’s bags! Women spend money on handbags because they are good status indicators – we might learn something from them.
The idea of alternative investments is, then, to spend money on your bag as well as your shoes. Leather and canvas, backpack and tote, there is a huge range of you could opt for. Unlike other items, there is no established guidance to follow. Trust your instinct, and try and imagine what it will look like in five years. Timeless is good, fiasco in fuchsia is not.
- Penfield Idlewood Backpack
- Ally Capellino Danny Khaki Bag
- Allsaints Thetford Tote Bag
- Chapman Bags Tan Leather Briefcase Messenger Bag
- Ralph Lauren Shoes & Accessories Tumbled-leather Messenger Bag
- Tumi Bedford Westly Holdall
The ultimate classy item. You’re at the bar, or at a table after a meal. Out comes the velcro, the scratched leather, the scuffed logos. The man who really stands out (as much as that phrase might make your cringe) pulls out something refined and simple.
Yes, I have a thing for beautiful wallets. But how could you neglect the one item which you probably carry around with you constantly? It makes absolute sense to spend on a wallet, in the same way you would spend on a watch. Both are small, functional items that you have on you most of the time – and both can make what you wear ‘complete’.
As far as what you should look for in a wallet, I think a nice exterior is obvious. However, beyond plain leather or whatever design you’ve chosen, what sets out a wallet that’s been invested in? Well, hopefully not just a brand name. Look for fabric linings, strong stitching and robust fittings (zips, poppers etc.) There is a strong element of personal choice involved; just remember that this is a wallet, not a peacocks tail.
- Il Bussetto Leather Billfold Wallet
- Reiss Kale Leather Folding Wallet Dark Brown
- Mulberry Leather Card Holder
- Maison Martin Margiela Leather Billfold Wallet
- Polo Ralph Lauren Mens Deerfield Sport Wallet
- Bottega Veneta Intrecciato Wallet 54965
A Good Hair Cut
At least with hair you don’t have to worry about the tag ‘Essential’. We all have hair. Even for balding men, a haircut is a worthy investment – maybe it’s even more important if you haven’t got much of it left. It is the one constant. No matter how you may dress, your haircut will always make an impression.
In many ways, that permanency is a real benefit. Haircuts can make you look younger – and have that effect all the time. Haircuts can compliment you facial features – and have that effect all the time. Haircuts can be a sign of the style icons you aspire to – and have that effect all the time. Getting the picture?
It fits perfectly into our developing portfolio of alternatives: a haircut rewards the money spent on it, and it is part of the overall impression of well dressed. £20 – £30 pounds every five weeks can have an impact £200 extra expenditure on clothes could not. You can’t neglect it.
I am no hair expert, I can’t tell you how your face shape changes the cut you need or what styles are available to you (all the advice you need for that is in our men’s hairstyles section.) However, there are people that can do it in person, for free. How? Well most premium hairdressers will offer a free consultation service. Go in, hear what they suggest, ask detailed questions and remember the information Rob has already set out in order to help get the best from your salon.
Investment Pieces: Open To Debate
Fashion’s gold standard has been, for years, the jeans standard. Chino’s revival and the great alternatives of cords and wool trousers may have altered the way in which we view them but they are still the fallback option, the failsafe. Specialist designers such as Nudie and A.P.C produce denim that lives up to this responsibility. And the best part? You might only need one pair.
A pair of high quality indigo jeans are the definition of versatility. You don’t really need any more than one or two pairs in a dark shade, because you can match these with t-shirts, polos, blazers, shirts, cardigans, macs, shoes, boots, trainers… literally anything in your wardrobe. As long as they fit you perfectly and your opt for a slim/straight fit, they can be dressed up or down as required.
They will also keep their shape and integrity no matter what hell you put them through. There is a reason why they were originally working trousers. Our criteria for alternative investments could hardly be better met. Jeans deserve their place.
That is not to say that you should only ever have one shade of denim or one pair of jeans. Just that you should be investing good money in the pair that is going to see you through many occasions and become the go to option for a whole host of looks. Once you have invested in these then you can go wild and buy grey, white, stone wash or trend led colours.
If you are going to invest money in a premium pair of jeans, look for selvedge denim. Selvedge denim is produced on slow-moving shuttle looms, with the particular method of weaving (using a single weft) creating exceptional quality “self-edge”, or selvedge, denim. The weave will be tighter and the fabric strength unmatched compared to more rapidly produced, lower quality materials.
- Levis Vintage Clothing 1947 501 Straight Fit Jeans
- Nudie Jeans Sharp Bengt Dirt Organic Raw Tapered Jeans
- Edwin Hon Selvage Tapered Straight Jeans
- Prps Fury P29p07aa Fury Rinse Jeans
- Norse Projects Two Raw Denim Jeans
- A.p.c. New Standard Straight Selvedge Jeans
“With my sunglasses on, I’m Jack Nicholson. Without them, I’m fat and 60.” Jack Nicholson
I don’t know many fashion quotations, but of my selection that’s the best. I think we all understand the aura sunglasses give, and that’s why they deserve their place.
There are four types of sunglasses. Wayfarers, Clubmasters, Aviators and ‘other’. Work out which one of the classic styles fits your face shape and spend your money there. It’s a decision you’re never going to regret. Sunglasses are the shared anchor at the heart of your summer wardrobe and as we approach sunny weather (theoretically) this is the perfect time to focus on them. A classic pair of shades in a timeless frame colour will last you years if you look after them, and continue to make you look as good as the day you bought them.
Regardless of what they look like, there are also slightly more serious concerns with sunglasses. UV light can be damaging to your eyes by penetrating deep into the tissue and being absorbed there. As much as a pair for a tenner might stop you squinting, the lens quality will often be fairly poor, and as a result they will offer less protection. I’ll stop there – I’m starting to sound a bit like my nan.
- Ray-ban Gold Chocolate Leather Detail 3422 Aviators
- Persol Keyhole Sunglasses
- Ray-ban Original Wayfarer Sunglasses
- Paul Smith Berling Wayfarer Sunglasses
- Han Ed Sunglasses Black
- Cutler And Gross D-frame Acetate Sunglasses
I hope this one is a point of debate.. I know a lot of us feel you shouldn’t wear a hoodie, and even more of us think their main virtue is being pretty cheap. Expensive hoodies with massive logos are a warning sign, right?
I’m not sure. Leisure wear – by which I mean what you wear to the gym, to relax in, get a takeaway in, go down the pub in – is exceptionally versatile. So, if we recognise that hoodies have their places, but that place is firmly casual, we have to accept that an item you’ll get a lot of wear out of is worth spending on.
Think about it this way, if we take an approach to clothes which means we focus on the ‘well dressed’ impression rather than the ‘nice suit/watch/shoes’, how we dress at absolute leisure is just as important. Everyone scrubs up in a suit, but what do you look like wearing a hoodie? Again, it’s about creating that rounded impression.
Drawstring designs, granddad collars, elbow patches, subtle patterning, quilting – all of these are signs of a hoodie that’s had something spent on it. Most top fashion bands will have their take on an item that is becoming a classic. But that’s an argument for another time.
- Paul Smith Jeans Zip Through Hooded Zebra Sweat
- Allsaints Fox Zip Up Hoodie
- J.crew Cotton Jersey Henley Hoodie
- Marc By Marc Jacobs Black Leather Yoke Thompson Donkey Hoodie
- Isaora Mens Combo Hooded Sweatshirt
- Folk Washed Down Zip Hoody
When we talk about investment pieces I think it needs to be made clear I’m not just suggesting you spend lots of money. You may well be rewarded for spending more on these items, in a way that perhaps can’t be said of plain t-shirts or chinos, yet that isn’t a licence to rely on price as a guide to what suits you. You need to invest some time, some thought and some flair in choosing.
At least, that’s what a broke student likes to think.