Everyone should know by now that style is a very personal thing. For whatever reason you dress the way you do – for others, for yourself, because everyone else dresses that way – it will always be because you wanted to, you made the choice (unless your Mum still buys your clothes.)
I would hope that each and every one of the readers gains something from the quite frankly excellent content of this site (I know I have) and will continue to do so for as long as you should wish, but sometimes I find it a bit impersonal. Apart from a particularly unattractive mug shot (of me anyway) at the bottom of a page, you readers never really see what is actually at the opposite end of these words. I sit here on the other side of the interweb writing articles, offering advice and inspiration but I could very easily be the kind of chap that sits at his computer, on the end of his bed, in his pants all day and never leaves the house – why in God’s name would you take style advice from someone like that?
I’m not by the way… most of the time I wear a stained, white vest, but that is beside the point.
Sometimes I think that it’s worth having some extra clarity. The clothes that I wear do, to a certain extent, dictate the advice I offer to you, so it could be worth identifying the source.
Even if you don’t explode with excitement to see what I wear on a regular basis, you will at least know that I’m not actually sitting in my pants and vest all the time.
Double Monk Straps are currently one of my favourite styles of footwear. They are just as versatile as brogues or loafers and can perform equally well in all the same situations, with the added benefit of knowing that you are going to be wearing something that many others won’t have even considered.
The monk strap is a style that has been big in the US for quite some time, fitting in very well with the preppy style we associate with our sartorial companions across the pond, but they haven’t quite taken off over here. The fact that they aren’t as well known as brogues or loafers is certainly one of the reasons for this, but it is also due to a shortage of brands producing them. I know when I started looking for a pair, you couldn’t get a any for less than £150, but with the likes of Zara now getting in on the action (check out the thread on the forums for a discussion), you can guarantee that we will be seeing them more and more in the seasons to come.
Sadly, the number of budget styles is still very limited, so monk straps are going to require some investment – but when it comes to your footwear, that is definitely no bad thing. I bought my Loake Cannons a couple of months ago and I couldn’t be happier with them; the colour is fantastic, the shape is excellent and of course, the construction is superb and they will last for years.
As they are a bit more unique than your average shoe, my personal preference is to show them off by going sockless and giving my trousers a turn of the cuff. They work just as well with chinos or jeans, but definitely lend themselves to a more structured style of dressing – think a navy blazer, red/white gingham check shirt and stone chinos, or one of my favourites: off white chinos, a navy roll neck and a grey double breasted blazer. They can also work fantastically well with your suits, adding that subtle touch of individuality to mark you out from the crowd without sticking out like a sore thumb.
Despite the price tag I think they could be a fantastic addition to any sartorial gents styling arsenal and are definitely worth considering.
Not perhaps the obvious choice to follow on from a pair of rather formal shoes, but stay with me.
As I have touched on in previous articles, our personal style has different degrees. We each have different attitudes towards the way we dress and this does not only affect the actual clothes we wear, but when and where we wear them. Whilst some might be happy to get dressed up for a quick trip down the road, others might not be quite so fussed. This does not mean that either party is more or less stylish than the other; it just means that their attitudes are slightly different.
I for one believe that a man should be able to create stylish, relaxed and comfortable outfits that require little thought and preparation just as much as he should be capable of putting together those classic, refined, structured and more formal looks that we are all so fond of. Situational awareness is something that can often get lost in our quest to become consistently well dressed, and I think this can sometimes lead us to be somewhat over prepared for certain situations (although this is entirely subjective.)
With this in mind, I think it is always worth remembering the innumerable qualities of the humble t-shirt. Being so easy to wear, to dress up or keep casual, the tee is one of the easiest ways to create a simple, stylish look. But rather than go for a plain crew or v-neck, why not try something a little bit different?
A long sleeve Henley tee, in lightweight cotton, is a ridiculously easy way to wear something casual (and surprisingly unique) on an everyday basis and still look like you have made an effort. Push up the sleeves and undo one of the buttons and you have already changed the look the item; it’s more relaxed, a bit rakish and if you’ve got a touch of hair on your chest, can add just a smidgen of ruggedness; something often missing from our classically inspired outfits.
A long sleeved example will be a much better transition piece from day to night, with the longer sleeves keeping you warmer as the sun goes down but light enough to wear comfortably during the day. Stick to muted, block colours for ultimate versatility – grey, navy, white and black – or go for a stripe if you want to have something that could work just as well on the beach as it does in the bar.
I like to wear mine with some rolled up chino shorts or a pair of skinny jeans, both worn with a pair of special edition Vans authentic (I know, I know.) It is simple, easy and classic – and because the fit is right and I’ve injected some colour with my shoes, the whole lot just works. It’s the kind of outfit that anyone can wear and can be made more special with careful use of accessories.
This one is perhaps a bit counter intuitive considering the season, but when you actually look at our weather and how consistently awful it is, having a decent thicker knit cardigan starts to make a lot more sense. British weather is at best unpredictable, so while you might be okay tottering around in your chinos and shirt with the sun shining down, as soon as it has a mind to disappear behind a cloud, the temperature can change rapidly.
A cardigan of a decent thickness can be a life saver if you are intending to stay out into the evening. Many are the times I have been caught unprepared with only a thin piece of knitwear to layer up with, and it has a rather detrimental effect on how much I have enjoyed the rest of the evening. Sadly, a beer jacket takes a little while to acquire, so something a little thicker is definitely the way forward. The key is to find something that will keep you warm outside, but won’t overload you inside – hence why my preference is the cardigan – unbuttoning can mean the difference between sweaty pits and sexy man.
Another reason to choose the cardigan over the jumper is that (in my opinion) they are more versatile and smarter than jumpers. I have a bit of an aversion to your typical V-neck jumper/t-shirt and shirt/crew neck jumper combinations, as I have always found them too restrictive. Not so with the cardigan, which works just as well over a shirt, polo or tee and will in many cases smarten things up.
I like my cardigans to have a collar of some description, whether it is a shawl collar or just plain straight up. The one I wear the most is a button up, navy, cable knit from Topman that I got two years ago. I find it looks best with a shirt, as the collars can support each other and help to create an overall more refined aesthetic. Why not try wearing a pair of jeans, loafers, no socks, a blue oxford shirt and a grey shawl neck cardigan next time you have a night at the pub? A relaxed outfit, with elements of formality in the shoes and shirt that doesn’t look over-worked or forced.
This spring/summer season is for prints. We’ve seen them before but not in such abundance; colour has been slowly injected into our wardrobe and now it’s time to really break free and start pushing the boundaries. However, by bold prints I don’t mean you have to rush out and buy the loudest, most disgusting Hawaiian shirt you can find, it could be as simple as a slightly brighter stripe than normal, or block colours using shades you haven’t previously thought of. It’s really just about embracing new things.
Bolder prints are something that I have personally been slow in coming round to. I was never sure I particularly agreed with them and I didn’t think they suited my style, but as I have developed and become a bit more experimental in what I wear, the louder pattern has earned itself a solid place in my wardrobe.
Depending on how far you want to take your experimentation with patterns, the way to wear them will differ. As a general rule of thumb, the more outlandish the print, the more casual the style.
You could for example, wear a navy polka dot shirt under a blazer, with a pair of jeans/chinos or tailored trousers and still have yourself a very clean, classic look. But if you are more inclined to wear a geo or Navajo inspired print, then your shirt is your statement piece and shouldn’t really be hidden. Try wearing a short sleeve, pattern shirt tucked into a pair of jeans and desert boots for a more modern take on the Rockabilly/Mod looks.
I like to wear my Navajo print shirt, buttoned all the way up, with a pair of skinny jeans, some suede loafers and my Harrington thrown on over the top.
Whether you choose to go all out or take it a bit slow, bolder print shirts can be a fantastic way to make a statement – injecting some individuality and creative flair to many a casual outfit.
Sunglasses have been covered a few times of late so you would be forgiven for thinking that we are edging towards overload, but in reality we are simply reinforcing just how important they are. I for one would be a far angrier person if I didn’t have my sunglasses. I will use my clubmasters at any opportunity, not just because they add a little something to every outfit but also because I get raging headaches from squinting too much.
A pair of classic sunglasses are a great investment. They will last you for years, work with any outfit and give your precious eyes the proper protection they need – cheap knock-offs just don’t cut the mustard. Spending £90 on a pair of wayfarers or clubmasters (if you search around) will almost certainly save you money in the long run, provided you take care of them. I would definitely recommend buying some cheap sunglasses to take on holiday or to a festival etc, but day-to-day, nothing beats a pair of good quality shades.
When chosen and worn correctly I have always found sunglasses to add a little mystery to an outfit, especially if it is one that has taken a bit more preparation and thought. They are the perfect accessory and can be used by everyone in any look. I know I wear mine with absolutely everything.
So there you have my top 5 summer items, all things I have in my wardrobe that I wear on a regular basis. I am a big advocate of a transitional and versatile wardrobe, one that keeps items to a minimum but variety to a maximum (also helped along by the fact that my wardrobe is only about a foot and a half wide… seriously.) and I believe that all of these items play a big part of that.
Hopefully I might have given you something to think about, but even if I haven’t, we can still be happy that I definitely don’t sit in my pants and vest all day.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, as well as the items that are your absolute essentials and why.