As we reach part 3 of this article series, I would fervently hope that at least some of you have gained some kind of insightful knowledge and found it interesting or useful. The world of fashion and style can be a very intimidating place, particularly so if your confidence and clothing knowledge is somewhat lacking. It is important that everybody realises that developing your personal style is not an easy process nor does it occur in exactly the same way for each individual, but whilst we can advise and suggest, you have to make the final decisions on what makes the cut and what doesn’t; your style should reflect you.
This will be the last article in this series that highlights the individual items that you should be considering for your wardrobe; in it I will be covering knitwear, outerwear and footwear, which should leave you with plenty to think about and a good source of inspiration and information to begin or continue your style reinvention.
However, after reading the feedback on the previous articles I will be producing a final article for the series in which I create and explain numerous outfits that make the most of the key items I have already identified, so watch this space.
The first item on the list is knitwear. Jumpers and cardigans will play a big role in your wardrobe, especially in the current season, when the weather turns nasty and they will often decide whether you keep warm and toasty or cold and shaky. Unfortunately, this does mean that your beloved hoodies will need to take a back seat – yes, even you’re most favouritest jumper will have to be left at home. We aren’t of course telling you to get rid of them; you can still wear them, but only when the situation allows. Remember the whole point of this change is to improve your image, for this purpose knitwear is the better choice.
However, to ease this process and make you feel a little more at home I would like to make a case for the humble sweater. This gym essential is experiencing something of a fashion renaissance and was covered very thoroughly by Ben in an article a while back and there is definitely scope for incorporating one into your redeveloped look.
More than any other item of clothing, knitwear tends to suffer from frequent shifts in pattern trends. For example, the current boom of cable knits is quite possibly only going to exist for as long as the heritage trend continues; the same is true of waffle knits and even many of the more outlandish Fair Isle designs. With this in mind we should really be aiming for more standardised and subtle patterns and styles; such as fine knit crew or V-neck jumpers or perhaps a more timeless and subtle ribbed design.
The same concept applies to cardigans but I can see there being at least some resistance to your Granddads favourite. I would however suggest at least having a look at what is available; a simple chunky shawl neck cardigan would go very well with straight jeans, chunky footwear and a nice oxford shirt – and it would not be too difficult an outfit to pull off. One point to make very clear is that quality and material is very important in knitwear. Where possible stick to natural fibres, wool (and all its derivatives), cotton and linen etc – these will be warmer, keep their shape better and feel much nicer.
A V-neck jumper is arguably a little smarter than a crew neck but the differences are relatively minor, both will work very well when layered over polos or shirts although I must state my disaffection towards t-shirts under V-necks. The best thing for you to do is try both styles and establish which fits and sits better on your person. Cardigans, should you choose to brave them, are a great addition to any wardrobe and can be an excellent layering item. They are much easier to remove than a jumper and more versatile – all you need do is unbutton it and the whole aesthetic is transformed. They will also sit easily over shirts, where the extra material and restriction of a jumper does have a propensity to gather and bubble, creating serious changes to the overall shape and line of a look.
Colour is ultimately personal preference but to achieve maximum versatility grey or navy will serve you best. However, don’t restrict yourself to one colour, it could prove mighty beneficial to introduce some more daring colours, in which case try a camel, burgundy or even a deep green. AllSaints produce some very high quality knitwear in slimmer fits – check out their ‘code’ V-necks – but otherwise stick to your budget, the high street offers some reasonable quality fine and chunky knits for a lower cost and for the upper end trawl around House of Fraser or even Marks & Spencer; there is a reason they’ve been around so long.
With the weather suddenly deciding to turn really rather cold, the case for decent outerwear is very strong. The number of people who continue to step out the house in little more than a pair of jeans and a t-shirt is quite frankly infuriating; especially as your winter coat could and should be the centre piece for almost every winter outfit you choose to wear.
Despite the restriction to a few select styles, the amount of choice you have when choosing the prefect coat is bewildering and there are quite a number that would suit the emerging fashionable gentleman. As it will more than likely be worn everyday for the next few weeks, making the right choice is crucial. This is an item that has to go with the rest of your wardrobe and suit your overall style – just buying a coat because you like it isn’t enough.
It would be foolish to ignore the quilted jacket in this instance because I’m sure it has crossed the mind of many people but my advice would be to get ahead of the pack and invest in something truly timeless.
My personal choice would be the classic duffel coat; it is an iconic and timeless style that is only now reinventing itself, looking set to stay for a long time to come. It isn’t overly formal and it is a very easy coat to wear – perfectly accompanying the casual style of a man with a developing wardrobe – for example, a simple tee, jumper, cardigan or sweater under a duffle coat with a pair of jeans and some boots is a great look for just mooching around town.
It isn’t of course the only option. The timeless peacoat is another possibility and still suits a wardrobe in flux, anchoring those outfits that you are still unsure about or helping to improve others with a splash of tailoring and formality. The style of coat needs to reflect the image you are trying to achieve and is again personal choice; colour should be simple and easy – grey, black or navy – but whilst bolder shades are more difficult to work with, careful colour choice can result in great success.
Your coat is an investment item, money spent well will mean you have one that will last you numerous seasons and ensure you remain nice and warm in even the chilliest of weather. For those of you wanting a duffle coat take a look at Gloverall for true, British quality. At the cheaper end of the scale you can pick up decent examples from the likes of Topman and Urban Outfitters. Do your research and look around to find the right one for you.
With spring just around the corner however you might also want to consider a lighter jacket, something that will be more suitable for when the mercury starts to rise; with a number of options available take a look through previous FashionBeans articles on Leather, Denim and Varsity jackets or the iconic harrington.
Footwear is arguably THE most important part of your wardrobe. To put it simply, it has the power to make or break your outfit – do not underestimate the fact that people WILL look at your shoes before they look at anything else. It is also one of the areas in which you might be least confident; the suggestions floating around on the FashionBeans forums and on some other articles might seem a little too drastic to those only just entering the fashion world, and it is this which has lead me to suggest something just bit different.
I think it is perfectly clear that everyone associated with this site would appear to love brown/tan brogues, it is the first thing we all cry when someone asks us what to wear but sadly they aren’t always appropriate. Although they may be very popular and there isn’t really anything overly daring about them, brogues remain a definite statement. They identify a particular look and aren’t necessarily suitable for the image we want to create, with the same going for many other formal styles such as the loafer or derby. So for the purposes of this guide I will be pushing the humble trainer and the ever classical desert boot.
You will already own trainers (note how many things you will already own and how this whole process is just about refining it); they will probably have been the only shoes you have worn for the past few years, other than the odd family gathering or wedding where you HAD to wear some proper leather shoes. Just as with everything else in your wardrobe, trainers need taming; no more chunky skate shoes, no more Addidas shell toes, no more bright hi-tops (although more considered examples are still an option) and you can absolutely forget any trainers with lights in the sole that flash every time you take a step.
We are looking for simple, clean, grown up trainers with minimal detailing that will compliment a restrained, more refined and mature look. Matt Allinson is a big advocate of his Adidas Stan Smiths and I too am enjoying my grey suede Adidas Cieros, both are very versatile and perfect for the image we are trying to create. For the most versatility, stick to white and low top examples. Most importantly; keep them clean, nothing says slob like a man wearing dirty trainers.
The desert boot has been highlighted because it offers the perfect compromise between smarter shoes and the more casual trainer. It will smarten up any outfit but not make it too much of a statement. They aren’t too different to what you are used to and they can be used as a springboard to other styles later on. Colours should be kept muted and clean; tan, brown or navy for ultimate usefulness and variety, for caring tips check my article on suede care.
Because footwear is so important, invest; it will save you money in the long run and the shoes will look ten times better. Investigate Kurt Geiger, House of Fraser and Clarks for high quality desert boots and base your trainer selection on brands you like and aim for a clean design.
I would like to stress that this is not an exhaustive list of things you should own in your wardrobe. It is just a taster, a starting point that covers the basics and sets you on the road to a brand new image. As I have said numerous times before, your style is hugely personal and you can’t create it by reading through articles and following them to the letter, what I write is only intended as a guide or inspiration for further development. You must go out and put in the work to create a look that works for you, that you feel comfortable in and suits your lifestyle.
Be intelligent, patient and open minded and your journey will be much easier, try new things and push your comfort zone and you might find you open up a whole new world of possibility. Get involved and enjoy it, there is nothing worse than seeing a chap being dragged around the shops by his other half being forced into clothes he doesn’t care about and just saying yes to everything. Do it yourself; you could even find it fun.
Keep your eyes open for the last article in the series where I will put together some example outfits for all you style re-inventors. As always let me know what you think in the comments below.
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