STEP 6: KEY ACCESSORIES BRING IT ALL TOGETHER
You now have your first custom suit, and cannot wait to break it in. However, that beautiful piece of garment is not complete without the finishing touches that bring life to the outfit. In this article you will find a list of items to consider when putting together the perfect outfit. Keep in mind that there is such a thing as “too much”. Therefore, other than the absolute essentials, such as shirts, socks, and shoes; you don’t have to wear all of these items at once. Balance is the most important component of this equation. So let’s begin!
MATCHING YOUR DRESS SHIRT AND TIE
There are so many different types of shirts out there, so many different fabrics, as well as countless combinations. If I was to write about all of them, you will be reading for seven years. This section is for you to understand the basics of how to combine your shirt and tie with the rest of your outfit.
First, you want your tie to complement your shirt and your suit jacket not the other way around. Don’t try to match your outfit to your tie. Start with a solid white which is a blank canvas. This is the most versatile solution because you can add whichever color tie you choose.
Next you need to understand patterns and colors. The easiest combinations are a solid shirt and patterned tie because there are no clashing elements. The most challenging combination is a patterned shirt and a patterned tie. The key to pull this off is to vary your patterns. Select a small pattern for your shirt and a larger pattern on your tie. This way you create contrast between the two patterns.
When it comes to colors, the color wheel is your best tool. Start with the three basics, red, blue, and yellow because they work well together. Keep in mind, the more color in your outfit, the higher are the chances of looking like a clown. A good rule of thumb is to play with complimentary colors, which are opposites on the color wheel. They work together because they make each other appear more vibrant. Secondly, using a monochromatic scheme is a surefire way to control the amount of color. By using colors adjacent to each other, you can have a well-coordinated outfit, because they are in the same family. If you feel like you color scheme is getting out of hand, introduce neutral colors such as white, gray, or brown. They will balance your outfit.
WHICH DRESS SHOES ARE RIGHT FOR YOU
I read once that “A well-dressed man with ugly shoes, it’s just a man with ugly shoes”, and I couldn’t agree more with this philosophy. Shoes are the quintessential staple of a man’s wardrobe.
Most of the items on this list can be purchased rather economically, but not shoes. You can ruin an outfit by buying cheap shoes. In my experience, a good budget for shoes is between $200 - $300. There are luxury shoes out there worth $1,000, but they are not necessary, unless you have the extra cash laying around. If you are reading this and your event is a few months from now, you can apply the following strategy to buying quality shoes. Depending on your budget, set aside $50 - $100 a month, and you can have a pair of long lasting shoes in three to six months.
To get started with your shoe collection, make sure you stick to the basics. A pair of dark green gators may look appealing to you, but when will you wear them again? Not ever! So, think about investing in a pair of either dark brown, burgundy, or black shoes. I would personally start with dark brown because they will work with most of the other items in your wardrobe. In terms of style and detailing; I recommend starting with an oxford, double monk strap, or a wing tip.
SOCKS CAN BE FUN
Simply put, you can choose to be boring or interesting. Growing up, I often heard adults say to me: “Always match your socks to your dress pants”. But that is not the case anymore. This is not your grandfather’s world you are living in, thank goodness. You can be a little more adventurous with your socks. For instance, you can pick a color from your socks and match it to your pocket square or your tie. If you have a checkered or striped shirt, you can pick one of the colors on your shirt and introduce it on your socks.
If extravagant socks are out of your comfort zone, yet you want to add zest to your outfit, introduce a contrasting polka dot or argyle pattern with the predominant color being the same as your suit.
Though there are not that many rules to follow when it comes to socks, nothing that screams “newbie” more than wearing white socks with dress shoes. I have seen it done plenty of times, and it brings chills to my bones.
Some key ideas to keep in mind while purchasing dress socks are:
Socks tend to rub along the front of the shoes, so make sure they are not so thin that they break.
Avoid thick winter socks. They don’t look sophisticated, and will take away from the elegance of the outfit.
Make sure the socks go past your calves. There is nothing worse than sitting down and you can see your legs. Which brings me to my next point.
Unless it’s intentional. During a summer event you can choose to go sock-less (which actually means wearing no-show socks, also called liner socks).
SUSPENDERS NOT BELTS
As I mentioned on my previous article with regards to how pants should fit, you should make sure the waist band is constructed with your exact measurements. This way your suit will look like a uniform piece of clothing without the visual break that a belt creates. However, you may be uncomfortable with this solution, and require a level of leverage and support. By using suspenders, you can keep the uniformity of the suit as well as adding the additional support you seek. If you are employing this solution, make sure your tailor installs suspender buttons inside the waist band of your trousers. They are a more polished and functional solution. Clamp-on suspenders tend to snap off when your body is involved in several ranges of motion such as bending, lifting or stretching your arms. Belts should be saved for your more casual outfits.
POCKET SQUARES, LAPEL PINS AND BOUTONNIERES
In menswear, there a very few pieces that can elevate your style. Pocket squares, ties, lapel pins and boutonnieres are among those items. You can immediately add a touch of class by adding a pocket square to your suit. Combine it with the right tie, and you have yourself a world class outfit.
Now there are a few things to consider if you don’t want to be labeled an amateur of men’s style. These articles of clothing, if combined the wrong way, can create an adverse effect to your overall appearance. For instance, some men’s shops sell bundles of ties and pocket squares. Please, I beg you, don’t fall on that trap. If you want to stand out from the rest, pick a color from your tie, and find a pocket square that has that color in it. The opposite is true as well, if you have a multi-color pocket square, then pick a tie that has one or two of the colors from the pocket square.
You may be inclined to wear a tie with a tie bar, a pocket square and a boutonniere, all in one outfit. I made this mistake, thinking that if I wore all of the items at once, it will immediately make me more stylish. Because I am usually around positive people, they always found a way to uplift me. But I knew deep down that it was too much. So now, I choose two or three items that go on my blazer and match them accordingly. For example, if you are going to wear a tie bar and a pocket square, then do away with the lapel pin. If you are wearing a colorful pocket square with a coordinating tie, then do not wear a tie bar or a boutonniere.
Like I said in the beginning of this article, balance is the most important element of this function. Especially when you start introducing jewelry, which I will cover next.
These include watches, rings, bracelets and necklaces. The same principle of balance applies here. Your outfit can begin to look out of whack once you start adding a bracelet, with a necklace, a ring, among all the other accessories mentioned above. This is because you eliminated a focal point by diverting the attention to so many details.
Your watch is your foundation piece of jewelry which you can build upon. As a man, I believe that you should always wear a watch. It gives the perception of maturity, evokes a keen sense of time management, and it just look downright elegant.
Though wearing a watch is a matter of preference, there are a few guidelines to follow in order to keep your style level soaring.
Match your leathers. Make sure that if you are wearing a watch with a leather band, that it matches the color leather of your shoes.
Match your metals. If your watch has metal accents, and there are any other metal pieces in the rest of your outfit, they should match closely. These accents include a ring, the buckle on your shoes, the frame of your glasses, a tie bar among many others. Your outfit will immediately look tacky once you start mixing metals.
When it comes to jewelry stick to two pieces max. For instance, you can wear a ring and a watch, or a watch and a bracelet. The exemption to this guideline is if you are married and have a wedding band. In this case you can get away with wearing a small bracelet.
Though there are no specific rules of style, following the guidelines above will ensure that you’re the best dressed man at this event. Which is the path I set for you at the beginning of this series. Now go on, dress to impress, and impressed they shall be!