Looking for some style advice for a 21 year old from the HiveMind!
October 6, 2009 4:49 AM   Subscribe

Looking for some style advice for a 21 year old from the HiveMind!

I just recently turned 21 and I would like to dress more like an adult. I have grown pretty tired of sneakers and gaudy t-shirts. I have been reading various blogs and magazines, but I want to get the opinion of the average person. HiveMind is the greatest!

I'm 6,4 and 167 pounds. I'm in the process of gaining weight, but I would like to get outfits that show off my height, but don't make me seem pencil-thin. I don't want to dress too formal, but a casual stylish look is what I'm trying to achieve. What are some outfit essentials for a young man's closet? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

On a side note, a friend bought me a sweater from Banana Republic to celebrate my goal of trying to dress like my age. See here. Does anyone have any ideas to dress up/down this sweater so I can wear it for an upcoming retirement ceromony? Thanks!!!
posted by Junior687 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
First you will want to get some shirts with a collar (not an endorsement of that particular brand/shirt). You can layer them over a t-shirt for casual wear or buttoned up for a sharper look - also worn under that sweater you have is a good all around look for your age.

For pants - cords or any pants that aren't denim.

For shoes - you can pair some stylish sneakers with the above for casual, and get some dark colored "dress shoes" (that is an endorsement of that brand and most of those styles).
posted by smartypantz at 5:27 AM on October 6, 2009

I'm in the same boat as you - kind of - well, I'm female, curvy and a scarily short way off thirty now. OK, so maybe not so much in the same boat as in a dinghy paddling beside you.

I really like wool jumpers on men. Proper wool jumpers, maybe with a shirt underneath for maximum nerdiness (although this depends on whether you want to look nerdy). That sweater looks quite casual to me - for a ceremony I'd go with a more fitted V-neck over a shirt.

But on the other hand...dressing 'like your age' doesn't mean dressing like your dad. You're 21, you aren't yet in a corporate environment or may soon be. There's nothing wrong with casual clothing. There'll come a time in your life when you can't wear gaudy t-shirts, or sneakers, or long leather coats, or dye your hair pink - do it all now while you still can, and try and find your style that way.
posted by mippy at 5:29 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and corduroy is a great thing. Warmer than denim, too.
posted by mippy at 5:29 AM on October 6, 2009

Get some nice dress slacks. Charcoal grey looks great on most guys (and it's a little more relaxed than straight up black, but not as nerdy as khaki). Do that with a sweater over a collared shirt, and suddenly you're "business casual." Do the sweater, no collared shirt, over nice dark jeans, and suddenly you're "nice casual."

Say yes to at least one nice pair of leather dress shoes you can wear with jeans and walk in comfortably. Say no to pleated pants.
posted by olinerd at 5:34 AM on October 6, 2009

A good pair of shoes makes any outfit, from jeans and a nice t-shirt to a full suit, look much more put-together.

For tall and thin, a blazer/sport coat over a sweater will bulk you up, add width to your shoulders, and be warm (provided you're somewhere that the upcoming season is cool).

I see a lot of guys wearing casual dress shirts, untucked, with the sleeves rolled up only once, somewhat open at the cuffs. I think that fits the casual-yet-dressy vibe, and avoiding tucking in a shirt will draw attention away from how slim you are.
posted by xingcat at 5:34 AM on October 6, 2009

I don't know about outfit essentials but I'm close to your age and I would love it if more guys dressed like Nerd Boyfriend.
posted by troika at 5:38 AM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

in this day and age you aren't supposed to dress adult until you hit 30.
posted by mary8nne at 5:43 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some of this might be too general or too didactic, but these are some of my rules and I think they work well.

Get some white oxford shirts. It is hard to go wrong with a white oxford, and you can dress them up or down. Land's End does decent cheap ones. Brooks Brothers is the standard, but they're a bit pricier. American Apparel does nice ones now in a slim fit, if that's more your speed.

Black oxford shoes are also reliable, and good ones can be found at thrift stores, with some diligence, and made very impressive with a thirty dollar resoling and shining. My go-to pair is a pair of Allen-Edmonds that I found in good condition for almost nothing. If you want 'nice' shoes but are worried about wearing 'stuffy' shoes, Fluevog has some good stuff.

Get a couple of decent sweaters and jackets. Nothing with extremely bright patterns or double vents or anything like that. In fact, 'nothing too ostentatious' is a good rule until you know enough about the style you want to be able to pull off ostentatious things within it. But as for sweaters, solid, saturated colours are good.

Seconding dress slacks, strongly. Jeans can look very nice, but none of this artificially distressed junk, please.

Fit is of the utmost. Wear things that flatter. You can look intelligently dressed if your white t-shirt and jean shorts fit you well. Display the shape of your body - although this doesn't mean wearing things that are very tight (but it can mean that once and awhile).

Material is also important. Shiny material (unless it's the leather of your shoes) mostly looks awful unless it's on a tuxedo jacket. I disagree with previous assessments of cords - I think that a very good pair of cords can be stunning, but most people I see wearing cords just look upholstered. Cotton shirts are your bread and butter. Linen is almost always good. Enjoy wool.

In winter, wear a pea coat and a dark scarf.

Oh yeah, and tuck in your shirt.
posted by voronoi at 5:57 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Sartorialist is kind of the authority on current men's fashion (yeah, he photographs women as well, but his vision's much more focused with men). A lot of the time he gets a little too formal or high fashiony for most people to imitate on a daily basis, but he also photographs plenty of people who just have fun with their clothing in a way that looks great.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:06 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's some previous general advice, for the young man making an upscale dress transition.
posted by paulsc at 6:07 AM on October 6, 2009

You're 21 and want to dress your age?

In this day and age, you can "stay young" for much longer. I sense a bit of peer pressure going on here..
posted by flippant at 6:09 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

A nice, basic sweater over a tee shirt or button down, a pair of nice-looking jeans (whether you actually buy fancy ones or just the Target brand knock-off) and pretty much any of the shoes recommended in this thread will look pulled together, casual, and stylish without trying too hard. This looks good on pretty much anyone.

However, if you're not accustomed to owning nicer sweaters, you will need to learn how to take care of them. Resist the urge to hang them up because hangers will stretch out the shoulders into ugly little points and ruin the sweater. Find a box or drawer you can keep them in. See this thread for a few options with regard to cleaning. They don't need to be washed as often as, say, regular shirts, but they should be cleaned occasionally (say, every fourth time you wear the sweater or if you spill something on it). If you end up washing them at home (by hand or in the machine), rather than taking them to a dry cleaner, you may want to buy something like this sweater rack or you can simply use towels, as described here. Just pay attention to how you lay them out to dry.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:10 AM on October 6, 2009

Oh yeah, and tuck in your shirt.

For the love of God, though, don't tuck in your T-shirt. That is not good. (NB at your age I had crimson-red hair and wore a tee with a Japanese whisky ad printed on it all the time, but you should still listen to me on this one.)

Use Woolite, or similar detergent especially for wool for your sweaters. It does make the difference.
posted by mippy at 6:23 AM on October 6, 2009

You're 21 and want to dress your age?

In this day and age, you can "stay young" for much longer. I sense a bit of peer pressure going on here..

Now that dressing like a cross between a hobo and slobby 12 yr old is the mainstream, a linen jacket and nice shoes are the counter-culture.
posted by atrazine at 6:36 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dressing nice will definitely be important, but don't try to "grow up" too fast! 21 is still plenty young to wear crazy t-shirts and sneakers. Don't lose your unique style. I know a guy with the exact same height/build as you who is 28 or so. He wears slim-cut dark jeans, button down shirts (often plaid), sometimes with t-shirts underneath. He wears a lot of crazy sneakers, like those expensive-ass retro bright colored Nike high-tops, but he also wears boots and dress shoes sometimes. It works for him. Honestly, if you're a super tall person, you can get away with being more edgy a lot of the time, because you already stand out.
posted by ishotjr at 6:40 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think Blazers + nice dress shoes will take you a long way here. Wear clothes that fit you right, and you're golden. I think the large fitting, or grungy looking (on purpose) clothing (American Eagle, Hollister, etc) will make you appear younger than you want to appear. Although I think they're perfectly fine for a 21 year old - it just sounds like you want to appear older.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:23 AM on October 6, 2009

Hey- most everything was covered above, but I want to add a few points.

1. At 21, you don't need "real" dress shoes, especially for day to day wear. I would get something a little inbetween- not sneakers, but still comfortable and don't need shining. This may be a little spendy, but is generally what I'm thinking of. Try to find a nice medium, but still stylish.

2. Don't go buy nice wool sweaters, etc. without knowing how to take care of them. You'll end up with shrunken, pilled sweaters and a lot of wasted money. Can you ask your mom or dad to give you a laundry lesson next time you're home? I'm talking from experience here- my 28 year old boyfriend bought nice wool sweaters in an effort to look more grown up. He had no idea how to wash them and had to go buy all new wool sweaters very shortly thereafter.

3. You are at a great age to create a really interesting individual style. Experiment! You can wear something awful without much risk now. Try things and see what kinds of reactions you get!
posted by ohio at 8:44 AM on October 6, 2009

> a casual stylish look is what I'm trying to achieve.

Obviously, individual taste is just that... but as you're 21, and you want to look more like an adult, I would assume you're going for one of two stylistic messages:

a) confidence, prosperity, self-assurance; familiarity, ease, and comfort with the privileged life and its social circles; and ultimately, a readiness for the mantles of responsibility and success;

b) slightly jaded, knowing, badboy sophistication.

The sweater you picked out suggests that of these two, a) comes closer to what you have in mind.

I'm curious whether your intended audience is
a) your age cohort, with the idea that you appear more worldly, authoritative, and experienced; ord
b) older folks, who can hire you, appoint you, and in various ways benefit you.

In both cases, I'd suggest you go for a Euro look-- it's an efficient way of standing out and suggesting both "cooler than" to your peers and "not like every other 21 year old guy" to your bosses.

Try HM (within the US, you'll have to look for a physical store, or use eBay).

Also, more generally, if you want people to feel immediately at ease with you, selective a particular, easily definable style-- young business guy, young active guy, young arty guy, whatever-- and Be That. Conversely, if you want to make people feel not so at ease with you, but intrigued by you, and ready to be very impressed by you, go for a distinctive look, one that essentially mixes styles. For example, if you're into mellow-looking preppie sweaters, introduce a discordant note, like a leather jacket.

Thing is, if you're 21 and 6'4", pretty much any look can work for you, so long as you feel good about it. Here's the test: Does wearing it make you want to talk with more people, and more people you don't already know?

If it does, then it's the right look for you.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:01 AM on October 6, 2009

Just in case mippy's answer sounded strange to you, jumper in British English is a pullover sweater in the US, not a dress

Since you are in the military, I would think that the more conservative/tailored items mentioned would be best, with the more artistic stuff as just a maybe.
posted by Houstonian at 10:13 AM on October 6, 2009

Not to hijack, but I was on the Sartorialist link....can anyone ID these boots?
posted by pilibeen at 12:45 PM on October 6, 2009

(reading back over this thread I realise I am pretty much just reiterating what has already been said a few times, but here goes)

I'm 20 and often get told I dress well...day to day I wear relatively slim cut dark blue or dark grey jeans (plain with no washes or stupid detailing - fake rips etc), with a cardigan or a v-neck sweater and a plain neutral colored tee (some variation grey/light brown/white generally - a staple of mine is the cinder colored organic tee from american apparel) underneath or a light blue oxford shirt and if its cold I always seem to be wearing one of these - (I have it in black and in lead/navy) http://store.americanapparel.net/rsag403.html?cid=209. For casual shoes I have all black (including the sole etc) leather chuck taylors which I think look sharp but not too old for my age. A nice variation on the classic chuck.
If I am going out I have a nicely worn pair of oxfords I found at a thriftstore and some nice slim cut black pants I splashed out on. Fit is everything, and while not everyone likes skinny cut clothing I think most guys look more sophisticated in pants that are at least relatively slim.

I think the Banana Republic sweater looks nice but would be something I would wear casually with a tee underneath. For a more formal dinner I would go for a v-neck sweater with a plain oxford shirt underneath. Colors don't matter...just as long as they aren't too bright and gaudy - I think when choosing colors it is important to consider your hair and eye color, and skin tone - for example if you have flaming red hair a bright red sweater probably is not the best choice. I have blond hair and blue eyes so tend to go for grey/blue colored clothing.

I used to dress really badly and never felt confident when going out - and through reading question and answer threads like this and emulating stylish people I knew I think I now dress well for my age without being too boring.
Of course I am not saying you should endeavor to dress like I do, all I could think of putting up here was what has worked for me. Generally I think as long as you pay attention to fit, and stick to plain colors and cuts and quality materials you will look well put together - avoid clothing with excessive detailing and blatant branding all over it and you are off to a good start.
posted by sartre08 at 5:00 PM on October 6, 2009

Response by poster: I appreciate all the input from everyone. This will definitely come in handy during my next trip to the mall. I want to change my overall style because I have grown tired of the typical style I am so used to seeing. The majority of the people I'm around wear clothes that are three sizes too big. I don't want to dress like that. It doesn't look good and it doesn't portray a good image of people my age. I'm in the Air Force, and since joining I have gained a feeling of professionalism. I want to be able to dress the part when out of uniform as well. I also want to feel more confident when I'm out and a refined style would be a good start. Thanks for all the advice and I will be sure to take it all into consideration! Take care.
posted by Junior687 at 6:48 AM on October 7, 2009

pilibeen those boots are really really beat up Alden Indy boots.
posted by splatta at 3:01 PM on October 8, 2009

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