Guy developing fasion sense
January 3, 2006 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Help me (A guy) develop a grown man's sense of style.

I am 31 years old and tired to death of the Gap/Old Navy/Bannanarepublic. I used to rely on them to provide me a sense of style within a fairly reasonable budget. I need to research and settle on an adult sense of fashion I can reasonably afford.

I am not blue jeans kind of guy and I am fed up with the yearly changes in blue jeans styles. I like classic "preppie" looks, but I hate the ideas of becoming a Brooks Brothers/Joseph A.Banks clone. (I do not golf, why should I dress like I do?)

Most of my favorite clothing from the last 3 years has come from Eastern Mountain Sports and REI; however I cannot imagine dressing like I'm on the Application trail to go to school or work. I love buying good quality clothing that wears comfortably for multiple seasons. I love European men's style, but I seriously doubt I can afford to dress that way.

What are a fella's options? Where does an adult man bargain hunt for the adult version of preppie or more European clothing?
posted by BeerGrin to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How about H&M Men's clothing. It's not too expensive and it has European flair.
posted by Alison at 1:20 PM on January 3, 2006

I like Eddie Bauer ... but that may fall into the Gap / Old Navy clone area.
posted by frogan at 1:25 PM on January 3, 2006

I like almost everything from Van Heusen and Geoffrey Beene but am starting to build up my warddrobe of suits and business-wear.

I found the most amazing custom tailor in Brooklyn this weekend, and am going back in a month or two to have some suits tailor-made for my body.

My advice: find a local custom tailor who really knows their stuff and get educated. Most will take the time to teach you what looks good and what doesn't on your body type. Then take this knowledge and use it to shop elsewhere, bringing back ill-fitting garments to the tailor who will make them fit like they should.
posted by camworld at 1:26 PM on January 3, 2006

on the Application trail
posted by rxrfrx at 1:30 PM on January 3, 2006

I got a lot of good advice from the Morning News, which ran a well-written series on classic men's fashion:

Part 1- Suits

Part 2 - Dress Shirts

Part 3 - Pants

Part 4 - Conclusion

Read. Learn!
posted by bobot at 1:37 PM on January 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

You should really check out Zara: fashionable, well-made clothes that look designer, but at reasonable prices. They have a store in Philadelphia. Like H&M, but more upscale, in my opinion.
posted by driveler at 1:40 PM on January 3, 2006

You might also want to look at the book Dressing the Man.
posted by driveler at 1:43 PM on January 3, 2006

Link to Dressing the Man.
posted by driveler at 1:44 PM on January 3, 2006

Best answer: My pal Lance offers some common-sense advice on dressing (and grooming) like a big boy, while developing a personal style.
posted by bradlands at 1:57 PM on January 3, 2006

Second H&M. The clothing there isn't super-quality, but it's cut reasonably -- ie, much slimmer and fitted than your standard American box cut.

H&M is very affordable. It's reasonable to think of it as the IKEA of department stores.

You may also have some luck at consignment shops that may be in your area, such as Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange, but you'll have to do your own matching.
posted by fishfucker at 2:05 PM on January 3, 2006

Paging uncle fes...
posted by notsnot at 2:08 PM on January 3, 2006

Best answer: My opinion about H&M and Zara: H&M clothes will self destruct. It's about as bad as Old Navy -- stuff that literally disintegrates as you're wearing it. It is cheap though, so it's a good place to get a few "in season" ties / shirts / pants. Or a jacket. It's totally shite (quality) though, and though you might not be able to tell from across the room, when you're wearing it, you can tell. Zara on the other hand is pretty well made. It's about like Banana Republic in terms of quality. I found their stuff very pedestrian and very much like a BR clone when I visited the store. It may just be that it wasn't my style. But it's basically a Spanish version of BR at about the same prices. The clothes are cut better though and the details are a bit nicer. The problem is they don't have much penetration in the US yet, so if you're not in Philly / NYC / Chi(?), then you're outa luck.

I recommend getting nice shoes. They make everything look better and they're the difference between just-jeans and hot jeans and can totally make or break an outfit (on men -- women's shoes are silly and I can't tell them apart very well). European men do not wear hiking boots or gym shoes out to work or school. That's a big part of looking "grown up" IMO. Same for jackets. A nice coat, or a jacket can dress up a pair of khakis or cords or jeans with a shirt and turn it into going out wear. But you can't skip on this and buy a $100 thing. It's got to be good. I frequent thrift stores for sport coats and jackets too. Many people donate very nice stuff (Polo, H Boss, Barney's etc.) to thrift stores and then all you need to do is get it tailored to fit. You're looking at a $600 jacket for $60, after tailoring. A three year old Polo peacoat that fits you is going to kick the shit out of an H&M jacket any day of the week.
posted by zpousman at 2:35 PM on January 3, 2006

Three words: Comfortable dress shoes.

Another tip: Update your measurements. Many people make the mistake of buying the same size clothing year after year regardless of their actual size. Sometimes the clothes are OK but the size is all wrong.
posted by StarForce5 at 3:02 PM on January 3, 2006

As snickerdoodle says, I don't think Banana Republic's a bad choice, really; they have some very nice, classic, grown-up styles that can provide you with some of the basics of a nice wardrobe at an affordable price -- less casual than the Gap or Old Navy, and will actually hold up, quality-wise, for more than a season or two. Along those lines, J. Crew has lots of classic preppy styles beyond just jeans and chinos; I think their wool trousers are particularly well-cut, and they seem to hold up quite well, too.

For more upscale/Euro stuff, I'm a fan of A.P.C.'s menswear.
posted by scody at 3:16 PM on January 3, 2006

In general, part of dressing like a grownup means learning how to take care of your clothes and learning how to recognize value. You should learn how to take care of dress shirts--they need to be ironed or taken to a good dry cleaner. Your (good, leather) shoes need to be shined on a regular basis and should be rotated--worn on alternating days so they don't take too much abuse at once. Take good care of high-quality stuff and it will last a long time.

If you're rich, just go out and find a good suitmaker and shirtmaker and have stuff made for you. If you're not (and I'm certainly not), keep your eyes open for sales at upscale places and for good items at discount stores. Buy only natural fabrics, and start with the classics--plain white and blue shirts, black, grey, and navy suits, blue blazer, wool trousers. You can learn to recognize quality and the brands that fit your body and your particular style. Personally, I like Hugo Boss for off-the-rack shirts and Hickey Freeman for off-the-rack suits. Ralph Lauren is usually good quality but I don't like having that little Polo guy on my shirts.

Camworld, I'm very surprised to see bespoke tailored clothes and Geoffrey Beene and Van Heusen shirts mentioned in the same post. Geoffrey Beene makes crappy, half-polyester shirts designed to fund the women's haute couture line. Van Heusen is just bargain-basement. Or used to be--I have avoided these lines for years and maybe they've improved in the meantime.
posted by lackutrol at 3:24 PM on January 3, 2006

Oh yeah--H&M--I went to the store after hearing all the hype and was just shocked at the poor quality. I was surprised they held up well enough to stay on the hangers. Really worse than the Gap and its ilk. But I'm almost certainly not their target market.
posted by lackutrol at 3:27 PM on January 3, 2006

Paging bingo....
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:35 PM on January 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

I went to the bookstore a few years ago to answer your exact question, and the best book I found was Make Over Your Man, The Woman's Guide to Dressing Any Man in Her Life. Although ostensibly written for your girlfriend, I found this book to be very informative. It's chock full of fashion information, history and includes great tips on things as detailed as choosing the right collar for your face type.

I guess the best thing I have learned over the years is to buy high quality essentials, mix them up, and accessorize. I will never skimp on shoes or pants ever again. And always, if they don't have the perfect break, get your pants tailored.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:46 PM on January 3, 2006

I second updating your measurements. While men probably don't have the same variation in sizing that women do, too many guys are of the get-in-grab-what-looks-like-my-size-and-head-for-the-check-out mindset because they hate shopping. Fit matters a great deal when you want to look polished and grown-up.

H&M's quality isn't all that bad. I have some dress shirts in my closet that are maybe 4 years old, and they've held up pretty well. Granted, as a chick, I probably have far more items in rotation then the average guy, so YMMV.
posted by phoenixc at 5:27 PM on January 3, 2006

Oh, as for a recommendation on where to shop, Club Monaco is a pretty good bet for clothing that's stylish and classic, plue the quality is pretty good too.
posted by phoenixc at 5:44 PM on January 3, 2006

tiny nitpick, no offense intended: camworld's link was to a tailor, not bespoke tailored clothes. Bespoke is the high end, done without a pattern, with matching price, whereas "really good tailor" might simply mean "alters off-the-shelf shirts to fit really well, and charges very reasonably to do it", or "customized a pattern to better match your body and does the suit at reasonable cost".

Your point stands, but I imagine cheap shirts combined with cheap tailoring would produce better results more cheaply than expensive shirts off-the-shelf, which is why I mentioned it.

posted by -harlequin- at 6:13 PM on January 3, 2006

For the past year or so I've bought all my clothes from a store called Sean, which has locations in a fair number of U.S. cities. The clothes are Parisian / European in style and color, happen (by total chance) to be perfectly cut for me, and are at a sweet-spot price-wise: cheaper than, say, A.P.C., by about $50/garment, but higher-quality than J. Crew or Brooks Brothers. In typical guy fashion I buy all my clothes there, which saves me having to shop around and think too hard.

My advice is to find a similar store--someplace where you like everything and can afford the clothes. Then build your wardrobe slowly, buying only a piece or two a month until you have enough clothes to dress the way you want for 8-10 days. That should be all you really need to own, if you even need to own that much. For me, the main problem with guys' clothes is that it's easy to look like either (a) an indie thrift-store hipster; (b) a preppie J. Crew clone; or (c) a guy going out clubbing. So, try to avoid all of those outcomes. The main thing is to be well-dressed without being dressed-up... or something.
posted by josh at 6:26 PM on January 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ooh, may I indulge in a small amount of crass self back-patting? I was reading Bobot's links, since I don't know as much about suits as I'd like, and saw this:

"Shirts, while more expendable than suits, are worth the money they cost, to a point. No shirt, unless it’s made-to-measure, is worth more than $150. If you’re going to spend more than that, have it made for your body."

Nearly a year ago on mefi, I wrote this:

"a rule of thumb that I have for shirts (...) $150 is the break point. Anything over $150 is guarenteed to look far worse on you than spending that $150 to get a taylor-made item."

I deduced the $150 figure on my own, so it's kind of neat to see the same advice coming from a recommended guide/authority :-)

Either that, or it's dumb luck. Anyway, that's enough of that.

posted by -harlequin- at 6:58 PM on January 3, 2006

Harlequin, no offense taken, but given that he said he was going to get suits custom-made, I went ahead and used the word "bespoke". Of course it's more likely that the tailor is using the "customized a pattern" method than the true "cut original pattern" method, but both because I am lazy and because that point would make this whole discussion really arcane, I went with "bespoke". I apologize for the relative sloppiness.

I might disagree with your point about cheap shirts and cheap tailoring to a certain extent, in that poly-blend shirts will never look that great. But you may be right if you apply your rule to more mid-range shirts. I suppose it depends on how close the man's body is to the pattern the designer uses.

Anyway, I doubt BeerGrin will be going custom or bespoke terribly soon. I still haven't, and I've been wanting a bespoke suit for years and years. I just never have been able to justify the expense.
posted by lackutrol at 7:24 PM on January 3, 2006

Oh, and josh, I like Sean too--the fabric and the work are usually quite good. However, I can't really shop there because the fit isn't right for me. Seems to be geared more to the tall and thin. The Jean-Paul Belmondo look they do is something I like, but others might find them a little idiosyncratic.
posted by lackutrol at 7:29 PM on January 3, 2006

Ercole's does both. They will tailor you a suit from scratch using the fabric you choose (or bring in) or they will alter a suit you bring in off the rack. I'm not sure if they use patterns but I imagine they do unless you want something really special.

Best advice is to give them a call or stop in some day with a suit you need tailored. They are more than happy to help you get fit correctly and talk to you about fabrics, styles, whatever.

I just found these guys and am having my linen suit tailored for my wedding next week. Their level of professionalism and knowledge convinced me to have some suits custom-made for me later this year when I can afford it.
posted by camworld at 7:47 PM on January 3, 2006

The main thing is to get educated about what looks good (better yet, what looks good on you) and shop at a variety of places.

But, if you are looking for a particular brand I like Perry Ellis quite a bit. There are even Perry Ellis outlets at which you can find some great bargains.
posted by oddman at 8:07 PM on January 3, 2006

Oh, and josh, I like Sean too--the fabric and the work are usually quite good. However, I can't really shop there because the fit isn't right for me.

Yeah, I guess this is actually the main point of my post: you want to find a store that has the right fit for you. Once you've found that store, you will look good in those clothes. A good example: the other day I tried on sme clothes at Agnes B., which is far more expensive than I can afford, and super-cool; but the clothes just didn't fit right.

So, shop around, find a store where you really really like the fit, and don't buy anything until you've found that.
posted by josh at 8:08 PM on January 3, 2006

What about Gant.

Go here

The site describes the mens range as "a blend of American casualness and youthful European sophistication".

posted by Chimp at 9:03 PM on January 3, 2006

Best answer: Additional notes:

--if you're going to spend some money on real shoes, get some shoe trees. It's the only way to keep them in good shape. And as someone else mentioned, keep them shined.

--You say you're not a jeans guy - that's fine, but there is something to be said for true casualwear - and jeans are still it. The trick is to forget about "fashion" jeans. Go and try on a pair of Levi's 501s with the original button fly. A classic cut like that has a place in any wardrobe. In dark blue or black only, please.

--I am of the opinion that khaki pants in general are the antithesis of the "adult look" you're going for. At one point khakis were equivalent to jeans - no more or less "formal" than that - but somewhere along the line that changed and they became the very definition of "casual friday". I think the look - khakis and a collared shirt - has been done to death by this point now though and is to be avoided altogether.

--particularly if you live in a cool climate, a pair or two of wide-wale cords can be a nice part of a wardrobe. Comfy as hell too.

--someone mentioned taking care of your shirts. Of course he's right, but it might not be clear how. Take the shirts to the dry cleaner, but not to get them dry cleaned - just ask to have them laundered and pressed. You should get them back on hangers unless you travel regularly, in which case you can ask for them folded. The starch or no starch question is up to you - experiment and see what you prefer. I am a no starch guy.

--try not to actually use wire hangers at all. they're terrible for clothes. when you get your shirts back, take them out of the plastic immediately (not optional) and (optional) put them on real wooden hangers. Not that big a deal to me, but some are quite insistent on this point.

--If you like button-down shirts, LL Bean is a pretty good source.

Good luck!
posted by mikel at 5:26 AM on January 4, 2006

I agree on the casual part. A nice pair of jeans with a cashmere pullover sweater and a nice pair of shoes is a good look. But I would also add, looking at some of these monochrome sites linked here that color is also something to think about.

I bought a beautiful cashmere sweater vest at Macy's in "pistachio" (on sale I might add and I'm wearing it as I type). A sort of lime green but not bright. The color sold me on something (sweater vest) that isn't too sexy by itself.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 7:43 AM on January 4, 2006

Here is my response to a similar question from last year. As stated above, the key to looking stylish is to avoid wearing an outfit that's too matchy-matchy with colors, styles, or brands.

As for specific brands that fit the "modern preppy" aesthetic, check out Ben Sherman, Gant, Penguin, and Fred Perry.
posted by conquistador at 1:05 PM on January 6, 2006

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