dress for success and/or actual adulthood
March 15, 2017 4:39 AM   Subscribe

Can I get some current fashion advice for buying for a high-end-ish clothes for the male nerd?

My husband wants some new clothes that are a step up from the skater kid attire he typically wears (t shirt and jeans, hoodies etc.) as he is forty and has like ten people reporting to him. It is a nerd industry though, and we're weepy/angry liberals so he doesn't want to look like he's running for a Republican senate seat.

Can I get brand and specific item recommendations for:
-high quality button downs
-high quality pants and jeans
-shoes/sneakers/those half-shoe half-sneaker styles that are the fashion of the day
-really good quality t-shirts
-cool dude workboots

Also when I say high quality I don't mean expensive or not--I mean, like 'they look great, hang great, feel great' type of quality.

Many thanks you guys.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
This is a job for Put This On.
posted by nerdfish at 4:53 AM on March 15, 2017

Everlane is where I go for tee shirts - you can spend more and get nicer ones, but I don't really see the point. These are US-made, good-quality, soft, contemporary fit, etc. The solid colors are less clingy.

For button-downs, a lot depends on what he wants and how big he is. Does he want a "contemporary" fit (skinnier) or a more traditional fit? Does he want patterns? How on-trend does he want to be? Also, how much does he want to spend? To tell the truth, I've been kind of into American Eagle button-downs lately - I feel like the price and quality are pretty good for what you get. (Way better than Gap, Banana, and IMO J Crew.) The fit on Everlane button-downs is said to be less than ideal and they run skinny so I haven't tried.

In terms of spendy button-downs, I like Gant, although they run tall/skinny. I have only actually bought one directly from them and it was on sale - they are expensive - but I like their patterns.

Brands I'm super lukewarm on: LL Bean, Lands End, Brooks Brothers, J Press, Steven Alan, Theory. For various reasons that basically boil down to not liking the intersection of price and quality - some are too cheaply made for what you pay, some (Steven Alan) are nice but require too much upkeep due to fine wrinkly material.

I have been dissatisfied by pants from almost everywhere at this point. To tell the truth, though they're a bit of a joke, I like Bonobos pants, especially on sale. They're really well-made and stand up to a lot, the fabrics are sturdy but not coarse, etc.

Shoes are tricky, almost as tricky as pants. Sneaker-wise, Epaulet is pretty decent for minimalist ones. But you know what? I actually got a pair of Kenneth Coles on sale that I like equally well. KC is absolute junk for dress shoes, etc, IMO, but their minimalist sneakers are perfectly decent and really, you can't do much to repair sneakers so why spend the earth on them?

Cool dude workboots means such different things to different people and depends so much on the weather. If you live in CA, you can just get suede ones, which is nice as they're often cheaper. In the rest of the world, you need rainproof ones. Redwing or Wolverine 1000 mile are sort of the canonical ones, but they're very definitely "work" boots. I myself like a dressier boot and tend to poke around on Yoox. If you use them, you want to wait for sales, which are regular, and know your size in European shoes. I like Moma and Doucal's in particular.

There are a lot of smaller boutiques and sites that have really specialty clothing - Put This On and other similar blogs can tip you off on that stuff. But it sounds like you maybe don't want to become a #menswear person, just get some decent quality, consistent stuff. If you do want to get into all the menswear stuff, Unionmade (who are sort of lying liars who lie, since most of their products are artisan/craft produced, not made by union members) has a good selection of chichi workwear. They have fantastic sales about once a year, which is how I know about them. End Clothing, a UK retailer, has a good selection of trendy stuff and some of the best prices.

I also have a perverse fondness for Ralph Lauren, on sale anyway. Note that there's about a gazillion lines of RL, some fancier and some cheaper. The thing about RL is that it wears well and is consistent in fit over time.
posted by Frowner at 5:17 AM on March 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Uniqlo Supima t-shirts are the softest and best quality I've experienced.
posted by AFABulous at 7:17 AM on March 15, 2017

those half-shoe half-sneaker styles that are the fashion of the day

It's not really my style, but this is basically the Keen wheelhouse. Can't speak to durability, but most guys I know who have worn them say they're very comfortable.

cool dude workboots

Doc Martens or Timberland. Both also have some shoe styles that would fit your criteria.

If he wants actual serious WORK workboots the usual recommendation is Red Wing, but I've liked Chippewa boots better.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:31 AM on March 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

If he's slim, Descendant of Thieves has some nice shirts that are dressy but not stiff. Unfortunately, if he's broad shouldered or tall, they don't fit that well. Speaking of which, if he is anything other than the exact size of person that the shirts are designed for, having them tailored can make a huge difference.

Merrell hiking shoes (or that general style) have been trendy in that demographic in my area for a few years, though that may be dropping off.

Throwing on a sport jacket can always help managerize someone's appearance.
posted by Candleman at 7:51 AM on March 15, 2017

I found out about Gustin jeans from Put This On that nerdfish recommended above. Very happy with the quality after two years of wearing and they are cheaper than name brand jeans. They also have button downs, pants, shoes and t-shirts.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:56 AM on March 15, 2017

My "tech manager uniform" is a dress shirt (either button down or forward point), nice (clean, new-ish, no crazy fabrics) jeans, and dress shoes. For me, it hits the right intersection of professional without being too dressy and reasonably comfortable. My current job is informal enough that even that would seem out of place so I haven't been dressing that way lately, but it served me well for many years and I'm sure I'll come back to it.

It's a boring answer, by my go-to dress shirt is the Brooks Brothers non-iron. I see that Frowner says he's not happy with the quality/price ratio, which is fair, but it hasn't been my personal experience. Until very recently I wore one virtually every day, and I find them to hold up very well. I probably have 20+ in my closet right now. I know my size and fit, I know the patterns I like, so I can just repeat-order them online during sales when I need more. But if you go that route, PLEASE take the time to find the right size and fit. They have several different cuts, and choosing the wrong one for your body type is a recipe for looking sloppy.

When I want a less formal look, I have some J. Crew and Bonobos shirts I'll wear untucked (on some of them, I had them hemmed to not be too long for that look). I have a few Nordstrom brand dress shirts that are nice too, but I've had kind of mixed experience there, so I hesitate to give a blanket recommendation.

For dress shoes, I pretty much exclusively wear Allen Edmonds. Pants are fraught and very personal, so I'm not going to go down that path. I have a bunch of jeans I like, but it took me years of trial and error to find what worked for me (and then of course they change them slightly every season).
posted by primethyme at 8:07 AM on March 15, 2017

Your husband sounds like he dresses like me. I'm also feeling the need to upgrade my work wardrobe as I gain more responsibility and get older. The problem is that I hate shopping for clothes. I have no inherent sense of what to put together to be presentable. If I shop on my own, I'll spend 2-3 hours stressing in the store and leave with nothing.

A former supervisor of mine recommended a Nordstrom personal stylist though. I gave it a try, and I think that's how I'll be doing all of my clothes shopping in the future. The appointment is free, and you just make an appointment online, tell them what you're looking for and how much you might spend. On the day of my appointment I showed up, tried on several options already pulled for me, bought a few and left - it took about an hour and I walked away with several outfits. Plus, now I also have some idea of brands and looks to think about in the future.
posted by owls at 8:41 AM on March 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

My SO's most important clothing criteria is comfort, second most important being durability. His favorite pants are the Japanese Traveler Jean from Banana Republic, which are made from a thick stretchy skinny-jean-type fabric without being cut super-skinny. And as his fashion-conscious partner, they are also one of the most flattering clothing items that he owns (the low bar here is "hiking sneakers and nerd t-shirts," though).
posted by serelliya at 9:49 AM on March 15, 2017

As a man in a similar (but not identical) industry, I've recently been delighted to discover the great advantage that sport-coats offer. Accompanying any raggedy, rumpled, open-collar business-causal outfit with a structured coat easily makes one the best dressed yet appropriately geeky and non-senatory person in the room. You're intimidating to nobody, but feel comfortable hob-nobbing with fancy people. A hand full of diverse coats, with properly tailored sleeves, will do wonders for a geek-chic wardrobe. (With apologies if this is obvious, choosing a fabric that has a texture and finish similar to one's pants but a color or pattern that isn't close enough to look like a wannabe-suit is key.)
posted by eotvos at 11:01 AM on March 15, 2017

I work in an industry where folks in t-shirts and folks in tailored french suits sit shoulder to shoulder. Engineers, designers, sales people, executives, all together. And it can be hard to tell which is which.

In my opinion, the absolute KEY is to keep things tidy. It doesn't matter what you wear as long as its tidy. this means:

not baggy or wrinkly (although wider cuts are OK, but clothes that are obviously old and stretched out, not OK)
Shoes not scuffed or dirty - polish and oil your leather, scrub your rubber with toothpaste. Whites need to be WHITE.
No dangling threads or loose buttons.
No pilling on sweaters. Or holes. Or stains.

In my opinion, the class signifier of this is "This clothes is brand new". Take white sneakers for example - only new sneakers are still pure white. Dirty sneakers say "These are not brand new" aka "I can't afford to buy a new pair every month". I absolutely have pairs of "casual" shoes that I only wear in the office, to ensure they stay clean.

Upkeep is difficult and time consuming. But I think it's rewarding to learn this upkeep.
posted by rebent at 12:01 PM on March 15, 2017

« Older Where does a large man buy casual clothes in...   |   Layover in Seoul, access to checked luggage? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.