Greetings Magpie readers! Mr. Magpie here. The Fashion Magpie has received a number of requests from the vastly un-fairer sex, men, to write a post that they might be more interested in — I guess not many guys are in the market for maxi skirts or “Loubs.” So, she has asked me to pinch hit for her and take on the subject of men’s fashion in honor of Father’s Day. I was shocked to receive this request from The Fashion Magpie because she very modestly claims to have no idea about the subject at hand. Apparently, she forgot that she previously wrote a number of excellent posts geared towards guys (i.e., here, here, and here). She has also purchased me a number of my favorite fashion items that will forever be a part of my wardrobe, such as classic Persol 649s.
She obviously has a firm understanding of “What Men Want” (wouldn’t that make a hilarious/terrible/scary sequel to the movie “What Women Want?”). The Fashion Magpie has clearly demonstrated her expertise in all things fashion, for both men and women, so why should you listen to me?
In general, I have always been sartorially minded thanks to my upbringing — perhaps it is even part of my DNA. If you wouldn’t mind, please consider the following:
1. While you might think I am biased, my mother has exquisite taste that goes beyond just fashion. At the risk of our personal safety, my mother gives the infamous/nefarious Martha Stewart a run for her money. Just ask The Fashion Magpie — she will vouch for me! (If you never see a post from us after this, you will know Ms. Stewart has done us in — please send help).
2. My family at one point owned the oldest, family-owned, men’s clothing store in the U.S. It tragically closed a few years ago after a respectable 175-year run.
Picture above: The Shoop family store: dressing the men of Freeport, PA from 1830 to circa 2005.
3) My father co-owned a gentleman’s clothing store with locations in McLean, Georgetown, and Old Town.
Picture above: This ad was run back in the 70s. Doe (my dad) is on the left.
Clothing is something that runs in my family’s blood. And while I might be able to attribute some of this to nature, much of it is thanks to nurture.
Picture above: My very first seersucker suit, my first madras tie, and my first pair of top siders — off to a hell of a start thanks to my mother and father.
Though my mother has been a major influence in this department, in honor of Father’s Day this post is dedicated to my Doe (my dad, remember?) and the lessons he imparted upon me growing up and still does to this day. And girls, please keep reading, too. My advice will be especially useful in outfitting any dads, current and future, in your lives. Guys — follow my advice and you will be dressing like a man in no time.
My impressionable years as a teen dictated that I follow what the cool kids were wearing. This meant there were many trips to Abercrombie & Fitch and Structure — far more than I care to admit. I recall being drawn to a lot of dark blues, grays, and blacks. I remember coming home from many of these shopping excursions, showing my parents my sweet new threads and they would always ask “Why don’t you ever wear anything with color?”
Nowadays, it is easy to be reminded of this lesson living in DC where 99.99% of the men don the standard-issue government suit — charcoal suit, white shirt, plain tie, and, oftentimes, sneakers (Re: the sneaker + suit combo — not a good look guys. And girls, I have seen you do it, too). I see this day in, day out. Lather, rinse, repeat in the worst way possible.
Now, each of those items on their own isn’t bad, per se, but when combined into the same outfit I have to ask the same thing that my parents always asked me: “Where is the color?”
Fellas, I ask that you go out on a limb and buy something with color in it. Orange, blue. Red. Green. Purple. Yellow. And, yes, pink. And though your buds may make fun of you for sporting a pink tie or pink shirt, who cares? You aren’t dressing for them, are you?
And why wouldn’t you choose to wear color? Is there any better proof than in nature? It is the men rocking the bright hues. Check out the mandrill, turkey, peacock, and coho salmon.
In addition to it being biologically correct, opening up to color will instantly expand your purchasing options. It will allow you to stand out in a crowd — whether to a boss or a girl. An advanced wearer can even use color to to make him look physically better and more engaging by playing off skin tone, hair color, and eye color.
Most importantly, this is an easy rule to put into action: 1. Go to a store; 2. buy something that isn’t gray, black, or dark blue. I would start with this tan Black Label Gabardine suit from Polo Ralph Lauren –
and pair it with a Gingham shirt of any color — like this purple one from Paul Stuart. Add a pocket square such as this one from J. Crew and you have a great casual look for the summer.
You can also keep going and pair it up with this necktie from Robert Talbott for a more professional look or a bow tie from Carrot & Gibbs — perfect for a summer wedding.
This rule also applies if you are looking for more casual looks, too. Check out this get up put together by Beecroft & Bull:
Let me get the practical reasons out of the way as to why you, guys, should spend more on clothes (I know I don’t need to convince the girls): better quality clothes last longer, men’s fashion is timeless, it fits better, it feels better. In other words, you get what you pay for.
My dad still has a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes he purchased over 20 years ago and they are still in great condition. I have my first pair of men’s shoes that I got for my first job out of college. That was more than 6 years ago. These puppies have been through a lot, too — I wore them multiple times a week through the elements, on the Metro, on the streets, and they still look great.
For instance, if good fortune permits, these will be mine one day. Splurge on them here.
As for the less tangible reasons — nothing will make you walk taller or with more confidence than a great fitting suit, slick pair of shoes, and a great shirt and tie combo. People will notice, too. And you never know who you are going to run into — first impressions go a long way. Then, dressing well is the least you can do for your girlfriend or wife, isn’t it? Finally, you are a man. It is time to dress like one. T-shirts, sweatshirts are better left for the gym.
This whole look created by Paul Stuart is it:
Side note: every man should own a polka dot tie. Nothing more classic. Nothing more stylish. Grab one from Polo Ralph Lauren’s Purple Label line:
Every guy must also splurge on a great Navy Blazer — also by Polo Ralph Lauren (Ralph is my go-to for everything):
Now, obviously good clothes cost a pretty penny. It may help to look at it as an investment. You will be wearing them for the next ten or twenty years (assuming our beer bellies stay put). However, if you cannot bring yourself to pay up, at least try the expensive clothes on. Note how the fabric feels, how the piece fits, how it is constructed. Then, search for items more in your price range that come as close to the high-end stuff as possible.
One major caveat to this rule: fit is equally important, if not more important than anything else. The cheapest quality suit will outshine the finest, most expensive one that is ill-fitting. Always look for pieces that require the least amount of tailoring/fit your body type off the rack. Focus on fit is a fundamental component of dressing better.
Adhering to rule number one will give you a head start on this more abstract rule. What you wear on the outside is a clear reflection of who you are on the inside. You surely consider yourself to be a fun, cool guy, so your clothes should reflect that.
My dad wore a pair of bright magenta argyle socks with his tux at our wedding. He is often sporting seersucker, khakis embroidered with wire hair fox terriers, and bowties. My style tends to follow suit (EH?!) — this apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
Obviously classic preppy is my personal style and yours may fall towards the more modern or more alternative. No matter what your style is, you can still have fun with your wardrobe.
Oftentimes, an easy, cheap way to interject some “fun” into your closet can be through “add-ons” (or, as girls call them, accessories). Add-ons, which is not a technical term by any means, can range from socks to belts to pocket squares to tie clips to cufflinks and much, much more.
Socks are an easy way to inject your own style into your wardrobe — check these out from Pantherella.
The Fashion Magpie recently picked up this great belt for me from Sir Jacks. And if you are not into oysters, they also have belts with clams, fish hooks, foxes, and skull & crossbones.
Every guy should have a high quality navy blazer, and what better way to personalize it than with some cufflinks or buttons from Ben Silver:
Sweat the small stuff. The details can make an ordinary ensemble look extraordinary. A tie clip, tie bar, or any other small add-ons can pull a look together instantly.
This little guy? Be sure to add a little gangster lean by angling it for extra style. (From Brooks Brothers.)
How about another “good fortune” piece like the Crocodile loafers above? By Patek Philippe.
So, that about wraps up my first post — thank you for making it this far! Before I sign off, I have a few final words:
To the guys — I know you may have balked at some of my suggestions above, but at the very least I hope I encouraged you to approach your own style with a little more thought. And while there are many, many more rules that apply to men’s fashion, I think these few tips imparted upon me by my father should help you dress with a little more style and a little more confidence.
To the girls — I hope you encourage the men in your lives to start having a little more fun with their wardrobe. Also, please don’t worry: everything will be back to normal next Monday. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and an even bigger thank you for being such great fans of my wife’s blog — you don’t know how happy it makes me to see how happy this blog makes her.
To my father — thank you so much for everything you have taught me in life. The rules outlined above pale in comparison to all the other, more important life lessons you have taught me that have helped me become the man I am today.