Menswear Friday: Just Wear It

Fashion’s a funny thing.  One piece awry, and you’ll look like a fool.  Every piece in place, and you blend in so completely that you’re basically invisible.  There are some items that carry a weight of baggage with them, associations that we’d never intend, and most of us avoid them for fear of bringing that baggage along for the ride.  But some items are just too cool to get hung up on.  Here are a few favorites.  (As great as they are, mixing and matching them is probably a bad idea)

  1. Cardigans.  Yes, Mister Rogers wore one.  And he looked like a stone cold pimp in one, too.  It’s the perfect layering piece, easier to remove than a sweater when the weather changes, and it works particularly well with a button up and a tie.  Buy one instead of a crewneck sweater.
  2. Saddle shoes.  The insult here is that they’re for kids.  But they have two very grown-up things going for them.  First, they’re usually very lightweight, a rarity among dressy shoes.  And they’re two-tone (duh), which gives them more character and pop than plain brown or black ever will.
  3. Cowboy boots.  This applies to the more rugged Justin Roper/Red Wing types and the fancy Lucheses alike; yes, you might look like a cowboy.  But if you’re living in The West, you might as well look the part.  Think of it as community pride.
  4. Bow ties.  Oh boy.  There’s no question that this one is going to make you stand out.  That’s why you skip the whole “whimsical biology teacher” vibe, with the bright colors and patterns, and go with something muted and grown-up.  Think navy, burgundy, and charcoal, not lime green and pink.
  5. Handkerchiefs.  Stop calling them “hankies”, and be a man.  Kleenex is for children and old women, so get something cotton that you can either actually wipe your nose with, or provide the finishing touch to a suit.  Yes, this sounds contradictory, which is why you want cotton, not some overpriced flashy silk pocket square that will make you look like a TV preacher.  The old axiom is “one for show, and one for blow”, so put one in your outer jacket pocket, facing the world, and the other in an inner or pant pocket, for dirty work.
  6. Denim above the waist.  Whether it’s a shirt or a jacket, denim can be a great material, regardless of its “Canadian tuxedo” heritage.  A chambray shirt or denim jacket can be worn with jeans, even, provided that it’s a shade or two different than the jeans themselves.  i.e. raw jeans with a worn-in, faded jacket.

Fashion is all about the confidence to wear something so well that people don’t notice that you’re wearing it.  Each of these items could be part of a great get-up if you keep that in mind.

(Photos found via