Custom suits and imported silk ties look great, but they’re not a lot of use to young men in their late teens and early 20s.
Even if you could afford that kind of a wardrobe (most can’t), there’s no place to wear it – it’s far too formal for socializing with 20-somethings, and very few men are walking out of college and straight into high-powered financial or legal offices.
So much of the advice on how to dress well as a man isn’t all that useful for high school and college students, or even for post-grad students and working 20-somethings. A good suit is useful to own, but not something you’re going to be wearing when you go out with friends.
So what to wear instead?
The trick is diversifying – taking the same casual level of dress that most young men wear, and adding new looks to it to stay sharp without looking stuffy.
The Varied Wardrobe: A Young Man’s Friend
It’s safe to assume that most young men have a couple pairs of jeans, some T-shirts, a sweatshirt or two, and maybe a few button-down shirts in their wardrobe. If you don’t have those, you’re either unusually well-dressed or very inventive.
The way to go from looking like everyone else to looking sharp and stylish is to take those basic wardrobe pieces and swap a few of them out for pieces that are nicer, but aren’t necessarily any more formal. When everyone else is wearing jeans and T-shirts or hoodies, you stand out by being the guy in something a little different.
Here are a few basic staples of most young men’s wardrobes, and some alternatives to them that can be worn stylishly but casually:
Blue jeans – Swap them for colored corduroys, earth-tone cotton slacks, gray wool flannel trousers, or just jeans in a darker color and close fit. Even the simple upgrade from light blue work jeans to dark, stylish, contrast-stitched jeans goes a long way in improving your style.
T-shirts – Replace them with polo shirts, lightweight long-sleeve T-shirts, henley shirts, Breton tops, and other light, but distinct, styles. If you do wear a T-shirt, something with a solid color and either no design or an artistic design (rather than a band name or sports team) is best.
Hoodies – Swap them for casual collared shirts, plaid flannels, cotton sweaters, lightweight cashmere sweaters, sweater-vests, and cardigans.
Coats – Keep the thick winter coat for when you really need it, but add blazers and sports jackets to the fall and spring wardrobe. Throwing a casual jacket on over even just a T-shirt and jeans instantly upgrades the look.
Sneakers – Swap ‘em for casual leather shoes. Saddle shoes, wingtips, brogues, loafers – there’s a lot of options here. If you do want to keep sneakers in the wardrobe, go for colored canvas options (like Converse All-Stars) to keep it stylish.
These are all just examples of a simple point: the more things you have in your wardrobe that aren’t the same old blue jeans and T-shirts, the sharper you’ll look. Small upgrades go a long way in casual company.
Items You Might Not Own (But Probably Should)
So what are some pieces that young men can wear to break out of the mold a little?
These are a few that are worth knowing about. You probably can’t add them all to the wardrobe at once, but if you’re working on adding variety a few pieces at a time, these would be worth your while: