The basics of modern menswear aren’t too hard to master. Depending on the dress codes you encounter in your daily life, you can get pretty far with staples like a decent pair of chinos, a well-fitting navy suit and a few sharp Oxford button-downs.
However, there’s a big difference between getting past the door guy and showing that you belong in VIP. Getting the little details right is how you truly dress to impress — so let’s talk about seven finishing touches that can make all the difference for the well-dressed modern man.
The Right Pair of Shoes
Upgrading your shoe game is one of the fastest ways to elevate an outfit, whether formal or casual. For starters, a great pair of men’s dress shoes is an absolute non-negotiable when you’re rocking a full suit. Go with leather Oxford shoes or a dressy style of loafers, and make sure they match your suit color.
Even for casual outfits, shoes can be your secret weapon when you want to go from basic to badass. Penny loafers are a great go-to for any time you want a preppy summer vibe, while chukkas or Oxford boots are ideal for cultivating your best fall and winter looks. Many guys also keep a pair of casual shoes in a material like suede or canvas for when they want to change it up.
A High Quality Tie
Ties are less common in menswear than they used to be, but the right tie can be a game-changer in your formal outfits. If your suit needs a little something to make it pop, a good silk tie just might prove to be the magic ingredient.
Most guys should have at least a basic selection of two or three high quality men’s ties in neutral colors that work with your suit(s). If you wear suits a lot, bump it up to at least five, and throw in a knit tie and/or a funky pattern if you’d like something a little more casual to add to the mix. For the slightly more adventurous, there’s also the classic bow tie.
A Belt That Holds Up
Men’s belts are far more than just a practical way to keep a pair of pants in place. The right one can bring your whole outfit together, whether it’s a business casual getup or a full suit. (Note, however, that your suit shouldn’t require a belt to hold the pants up.)
Your shoes and belt should match in color as closely as possible when wearing a formal outfit like a suit. One black belt and one brown belt are the minimum basics that every guy should have. Matching matters less when you’re crafting a casual fit, so feel free to spice things up by throwing in interesting patterns, decorative belt buckles and so forth.
A Watch That’s on Time
Most people may tell time by their phones now, but the art of a great watch has never been just about functionality. Whether you’re wearing a full suit or your go-to business casual office wear, a watch brings a level of sophistication and self-expression to a man’s outfit that nothing else quite matches.
If you only own one watch, a dial watch with a dark-colored leather band and fairly minimal features is an excellent choice. Tons of different watch styles fall within these guidelines, and the simple, classy appearance means you’ll be able to pair this watch with either a formal or casual outfit. Of course, many guys find they can’t stop at just one and end up exploring the plethora of watch styles out there!
A Sophisticated Scarf
It’s hard to beat a great scarf for the combo of aesthetic appeal and practical value. Not only does it keep your neck warm in chilly weather, but it also gives you a chance to introduce new color and depth to your look. Plus, you can vary the look (and the warmth level) by wearing the scarf in different ways.
A great scarf can work on either a formal or casual outfit. The key is finding a great coat to go with it! Wool overcoats, camel coats and pea coats are popular choices that go well with a scarf and take the dressiness up a notch. If you’re keeping it a little more casual, scarves can also look good with puffer jackets or parkas.
Lots of guys choose to only wear shirts with buttons on the cuffs, but going old-school with a pair of cufflinks instead is definitely an underrated fashion move. Cufflinks are a subtle statement piece that announces itself without being overbearing — the perfect way to add a splash of personality to your outfit.
Cufflinks come in a massive range of styles, so take a little time to explore the variety and find something that suits you. If you’re going for a formal or even black-tie look, metal cufflinks are a standard choice, while other styles like silk knot cufflinks are great for a casual context. For the guy who wants a truly dapper style, go for a shirt with classic French cuffs, too.
A Suave Pocket Square
A pocket square makes a great addition to your arsenal for any occasion when you’re rocking a formal or semi-formal jacket (whether that’s a suit jacket, a blazer or a sport coat). It adds an extra bit of color to your look and gives you another way to express yourself via your choice of colors and patterns.
To get the refined effect you’re looking for, choose a pocket square in a complementary color with your outfit rather than matching it exactly to your tie. Then, spend a little while mastering the basic folds of a pocket square so you can get it just right when it’s go time.