I've been away from this site for a few years and thought it was time to come back. I have a specific question about clothes. I just retired from the Marines and am beginning my civilian career. Unfortunately, my closet contains mostly uniforms, blue button-down shirts and tan pants. For the last 20 years I haven't needed much in the way of "business casual" clothing. I did go buy some nice suits recently, but I need help building my casual work wardrobe without spending a fortune. I checked out GQ and Esquire, but skinny suits aren't for me and I refuse to pay $800 for a pair of shoes. I'm 43 years old and am not trying to impress the ladies. I just want to look professional, clean, and stylish...without looking like I'm trying to be a Tommy Hilfiger model. I don't want to look like your typical retired military guy who only wears button-down shirts and web belts.
What are some good resources (books, videos, magazines, websites) to help me build a nice, affordable wardrobe? Thanks. It's good to be back on AoM.
Hey, Shane. Good to hear from you again. Old Navy is a little too casual for my job, but I have let my hair grow out.
First , Thank You for your service. I have been scouring the outlets lately if you have any outlet malls in your area, I found quite a few nice things at good prices at the Van Heusen, Haggar and some of the other stores and they are moving out the winter stuff for spring, I got some great deals . Enjoy your new life and have fun.
Honestly, I just read an article talking about Banana Republic. If you sign up for their emails and everything, you can save some pretty good moolah too.
Also, thank you for your service.
LOL. I had the same problem when I finished my USMC enlistment in 2003.
I have one word for you.......Ebay. You can score good quality stuff for cheap. And you don't have to settle for worn-out junk either. I got a pair of Brooks Brothers slacks for $17 shipped. They were advertised as "pre-owned", but were indistinguishable from new. And I have 4-5 nice blazers that were all in excellent+ condition. I think $45 was the most I paid. And ebay has plenty of good deals on new clothes too.
The caveat with ebay clothes is that you'll need a good seamstress/tailor on standby. I occasionally find a pair of slacks or a sports coat to be a tad long/short. A $12 trip to the local dry cleaner gets the item hemmed and dry cleaned. I'm still ahead money in the end.
My recommendation would be to buy 2 pairs of slacks and 2-3 shirts from a brick and mortar. Spend a little extra on good quality and make sure it fits impeccably. Then supplement with a few odds n' ends from ebay. And for shoes I like DSW warehouse.
As far as resources, heck, just look around. Check out what other guys are wearing. If you like the way something looks on another person, there's a good chance you'll like wearing it too. Just make sure your examples have similar age and body type as yourself. Nothing looks more ridiculous than a 43 yo dude wearing the same clothes as a 22 yo.
The pointer about Banana Republic above is true. You have to buy slowly though...they offer great "one-item" discounts. Example- I am on their mailing list and will get offers for 40% off of one full priced item. Their clothing is expensive not on sale, but an OK price on sale and their shirts and slacks seem to last me a while. They also sometimes have great clearance prices.
A place that really surprises me though is Target. I have picked up slacks, shirts, and blazers there over the past few years for a third of what similar clothing would cost at big-name stores. The clothing I have from there seems to be cut well and lasts a while.
Looks like I need to get rid of my square toe shoes.
I haven't been on the MFA subreddit in a while (been intentionally off Reddit for several weeks and will be for a couple more), but it's a good place to get an idea of the ideal fits and clothing that are generally stylish. Many folks there tend to lean towards super-fitted clothes and are often very snarky/critical towards people who don't dress the way MFA prefers.
I say it's a good place to get an idea of the basics because there are several good guides (check the sidebar on the right-hand side of the page), and there are good discussions mixed in. It's also a great source for a wide variety of pictures of average joes wearing stylish clothes. If you look on fashion blogs or (as you mentioned) fashion mags, you'll see more "edgy" and "fashionable" stuff than the general, enduring style you seem to be looking for.
If you'll need to wear a suit occasionally, most people recommend a charcoal or navy suit. It's business appropriate, but more neutral and versatile than black. If you're going to need multiple suits, charcoal and navy are a good starting point.
As far as shoes go, look for quality shoes that aren't too "fashion forward". I don't recommend people spend $400 on a pair of shoes that will look unfashionable next year, but a nice pair of sturdy, long-lasting shoes that are classically-styled area good choice (look for oxfords, bluchers, wingtips, etc., in browns or (to a smaller degree) black, for example, instead of neon blue suede shoes).
As far as square toed shoes, MFA is pretty strongly against them, but I wouldn't throw mine out before they wore out if I had some.
As far as where to go, I'm not a great source for the average sized guy (most places don't sell my sizes: 16.5" neck X 38-39" sleeve, 38"W x 36"L pants, etc), but JC Penney makes a line of dress shirts (Stafford) that are pretty well-reviewed, and I know I like them (one of a handful of co.s that make my size!). Most of their stores will have a decent selection in stock for the average sized guy, and, if you're my size, they have extended sizes available online.
Consignment shops. Got to find ones that are picky about what they take in (worn but not worn-out).
If a guy your size liquidates his wardrobe (or alas, his widow does), you're in luck.
Pretty often, people buy more clothes than they use, so, you'll find nice stuff with the tags on them.
My wife likes'em. She's brought me home a Barbour coat that cost $300 new for $15, and a really nice safari-style jacket that was about 250 euros, for eight bucks. Otherwise, I don't have much luck. (48XL jacket. Not a lot of guys that size.)
I've given up on trying to find clothes in stores. Here are some great online options if you don't mind that.
A style expert Antonio his to sites are as follows.
Esquire The Handbook of Style: A Man's Guide to Looking Good by The Editors of Esquire Magazine (Jan 6, 2009)
As to where to shop, you need to shop where merchants offer items that fit your body and / or have the items tailored to actually fit you. I go to brooks brothers for my shirts because they have a fit that actually fits my shape. For pants JC Pennies and tailored hems work just fine.
Welcome back. I usually tell AoMers with the same question this:
1. It'll cost a bit more, but you can always go to a department store and tell a salesman exactly what you've said here. That's totally lucid and specific enough that a good salesman should be able to get you stuff you'll like.
2. Instead of fashion magazines, it's usually better to look at ads from places you're likely to shop - Get a Sunday paper and review the department store circulars. See if you can get on the mailing list for BrooksBrothers and LandsEnd. Fashion magazines are supposed to be edgy. Advertising needs to be more middle-of-the-road.