I’ve always thought it must be nice to be a man and have reasonably narrow dress codes – a suit, a shirt, a pair of pants. Nice leather shoes.
Unlike the often-preposterous trends women are offered every 10 minutes – the open-toed shoe boot was the most hideous one I noticed recently – the classic menswear barometer doesn’t move that much, which makes the room for error much smaller.
But there are problems with that too. Menswear has a tendency to swing from standard-issue chinos and a polo shirt to the ‘Are you mad, I would never wear that’ weirdness that you see on the international catwalks.
It is challenging for men who may be bored with traditional choices and would like to look more current, without pushing the boundaries too much. Here are six tips to freshen up your look right now. And one very important nugget of advice.
Some new jeans
Try a new style of jeans or chinos. If you are over 40 you are probably not wanting to rock a pair of skin-tight, skinny stretch jeans. But an updated jeans shape will change everything.
It’s easy to get stuck in the one style you’ve always preferred (even stylish Barack Obama gets it wrong with his daggy Dad jeans). Take advice from the assistants in-store as to what new styles are in – it could be a slightly shorter leg length, a slimmer fit, or a pair that sit lower on the waist.
If you’ve always worn mid-blue, try dark denim, if beige chinos have been you’re thing, try grey, or brick. Give yourself the time to try on half a dozen or so pairs to find the best fit. If you’re impatient to get out of the shop, you may have settled on a just-okay pair, not a great pair.
Try something different … a little something
Small details make a big difference. If you are fan of denim, or linen shirts, try one with a different collar, such as a Nehru, which manage to hit the right note between casual and dress. It looks just as good with shorts as it does with a suit. Try to introduce a new colour to your wardrobe every season rather than having 10 blue shirts.
Elastic. Yes, elastic
Think about pants that have a drawstring or elasticised waist, with a flat front, and in some case, elastic at the ankle. There are great examples around in wool and wool/cotton blends. (Retailer COS has good options). They are a sharp take on the “athleisure” trend that is smart enough to wear to work with a jacket and trainers.
Put a black high neck t-shirt under a fitted white shirt, a striped t-shirt under a buttoned up denim jacket under a wool coat, wear two thin cotton or cashmere sweaters, one over the other in different colours. It’s a way of mixing up basics to create your own style.
A crunchy linen scarf and a pair of classic tortoiseshell sunglasses, or chic silver bracelets add a raffish air to almost anything, from a T-shirt and jeans to a suit.
A classic coat
Invest in a beautifully tailored, double-breasted caban coat. It will last for years, and raise the game every time you wear it, whether it’s over a hoodie or a cashmere sweater.
And please gentleman, give yourself more than an hour to try things on. Fit is paramount.