Men’s fashion essentials - the formal look
Men’s fashion essentials – the formal look. Photo: hugoboss.com

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hey say that you can’t buy good taste, but you can hire a personal stylist and/or a personal shopper. Both options will cost you but guarantee you to look a million dollars. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, you can do some research and achieve a stylish look on your own. Let’s break the men’s formal look down to its basics and see what essential items you need.

Men’s formal look – clothing items

Even if your lifestyle doesn’t involve many formal-wear occasions, you still need to own a suit, at least one pair of formal shoes and the relevant accessories. Here’s the breakdown for you:

SUIT

Every man should have a smart suit in his wardrobe. Invest in the best quality that you can afford. Stay away from current fashions unless you are prepared to keep up with them as they change. Instead, go for timeless cuts and colours such as navy blue and grey. A black suit is never a good look during the day. Unless you are a butler, you should avoid buying a black suit.

An ill-fitting suit is just as useful as a deep freeze at the North Pole. When you try it on, make sure it fits you. The trousers need to be slim (not skinny) and the jacket needs to be long enough to cover your butt.

What style you go for is really up to you. I personally avoid double-breasted suits because they are difficult to pull off without looking like a member of the Cosa Nostra.

Men's formal suit - go for timeless cuts and colours such as grey and navy blue.
Men’s formal suit – go for timeless cuts and colours such as grey and navy blue.

BLAZER

You don’t have to wear a suit all the time to look stylish. A nice blazer can add a touch of class to your (otherwise) casual outfit. The same rule as the suit applies here too: go for the best quality your money can get you.

Dark, neutral colours such as navy blue, graphite and grey have stood the test of time and are guaranteed to go with almost anything you decide to wear. If you are feeling brave, you can go for patterns and/or bolder colours.

Feel free to inject some personality into your blazer. It can be a little bit shorter than a suit jacket, covering half of your butt. As far as styling goes, a nice pocket square is always the perfect addition to a nice blazer.

A nice blazer can add a touch of class to your (otherwise) casual outfit.
A nice blazer can add a touch of class to your (otherwise) casual outfit.

WAISTCOAT

A waistcoat is often an overlooked part of most men’s wardrobes. It either comes as part of a three piece suit or we just don’t bother with it. A nice waistcoat could add a sophisticated twist to a dull outfit. Beware though, the wrong waistcoat can ruin your outfit and make you look like Coco the Clown’s less-famous brother.

When choosing a waistcoat, go for quality fabrics and good stitching. It should fit well – not too tight to restrict your movements but not too loose either. If you find it a bit restricting, go for the next size up.

A nice waistcoat could add a sophisticated twist to a dull outfit.
A nice waistcoat could add a sophisticated twist to a dull outfit.

TUXEDO

The tuxedo is probably the dressiest part of the men’s outfit. I certainly find it a bit too sharp and never had a reason to own one. There is, however, an increase of celebrities who wear tuxedos with trainers, T-Shirts and even (shock and horror) – tracksuit bottoms.

If you feel like now is the right time to get a tuxedo, then go for dark colours and quality fabrics.

The tuxedo is probably the dressiest part of the men's outfit.
The tuxedo is probably the dressiest part of the men’s outfit.

OVERCOAT

An overcoat is more than just a fashion statement. Its purpose is to protect us from the cold and you should bear this in mind when choosing one. Make sure it’s big enough to fit over the layers (of clothing) underneath it without restraining any of your movements.

Look for natural fabrics such as wool that wear well and will last you a winter or two. The styling and colours need to suit your taste but you should consider darker colours. If you like to stand out from the crowd, you could consider patterns as a way of bringing something different to your coat.

Be mindful of the length of your coat. An inch or two above the knee is perfect – anything longer is to be worn only by the actors in The Matrix.

When choosing an overcoat, look for natural fabrics such as wool that wear well and will last you a winter or two.
When choosing an overcoat, look for natural fabrics such as wool that wear well and will last you a winter or two.

SHOES

You may be forgiven for pairing a tuxedo with T-Shirt and trainers, but you will never get away with dirty shoes. Not when you are trying to pull off the formal look. Looking after your shoes is just as important as choosing them.

You should own a pair of Black Cap Toe Oxfords and/or Monk Straps (same as the Oxfords but with straps instead of laces) – love them, look after them and only wear them on super formal occasions. They are pricey but having them really pays off.

A pair of Brogues is also a must. It’s my favourite type of shoe and I have owned many pairs over the years. They are formal, yet versatile enough to be worn on every day basis if needs must.

You can never spend too much on shoes but if you look after them properly, they will last you for a long time.

You should own a pair of Black Cap Toe Oxfords, Monk Straps and Brogues.
You should own a pair of Black Cap Toe Oxfords, Monk Straps and Brogues.

Men’s formal look – accessories

It may well sound like a girly topic but you need the right accessories for your outfit. The devil is indeed in the detail and you will be judged on whether or not your belt matches the colour of your shoes. Little things like that may seem silly but they really matter.

TIE

A formal look won’t be formal at all without the right tie. You are allowed to break the norm and have your tie screaming for attention. You should have at least one black tie for those dressy occasions. How many other ties you need and what they should look like is totally up to you.

BELT

I always have problems keeping my trousers on without a belt. So if you are like me, then a nice belt is not only a fashion accessory but a very useful embarrassment-preventing must have. Go for natural leather and always make sure it matches the colour of your shoes.

BRACES

They do a great job of holding your trousers up and add a touch of class to your outfit. If you decide to have braces, just make sure you never wear braces and belt. It’s one or the other.

TIE BAR, LAPEL, TIE PIN

I personally find them a bit old fashioned. If you need to clip your tie to your shirt to prevent it from swinging, then by all means, get some. Wearing a waistcoat makes them redundant because your tie is securely tucked into it.

Men’s formal look – general advice

Adding “formal” to anything makes it sound a bit complicated and in need of a professional touch. The men’s formal look is no exception and we often go into panic mode when we need to dress up for a special occasion. You can take a lot of that stress away by just sticking to a few rules and applying some good old fashioned common sense.

If you are going to a “Black Tie” event or anything that requires you to dress properly formal, then you are better off hiring your outfit. It will save you lots of money and will keep your stress levels down. Be careful with the outfit though – you don’t want to end up with cigarettes burns and red wine stains all over it.

Dark, neutral colours that give your outfit a monochromatic look are timeless. Your belt should match your shoes’ colour and if you want to be super colour coordinated, then your trousers should match the colour of your coat too.

Unless you are going for a rainbow look, you should be a bit more reserved with colour. If you are not too confident in your colour coordination skills, stick to the rule of three: always have a maximum of 3 different colours in your outfit.

[quote_box_center]The every day formal look is more versatile and open to experimentation. You are allowed to express your personality and break a few rules. If you are consistent in breaking the rules, then you can make that your style.[/quote_box_center]