Being in your early 20's, either as a college student or a recent graduate, is the perfect timing to start exploring classic menswear styles. You will find yourself in formal settings often, so graduating to a mature style from your campus-wear will be essential. This can easily be a dreadful transition, as the thought of shopping can easily disable you -especially when dealing with mid-terms and finals. By spending just a little bit of time to explore possible styles, your transition can be made bearable.
A classic menswear wardrobe on a budget.
First and foremost, budget will be a major hurdle. However, being stylish at this stage doesn’t mean that you need to break the bank to look your best. Dressing well requires thoughtfully selecting details in your outfit that serve both style and function.
To start with, there are a few core items that you should acquire as the foundation of your wardrobe. It goes without saying that you will need a nicely tailored suit. Your first suit should be versatile, easily worn to different occasions like networking events, interviews or formals.
You don’t need to stand out with bold colours or patterns on your suit. Instead, invest in a basic navy suit and express your personality through the fine details - like your tie or pocket square.
An elegant and timeless way to emphasize your style is to put thought into the minor details, rather than focusing on the suit. By taking care of these details, you can convey a perception of someone who is detail-oriented and organized. Take care not to be too loud, as this can draw negative attention.
A solid white dress shirt is a menswear fundamental. There are umpteen number of ways you can wear one, without having to worry if the color works with a particular combination. Make sure you get the fit right. This is where many get it wrong. A nice English spread collar and barrel cuffs are simple options, which most brands will carry.
Winter tips for the young professional.
In the winter, a top coat is your best friend and a stylish one at that. Besides being a menswear staple, it has the ability to instantly transform your entire look the moment you put it on. Camel is a versatile colour, and can be worn in professional or casual settings - and happens to be my favorite.
A simple tip to add a little flair to your coat is to stuff a supple pair of leather gloves in your breast pocket, serving as a psuedo pocket square - while still being available to serve their functional purpose.
Now on to the accessories, my favorite part of an outfit. Keep one simple rule in mind when selecting a tie; use a good contrast of colour with your shirts so it is distinguishable. For example, avoid wearing a dark tie with a dark dress shirt because you'll effectively camouflage your outfit.
The patterns can vary as long as they're appropriate. I will suggest using patterns instead of plain colours, but you can certainly keep to solids. Your tie is an important piece as it is situated right at the center of your outfit. A quality, well-proportioned tie and knot draws attention to your face - providing for a more appealing look.
The fine details of a classic menswear wardrobe.
For accouterments, a timepiece is a perfect addition and adds a dose of style as well function. More importantly, it can imply a sense of organization and punctuality - something young men will need to emphasize as they barrel through interviews. Having a hiring manager ask you for the time is a good sign, meaning you value time and respect that of others.
For most young men, having a collection of watches is unheard of - especially luxury timepieces. Invest in a minimalist design, such as one from Daniel Wellington - which will fit well in both formal settings and your day-to-day life.
Saving the best for last - shoes.
Lastly, your shoes are the foundation of your entire outfit and make up a significant portion of your style. A timeless combination to use with your navy suits are a nice pair of brown walnut shoes. For styles, stick with cap toe oxfords or a derby, as these are versatile and will give that powerful punch to round out your outfit.
At the end of the day, a man's style should go beyond purely aesthetics. It should serve as a reflection of one’s passion and aspiration.
Gavin Li is in his final year studying mechanical engineering at McMaster University. He has interned at several firms, which has afforded him unique perspectives to transition his style from academia to corporate life. He is extremely passionate about classic menswear and lifestyle, and pens his thoughts from a young professional's point of view.