The Best Dressed Man in America
”In 1960, the columnist George Frazier singled out the late A. J. Drexel Biddle, then sixty-three and the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania, as the best-dressed man in the United States. It’s worth examining what was in his closet because it was much less than we might expect.Biddle’s wardrobe contained seven suits.” (via A Suitable Wardrobe)
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take much for the working man to build a stylish and versatile wardrobe for the office. The secret to getting the most mileage out of your professional wardrobe is to:
1. Build a strong set of timeless staples
2. Focus on fit and quality
3. Learn to maximize your wardrobe through smart outfit combinations instead of relying solely on statement pieces.
We break it down for you below (including our list of 13 professional wardrobe essentials).
Timeless Staples vs. Statement Pieces
The Wrong Approach: These orange wing-tips you saw on some style blog (like this one) look great but they shouldn’t be your first (or even your second) pair of shoes. Instead, build a strong foundation of timeless classics with a pair of brown or black cap toes oxfords.
The Right Approach: Invest in developing a robust wardrobe of versatile staples like well-fitting, high quality white dress shirts before purchasing loud colors or trendy patterns.
Focus on Fit and High Quality
By focusing on fit and high quality pieces, you can build an entire wardrobe for the office that will not only produce dozens of outfits, but stand the test of time.
For example, for an all-purpose work suit that combines both luxury feel and durability, go for 100% wool with a micron number anywhere between Super 110s and Super 150s. Remember, high Super number wools are finer to the touch and drape beautifully but may wear out a bit easier in the long run. So avoid anything north of Super 150s or delicate blends (e.g., wool/silk) when building your office wardrobe.
Outfits vs. Individual Pieces
When shopping, learn from the pros: women. Think in outfits and not individual pieces.
You should also think about shopping in the context of your entire wardrobe. A smart addition would be a piece that would not only work with one or two outfits but integrates well with the entirety of your wardrobe. An example of this is the always versatile gray suit. You can wear it with a dazzling array of dress shirts, ties, sans ties, just as a blazer combined with jeans, khakis, or different color pants, etc. Such suits are not only great for work but allow for a seamless transition to the social scene.
On the other hand, this camo tie and red tie clip (really, this entire outfit, except for the blue shirt) are examples of the type of statement pieces you want to avoid until you have fully stocked up on your basics. While striking, you’ll get a lot less mileage out of them for the same reason.
Here is a run-down of the wardrobe essentials that we recommend for every professional man. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but simply a good benchmark for someone looking to start their professional wardrobe on the right track:
1. 3 or 4 (6 or 7 if suits are part of your daily attire) well-fitting, all-purpose suits including a navy, a mid gray and a charcoal suit. Go for a lightweight wool for year-round wear, notch lapels, a slim or tailored fit and flat-front pants
2. 7 or 8 well-fitting cotton dress shirts, including a couple of solid white and light blue dress shirts
3. 1 or 2 oxford button-down shirts for business casual wear
4. A pair of fitted khaki chinos
5. A pair of dark blue denim
6. A pair of black calfskin oxfords
7. A pair of brown calfskin oxfords
8. Brown & black leather dress belts to match your shoes
9. Slimmer ties that are 2.75 to 3.25 inch wide: solid colors, plaids, dotted and simple 2 or 3 tone diagonal patterns.
10. 10+ pairs of dress socks – navy, charcoal and black dress socks are a must but don’t be afraid to add colors and patterns here; there is no such thing as too many pairs of socks
11. 5+ cotton white and gray v-neck undershirts if you like something under your dress shirt
12. A couple of layering wool or cashmere v-neck sweaters and cardigans for the colder days of late fall, winter and early spring (keep one handy in your office drawer if it turns into an ice chest during the summer with the AC on high)
13. A few classic solid and horizontal striped polos for those summer golf outings
- A simple, dress watch (brown or black leather band, white dial)
- A white silk or cotton pocket square
- Understated cufflinks
- A simple silver tie bar (narrower than your tie)
- A simple leather briefcase or messenger bag
- A pair of classic wayfarers or aviators
Editor’s Picks for the Best in Essentials:
We hope this list helps inspire you as you build up your collection of professional wardrobe essentials. If you have any questions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to chat!