How to Build Cool Outfits
Geoffrey Bruyere and his associate Benoit Wojtenka are professional fashion consultants from Paris, France. They are authors of the Style Guide for Modern Men.
“How do I decide what outfit to wear in the morning?”
As a style consultant, that’s a question I often hear. Actually, most people know more or less how to choose a shirt, a pair of jeans, shoes, but don’t trust themselves when it comes to build a look mixing clothes. Still, developing outfits that totally works is not that hard once you stop overthinking.
First of all, some questions should simply not occur: “what to wear with a pair of raw denim” for example. This is simply not the right question: men’s fashion has to be simple and fun. This guy should rather ask himself “what do I want to wear today?”
With years of blogging, coaching men, and helping fashion brands, this little quote has become my motto: “you cannot get good with style if dressing keeps being a pain”. That’s why wearing “what you like” has to be the core of your fashion style. It’s much more easy to dress well with items you like rather than applying a rational method too… rationally.
Of course there is a frame for this point of view: choosing the right cuts for your body type, wearing your size, quality fabrics and staying away of all the douchy or hipster bullshit. Still, this frame stays large enough so that you can have fun and feel free to wear what you like.
So don’t think too much, take one item you would like to wear, and build the outfit piece after piece: don’t try to picture your outfit as a whole when you build it.
Let’s take an example
Let say that it’s a little bit cold outside and that you decide that it’s the right time to wear your big chunky wool cardigan: an item that you like and that you want to wear today. This will be our starting point.
BUT… you also want to dress in a casual way today because it’s Saturday and you want to stay extra-comfy. Hence a shirt would not make the deal. So you also grab the first tshirt at hand and you put it under your cardigan.
Okay, legs now. A thick raw denim that begins to be slightly worn out is the “you cannot do without it” basic of your wardrobe. So add it to the cardigan and tshirt.
You’re going to have a beer with friends
Now the shoes… As we said it’s Saturday and you’re looking for comfort, so it’s time for your sneakers to breathe some fresh air. You actually have a few sneakers in your wardrobe, but you take the grey or the worn-out white ones because you know that there are the easiest to match with pretty anything (compared to the black ones that are really dark and thus create too much contrast with the rest of the outfit).
If you have high tops sneakers and you want your jean to fall on the top of the shoes, you just have to wear a pair of jeans with a fitted cut (semi-slim, also called regular cut. Avoid straight cuts who are too large on the inseam).
But the weather is fresh, remember? So you take a scarf that doesn’t add too much other colors to the outfit (we’re not looking for complications) and you wrap it around your neck, just the way it goes. Don’t make it complicated. Easy, right?
That gives us: tshirt + cardigan + scarf + jean + sneakers = good outfit to chill out and go shopping staying comfortable.
Having a first date with Liz (good for you)
But let say you want to be more elegant to day, because you are going to see Liz tonight (the cute girl from this club you asked out for a drink). Then replace the tshirt but with a nice shirt. And because you begin to understand that fashion doesn’t have to be complicated, you have no harm finding a simple yet elegant shirt that easily match with the cardigan (light blue, cream, white…).
But because you know that you’ll have to walk a bit to reach the rendez-vous point, you keep the sneakers. Anyway, showing Liz that you put too much attention into the way you look would not serve you. So you keep the sneaks. Period.
So we have now: shirt + cardigan + scarf + jean + sneakers = solid outfit that match with your tastes and context.
Bringing Liz to the fancy restaurant
But let say that 3 months after your first date, that worked with Liz and today you bring her to a fancy restaurant for Valentine’s day. Just replace the sneakers with black leather boots or a pair of derby.
You can also add your grey blazer to the outfit (again, you bought it grey because you know it’s easy to match with whatever comes next). That works too! So why would we make it more complicated with bright colors, peacocking bling-bling or any other weird idea that comes into your head?
Tonight you need to be hip?
Okay, okay, you want something less classy but more fancy. You want to be dressed in an equally elegant AND casual manner. Then replace denim+boots with woolen trouser+sneakers. The contrast between the formal woolen pant and the casualness of the sneakers will make you play on both sides.
And here is the result:
One last time: men’s fasion is easy if you keep it simple = buying good quality basics but making match following your intuitions and tastes. Moreover, men’s fashion offers so many items that you can match with anything, contrary to women’s fashion. So if you shop the right items, you shouldn’t ask yourself so many questions each morning in front of your mirror.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of items that can be matched with everything:
- Raw denim: whether it’s been worn out or still brand new, it’s a real no-brainer.
- The grey blazer: from tshirts to formal shirts, and even woth hoodies or scoop necks tshirts : it works. As long as you keep the colors plain. Note that lighter colors and softer fabrics work better for the inner layers (tshirt, shirt) and that the darker colors and raw fabrics work better for the outer layers (blazer).
- The trench coat: as easy as the blazer, same remarks.
- Plain tshirts (V-necks, scoop necks, round necks): just make sure that the collar of the tshirts is neither too tight (most of the time, it is), neither too deep (nobody cares about your chest hairs).
- A cardigan: give it a try, it isn’t as formal as you may think depending on what you wear with it.
As you understood, basics are really important. They are the core of any wardrobe, no matter if you want to add some spice to your outfit with stronger items and accessories then. Once you get solid basics, it’s really easy to create outfits that work: unless you do it with purpose (fluo colors, translucid fabrics, big tribal prints on tshirts) you will have a style that is okay in the worst case scenario (= better than 80% of men who, told simply, dress in a poor manner).
And unless the result is really bad, nobody will turn back at you on the street thinking “I never saw someone with such a poor style”. So keep it cool, and give a chance to improve your look with basics.
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