How To Dress Yourself, Pt. 1

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April 5, 2015 by Wayne.

Part One: Spring/summer/tropical casualwear for males

The generally accepted four cardinal rules of fashion are:

1. Lose weight. Unless you’re too bone-y.
2. Get clothes that fit. Or make them fit. For now, “fit” means trim and close to your figure, but for certain more…advanced looks, you’ll have the liberty of going all the way to the opposite side of the spectrum.
3. Don’t buy clothes with shit fabric. Unless you absolutely have to. And let’s be honest, these are clothes. You rarely ever have to buy anything, apart from the required office garb.
4. If you’re in the tropics, move out or give up.

I get it, some people like summer. Even when it’s not bundled together as S/S with the much cooler (in every sense of the word) spring. There are people who rejoice at the prospect of yellow sunlight on their skin, and who have waited throughout all the other seasons to peel off their restrictive layers. And, hey, all the more power to them. Summer isn’t terrible. In places like Edmonton – where the average weather can best be described as fucked up – summer is the season where you get to skateboard half-naked and go for the shitload of festivals and events that crop up.

That’s good. That’s great. But S/S necessarily leads to more boring clothing for most men. It’s just the way it is. Interesting looks tend to come about due to the interplay of textures, colours, patterns etc – stuff that generally only happens when you have a bunch of layers on. If you live in a shithole like, say, Malaysia, you’re not realistically going to want to wear anything thicker than a T-shirt. Not if you’re planning on walking outside in the great outdoors for more than 5 minutes. At the very best, you’ll be looking at a long-sleeved shirt and jeans – and even that’s usually reserved for nights or times when you know you’re going to be stuck in air-conditioned places for a while.

What does that leave us with then? Not very much. The future episodes will be more interesting. But that doesn’t mean you have to go bareclothed. Read on, dear acolyte.


Head

I use pomade for my hair. And the most common one at that – Shiner Gold. It smells good. It works decently well. It’s also expensive and pretty unnecessary. Having said that, I haven’t tried any wax/clay/gel that I’ve bothered sticking to, so I guess pomade works well for me. Give it a shot if you want, and if not, maybe think about incorporating headwear. They don’t work for me, but then again not many things do. A 5-panel cap, perhaps in suede, navy or black, and definitely no labels or embellishments, should do the trick. It’s admittedly almost impossible to find in Malaysia, so go for whatever the next best thing is. Just don’t get a fucking fedora.

If you (have to) go the glasses route, I’d recommend something from Medium Rare or similar-looking frames. Warby Parker is fantastic if you live in the states or wherever else they ship to now.

Sunscreen is pretty important even if most people don’t apply it until they’re on the beach. You can typically get day cream/moisturizers with a bit of spf protection so you could just go for that, I guess. I do, whenever I remember.

Torso

It’s hot out there. You’re going to want something that won’t unnecessarily accelerate your perspiration. But you don’t want to look like too much of a slob. After all, there’ll be plenty of qts wherever you’re headed to! And so with that in mind, you have several options.

The obvious option is the T-shirt. Get something that fits close to your figure without being skin-tight. Look at the shoulders and make sure they fit properly – the seam should meet the corner of your shoulder bone. The T-shirt should extend past where your belt would be if you wore one – you don’t because you’re not a git who wears clothes that don’t fit – but it shouldn’t reach down below your crotch. Go for something in-between. See what looks good on you and go from there. You can do it, champ.

The ideal T-shirt should be plain or at least devoid of gaudy graphics. Gaudy, while fairly subjective in its applicable usage, generally refers to Ed Hardy-like twirls and shit splashes, as well as the overwhelming majority of whatever Malaysian “brands” churn out. Go to the Pestle & Mortar store/website or something, and get some ideas on what not to buy. Having said that, practically my entire T-shirt collection comes from Threadless, Woot and gigs. Oh, and Uniqlo. Only the graphics-less stuff from them, of course.

As for the fabric of the T-shirt, you have a wide range of options depending on your budget. Most stuff from American Apparel and Alternative Apparel are pretty nice. That should be the base level of comfort, as far as I’m concerned. From there, you can get shirts from Jungmaven that are ridiculously comfortable or shirts from Sifr for a perfect performance-casual balance, but you’re going to have to experiment with that on your own time.

Sometimes the T-shirt doesn’t quite cut it. It’s a horrible situation to be in when you’re stucked in a tropical country, but it does happen on occasion. The next best thing is the short-sleeve, right? The ones that are like regular shirts but with their sleeves cut short? Well, fuck, no, those aren’t in fact the next best thing. They’re horrendous. If there was a god, he would have decreed a ban against them in the fucking commandments.

Slightly less offensive is the ever-present polo. You have, no doubt, seen plenty of them in the wild. For the most part, they’re horrendously cut, fit, and worn. The loose baggy polos with collars like flabby labia and excess yards of fabric – that’s not the shit we’re looking at, b. Again, stick to the fundamentals. Get something that fits close to your body. Don’t get frighteningly large collars. Go for solid colours, or if you must, understated patterns. And don’t tuck them in. Think of them as T-shirts, but with extra collars that somehow add a tinge of maturity and formality to the outfit. Thanks, society!

Of course, you can always just stick to the regular shirt. Every menswear brand in the world has multiple versions of it, and it’s beyond our scope here to cover them all. Just make sure the shoulders fit, everything else can be altered quite easily at your tailor. Although naturally it’s a lot easier and cheaper to just get something that fits decently well off-the-rack. Well, maybe not easier exactly. I can’t find an off-the-rack that properly fits my neck. Uniqlo’s latest cut is a lot slimmer (and shorter) which is great, but the neck is ridiculously tight. Too tight for me to button up, even. Muji’s shirts have much more reasonable collars although they’re still a tad too tight for comfort. Plus they’re a good deal more expensive than Uniqlo’s offerings.

I would suggest getting one or two linen shirts. Bad linen can be excessively scratchy and uncomfortable, but a good linen shirt is very airy in the hot weather. Same goes for seersucker. Word of caution though – linen is a very light fabric and won’t conform to your figure as well as other fabrics.

It never hurts to get a couple of oxford shirts too. Not the most comfortable of fabrics, but it has a great rugged look to it and it’s a versatile all-around sort of shirt. After that, get the rest of your shirts depending on the patterns you like. Stick with cotton, try to avoid polyester and rayon and weird blends and you should be fine.

What if you, lucky you, will be encountering a temperature-controlled situation away from the harsh oven of the outside? Well, you can throw on a layer, I guess. I rarely ever find a proper place to do so without sweating, myself.

First off, hoodies. These are casual creatures. They drape and fall lazily and the crumpled hood usually slices ten years off your actual age. But they’re comfortable. If you’re going to get one, I’d recommend Wings + Horns naturally. Are there better ones out there? Sure, but not at the W+H price level. And honestly, even at higher levels, you’re not going to do that much better. Again, it comes to paying exorbitant premiums for rapidly diminishing marginal returns.

Other than W+H, there’s also Reigning Champ. You don’t have to get loopwheeled cotton, but you should get something at least as comfortable as what these companies churn out. Because they churn out some seriously amazing stuff. I’d love to have a W+H fleece blanket, and I was a fucking idiot for not grabbing one when I had the chance.

What about cardigans? Honestly, I’d say avoid them. And avoid vests unless you’re a waiter. The problem with the cardigan is that you’re generally forced to go with something overtly flimsy and thin. It just doesn’t wind up looking good, at least not if you’re going for the “typical” male look. Chunky cardigans from Inverallan etc are fantastic, tissue paper ones from Giordano or whatever shitty brand typically wind up looking like a literal representation of their price tag.

For the same reason, proper sweaters are usually too thick to pull off.

You could go with the casual blazer, although it’s nearly impossible to really come off as looking anywhere near casual most of the time. This dude will slingshot you into the terrifying chasm between casual and semi-formal, and that’s not a great place to end up in. It’s where existentially lost beasts like “smart casual” dwell.

If you do insist on getting a blazer, think of the #brokenrecord fit once again. The shoulders should line up. Lean against a wall to check. The lapels should be moderately sized – ie. for this century. Don’t overdo it and get skinny pencil dick lapels. Between 2.5 and 3 inches is good, which – duh – should also be the width of your ties. Although we’ll get to that in part 3 of the guide.

You should probably check that the sleeves fit if you’re buying off the rack. Wear a long-sleeved shirt underneath and ensure that about half an inch of shirt cuff shows under the jacket sleeve. If the jacket sleeves have surgeon cuffs – ie workable buttons – you’re going to have a very difficult time altering them at the tailor, so ensure that it fits well.

Get a two-button blazer, and never button the bottom one. Anyway, you’re going casual, so leave both unbuttoned. The length of the blazer should be like that of a casual shirt – halfway between the bottom of your belt line and the bottom of your balls.

But what about drapey shirts, you cry out. And what about gothninja in general? And what about avant garde Yamamoto aesthetics?

Basically, I’m looking out for the average dude in these guides. If you want to pursue a more differentiated look, all the more power to you! I actually think a loose, drapey Yohji look might work well even in Malaysia, and I’m looking to go that route once I get older.

Legs

You don’t have to solely wear shorts, though they’re a godsend in hot weather. If you do go for shorts, ensure that they end around your knee area (at the very longest!). Get something that isn’t too large and billowy.

If you really want to go into jeans, congratulations. It takes a certain kind of person to voluntarily break in raw denim in tropical weather. What’s that? Why do you have to get raw denim? Fuck you, that’s why. All or nothing, homes.

Naked & Famous is going to be your cheapest option, apart from second-hand APC on sale at SF etc, so start surveying the market. That place at Fahrenheit does season clearances with good discounts on a bunch of brands, N&F included. You could also go for Unbranded, but might as well top up a bit and get N&F. They’ve a few new cuts I’m unfamiliar with, but the old ones are all pretty good. Stay away from Slim Guy though, it has an ugly boot cut. Skinny Guy generally works the best for most people. Weird Guy has roomier thighs, but has other weird adjustments in other areas, so make sure you try it out first. No point sizing down too many sizes, you’ll kill yourself in hot weather. Get a basic one to start out with – I recommend Left Hand Twill since it’s easy to break in – and start collecting once you’re more experienced.

But seriously, wearing proper jeans in Malaysia is nightmarish.

One of the other alternatives is chinos. Basically just twill trousers, usually fully cotton. Those are the best ones, most of the time. Get dark colours, or colours that complement the rest of your wardrobe. Make sure they fit slim and not ridiculously baggy. And get them altered to break a single time on your shoes. Or you could fold/roll if you think it looks good on you.

Naturally, you can get plenty of other trousers in esoteric blends and fabrics. Stay away from polyester-type stuff in general.

And what about sweatpants? I think the height of the craze was back in 2012-2013, but they’re still pretty decent now. And by that I mean some brands do come out with pretty decent options. The Uniqlo x Plokhov collection comes to mind. Those were some truly excellent sweatclothes.

If you do want to get them, go for the new kind that fit much like regular trousers. Although you’re really not going to use them as much as you would during proper seasons in proper countries.

Oh, and remember, no fucking belts. Just get a pair of trousers that fit your waist. It’s not that difficult.

Feet

Get nice socks. Not just black/navy ones. Go colourful. Go for patterns. It’s one of the only ways to differentiate an outfit when you don’t have layers. Just try not to get excessively thin and cheap socks that’ll get hole-y very quickly. Looking at you, Happy Socks.

As for shoes and sneakers, please refer to my previous post on essential footwear.

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