Must have’s for a man’s closet

Must have’s for a man’s closet

Q. I have enjoyed reading your articles in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette for a long time. After retiring as owner of a general contracting firm, we recently downsized, and during the move we purged our clothes as well. Everything was out of style and didn’t fit. I am replacing all of my suits and sport coats and slacks. (I’m Old School in that I often still wear a tie.) I’ve started with a nice dark Italian-made blue blazer and gray wool-blend slacks. What should my next purchase be? A second pair of different colored slacks, another blazer, a suit, etc.

A. Good for you! Too many retired men hang onto their old outdated, and ill-fitting, clothes instead of updating. I can definitely provide some advice. While everyone’s core wardrobe is a little different (especially as to degree of formality, price, and where you are in life’s cycle); many of the basics are the same.

Several years ago, when I wrote my book, “Dress for Excellence,” a man’s wardrobe was much more formal than today. The emphasis was on dressier clothes; men regularly wore suits. While today’s suit-wearing occasions are far fewer, that does not mean that suits are no longer important in a man’s wardrobe. Suits, blazers, and sports jackets all make a statement about your background, how current you are, and how much respect you have for the specific event you are attending.  

Since, in today’s casual dress culture, every man needs a good navy blue blazer for many occasions, you have begun well.

But men still wear suits for all manner of events: when attending an important meeting, for a wedding, or a funeral, when lawyers (and their clients) appear in court, etc. The question is not, “Do I ever need to wear a suit?” but rather, as you have asked, “What should a man buy, and in what order, for a basic wardrobe?”    

The garments in a man’s closet should be selected in their order of importance and versatility. You would do well to follow this formula.

First suit – Normally, I recommend that a man’s first suit should be a solid navy. But, since the one item you already own is a navy blue blazer, I suggest you begin with what is usually my second suit choice, a solid gray. Select one that is dark, well-tailored, and lightweight wool.

Second suit – Your second choice could well be that most versatile and most flattering suit, a solid dark blue wool. Do not rush into these purchases; always buy fewer and buy better.

Third choice – For your next purchase, I would switch from suits and go with a second blazer/sports jacket, perhaps a country tweed, a hounds-tooth check, a windowpane plaid, or a dressier ivory-colored silk/wool blend.

Fourth choice – Depending upon your own preference, as a welcome change of pace, consider either another solid-color blazer, such as a pastel, or perhaps choose a more casual suit in a seasonal khaki cotton poplin or a muted medium-blue pattern, such as a tick-weave or a nail-head (which both appear from a few feet away to be a solid and can be treated as such when coordinating with shirts and ties), or maybe choose a glen plaid. Before you say you would never wear a plaid suit, be sure you know exactly what a glen plaid is. A true glen plaid is a quiet pattern. Fine European tailors call the pattern Prince of Wales. Select one in subtle, muted colors; avoid any that are strident or demand attention.

Pants – Yes, a well-dressed retired man’s closet does need several pairs of “odd” trousers that coordinate, or contrast, nicely with your jackets’ colors. These could include charcoal gray, khaki, olive, a colorful twill, and even a pair with small preppy/Ivy League nautical flags.    

More casual items – Don’t forget to find a few good-looking cotton striped or plaid button-down shirts that you can wear with a solid-color dark knit tie or open-at-the-neck with chinos. As to jeans, well, that’s up to you.  

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL:

Categories: Male Call