Casual Style: Ways To Level Up
Your Custom suits and imported silk ties look great, but they’re not a lot of use to young men in their late teens and early 20s. Your casual clothes are the ones you wear on your own time. It’s hard to put boundaries on what pieces of clothing count as “casual” and which ones don’t. If you ask what a suit is, most people will say “business wear,” but a salmon-pink suit with yellow pinstripes? Not so appropriate for the boardroom.
With standards relaxing everywhere and some industries (art, web technology, etc.) priding themselves on a relaxed, unconventional look, “business” wear is nearly as hard to define. Depending on your job, your casual wardrobe might be fancier than your work wardrobe, or less dressy, or it might be the exact same clothes.
Upscale or down-to-earth, sleek or rugged, casual clothes are your clothes for you. They’re the expression of your personal style outside of any external dress code, when no one else is defining your style for you, and the choice of what to wear is entirely your own.
Unfortunately, this freedom can be a little frightening. Most men subsequently retreat into a default “uniform” of casual duds: think khakis and a button-down shirt for nicer occasions, and jeans and a t-shirt for everything else. While such get-ups done in the right materials, colors, and fit can be decent looking, they’re hardly either interesting or sharp.
How to Elevate Your Casual Style
If you look at a fashion model — or just a well-dressed guy on the street — you’ll see that what makes him stand out is that his clothes don’t look like everybody else’s. That doesn’t mean that to look sharp and casual you have to wear wild prints and eccentric garments; the bar of mainstream men’s style is set so low, you don’t have deviate greatly or make a big effort to stand out!
One of the biggest problems with the t-shirt/jeans or dress shirt/khakis look is that it’s complete at a single glance. No one’s attention is going to be held, because there’s nothing there to hold it. Once they’ve taken in your trousers and your shirt they’re done.
Layering basically just means adding pieces to an outfit. A blazer is a layer; so is a cardigan or a hat or a scarf or even a casually-slung messenger bag. The result of adding details beyond the shirt and trousers is visual complexity. There’s more to take in, so people’s eyes linger longer.
You also get the practical benefits of an outfit you can change on the go, of course; shed a layer when it gets too hot, or offer your jacket to a lady when she gets cold. The only real drawback to a layered look is added warmth in the summer and occasionally having to keep track of something you took off.
2. Emphasize the Accents
Looking good is about people noticing your appearance and remembering it.What’s an accent? Basically anything that isn’t the big, body-covering pieces of the outfit. Trousers, shirts, and jackets aren’t considered accents; almost anythi ng else can be, depending on how you wear it.
Making small upgrades to your basic accents can take an outfit from “uniform” to “unique.” Trade out plain brown dress shoes for a pair of brightly-colored canvas shoes or a loafer with a metallic buckle. Swap a leather belt for a colored web one. Add a tasteful piece of masculine jewelry or a unique watch.
This does call for a little moderation. Your outfit shouldn’t be all about one accent. If all anyone can remember is your neon-yellow ammo belt you’ve overdone it. But some color, detail, and uniqueness where most men are wearing the most neutral option available will definitely set you apart from the crowd.
3. Tailor the Fit
Even though a non-layered look isn’t as interesting as a layered one, it still can be sharp — as long as you nail the fit of the garments. We usually think of tailoring as being an option for business clothing, but casual clothes benefit just as much from some customization.
You don’t have to invest in bespoke construction for all your casual clothes (though it is a good way to get a unique jacket or blazer made exactly the way you want it), but a few alterations to the fit should be mandatory for most wardrobe items.
Trousers should be hemmed so that they break neatly, with the cuff resting lightly on the top of your shoes. The crotch should be kept as close as possible without sacrificing comfort so that you don’t get a saggy look between your legs or in the butt.
Shirts are also worth tailoring, especially if you tend toward the slim side and most shirts are baggy on you. A baggy shirt tucked in makes a “muffin top” of fabric spilling out over your belt (terrible), and a baggy shirt untucked billows like a sail (also bad). You also want to avoid short-sleeved shirts with armholes that are too big for you, as they make you look scrawny and weaker than you are.
Most of these alterations are a matter of between $5 and $20 at any qualified tailor. Factor it into the cost before you buy your clothes, because it’s very rare to ever buy something off the rack that requires no alterations at all.
It’s all about variety. If you’re a big fan of sports jackets, and you own a whole closet full of neat ones, you’re set for that look. Whatever combinations you come up with, you’ll have the clothes to pull it off.But you don’t want to be that guy who always wears a sports jacket. Mix it up some. Invest in shirts that can be worn without a jacket, or shirts that are unusual under a jacket, like a long-sleeved t-shirt instead of a collared shirt. Substitute cardigans or casual coats for blazer-style jackets. And so on.
Don’t be afraid to go to stores you’ve never thought about shopping at before and trying on styles that look nothing like your day-to-day wear. You might surprise yourself with what you look good in.