Fashion Rx

Guys, here is the deal: The whole 24/7, shiny-

T-shirt-and-rocker-jean look has got to go.

It’s boring, unoriginal and totally lazy—and it makes it hard to tell you apart from the tourists.

We need to up the style ante, gentlemen. This is a call to arms. Who’s with me?

As your self-appointed general, I will supply you, the willing and the able, with a battle plan and ample fashion-savvy weaponry. With a little work, we’ll win this war. Let’s get to it.

Basic guidelines

Style is about the individual. It’s about your image, your lifestyle and your message—so stop copying your buddy’s look since his fashion sense is probably just as awful as yours, if not worse.

You can buy fashion, but style is something you work at. A closet full of trendy pieces will soon be either empty or completely out of date. Invest in well-made basics that fit and flatter, then build on that.

Learn from your style mistakes (and your friends’ mistakes, too). Experimenting a little is fine but quality clothing is costly, so try learning from other people’s fashion disasters and avoid making similar, pricy mistakes.

All right, onto the weapons

Every wardrobe needs a fashionable war chest—and sorry, guys, those Affliction T-shirts and TR jeans won’t cut it. (Those aren’t the kind of timeless anchor pieces I’m talking about here.)

The following is a list of essential items every normal dude should stock in his closet with a focus on versatility, value and function:

  • Four great-fitting solid-colored dress shirts in white, light blue, black and pink.
  • A dark gray two-button, modern-cut suit. (Bonus: You can use the jacket as a blazer during the early part of the day.)
  • A good pair of dark-wash jeans. Think classic cut, no-frills denim.
  • A lightweight, year-round, medium-colored V-neck sweater. Look for cotton or summer wool.
  • A solid pair of casual pants. Khakis or cords, both of which look good dressed down.
  • Black and white V-neck T-shirts.
  • Two pairs of dress shoes, one black, one brown, that look good with either a suit or jeans.
  • Two pairs of casual shoes. My personal preference: black-and-white Chucks, which never stop being cool.

The items listed above provide a solid foundation for a sturdy wardrobe. The best part: As you add pieces, you expand your looks—yet you can mix and match two weeks of outfits with the above-mentioned pieces on their own.

A word of caution: It doesn’t matter what is in your closet if nothing fits right. It doesn’t matter if it’s high-end or low-end; if a piece doesn’t fit, it won’t look good.

Let’s talk about fit for a minute. Think you know what constitutes good fit? Test your skills with a round of target practice: Take your best-fitting suit to a tailor and ask him what needs to be adjusted. Offer no assistance and have him pin you up, then see how well it really fit. Make note of his adjustments and suggestions, then soldier on.

Here are some basic fit principles:

  • Shoulders: Suit jackets and shirts should hug your shoulders, not protrude off of them. If you try something on and the shoulders don’t fit, put it back on the rack. Don’t believe a salesperson who tells you otherwise; tailors can’t fix that.
  • Sleeves: Jacket and shirtsleeves should stop around the wrist, not the middle of the hand. Show some shirt cuff, but not all of it. I don’t want to see just fingers sticking out the sleeves anymore.
  • Torso: The fit around your stomach should be snug but not tight. And c’mon, guys, stand naturally—are you really going to walk around sucking in your gut all day? I didn’t think so.
  • Pants: Trousers should be comfortable and rest at your natural waist. P.S.: It’s called a “break,” not a “bunch”—and for good reason.
  • Shirt: If your dress shirt could double as a parasail, either throw it out or spend the $20 to have a tailor taper it down correctly.

Style is more than the clothes you wear; it is an extension of your personality and your lifestyle. What’s more, it’s not something you can buy off the rack or achieve during a lone trip to Barneys.

This is a process that takes time, so take that time and make the right necessary steps. We need to focus on the little fights (like fit) to ultimately win the style war. Just remember: The end result shouldn’t be a battle; it should feel real, effortless and comfortable.

Good luck, men. I’ll be back in four weeks with more artillery.

Sean Dunn makes a living by keeping his clients at Astor & Black Custom Clothiers looking good—not just good, real good. Contact him with your style-related questions or comments, 785-2269, e-mail, or visit