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Starting Business Wardrobe with $2k

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hello All,

 

Been reading this forum for a few weeks and thought I would seek some advice from the collective wisdom of the SF community. I just graduated college and start my first job in July in Chicago; the environment is business casual, though I'd like to be on the dressier side of business casual without seeming dandified. I have approximately $2,000, and while I have a few pieces I can use, I'm more or less starting from square one. I'm about 6', 165 lbs with an athletic build and generally prefer a trim, though not overly skinny cut. I recognize the post is rather long and there are a couple threads similar to this, but I felt my situation differed enough to warrant a separate thread and was hoping to solicit some unique advice. I really appreciate any consideration:

 

Shoes. I understand one needs at least two pairs to allow for the leather to rest for 24 hours in between being worn, and I've found, courtesy of styleforum, Bexley shoes (http://www.bexley.com/Bexley/shoe-EN.htm), which appear to offer fairly good quality and stylish shoes at a reasonable price. 2 pairs is about $250, whereas 1 pair is about $150, so there is incentive to purchase two pairs. I was thinking a pair of loafers and a pair of derbies, both brown - do you think I could get away without a pair of black dress shoes (captoe oxfords, I suppose)? Additionally, I'm planning on picking up a pair of Clark's DBs come autumn - what might a casual spring/summer equivalent be? $250.

 

Pants. I have two pairs of wool BR pants (a chocolate glen plaid and a charcoal windowpane), which I actually like quite a bit, though having read SF, I've grown somewhat skeptical of the BR quality. I also have a pair of J Crew off-white chinos and Gap ink blue selvedge jeans that I think would be appropriate for Fridays and weekends.  What I was thinking was 3 pairs of year-round wool pants (perhaps a navy, a mid-grey, and a brown) as well as one or two seasonal pants (chinos for spring/summer, cords or maybe flannel for fall/winter). Would I be able to find such pants of acceptable quality for $100 to $125 or so? I'm lost for brands here. $500; $750 total.

 

Shirts. I have a BB non-iron slim fit that I like quite a bit, and I believe it fits well, so I'll probably return there for 3 or 4 shirts. Any recommendations on patterns - maybe two solid whites, a blue, and a striped shirt? I'll also probably grab a shirt of two from the likes of J Crew, i.e. a bit bolder of a pattern. $350;  $1,100 total.

 

Ties. Styleforum 101 recommended The Tie Bar, so I'll likely buy 5 or 6 ties from there. A few silk ties, a cotton tie, a couple wool ties, perhaps a silk knot tie. Would absolutely welcome recommendations as to pattern and material. $100; $1,200.

 

Sweaters. I'd like to be able to layer a bit, so I'm looking for lightweight, slim fitting sweaters in neutral and seasonal colors. Most likely shallow v-necks, but also a crew-neck or two. Any suggestions on brands? $150; $1,350.

 

Blazers. Similar to pants, I'd like to have a couple year-round wool blazers as well as a couple seasonal blazers. To start, I was thinking the Anderson-Little Classic Blue Blazer (http://andersonlittle.com/), a second wool blazer (mid-grey?), and cotton blazer for the remainder of summer, then look to buy a tweed blazer once autumn arrives. Outside of Anderson-Little, I'm also lost for brands here, though I'm looking to spend $150 to $200 per piece - is it possibly to get a blazer of acceptable quality at this price point? $550; $1,900.

 

Watch. If I don't have a pair of black shoes, I don't see the necessity for a black leather band watch. With that said, I do have a Fossil black leather band watch, though I can't imagine Fossil is highly regarded here. However, I've found, again courtesy of SF, Parnis watches and have identified a brown leather band watch, which I find quite sharp, for $100 (http://www.parniswatch.net/index.php?gOo=goods_details.dwt&goodsid=592&productname=). $2,000 total.

 

Accessories. Again, if I only have brown shoes, is there any need for a black belt? Any suggestions on brands for belts, socks, pocket squares? Any other necessary accessories?

 

Outerwear. Though a few months away, I'd also like to purchase a mid-grey wool overcoat come the colder weather - would it be possible to find a coat of acceptable quality for $250 to $300? And similarly, when spring arrives, I'd probably look to purchase a trench coat at a similar price point. Any recommendations? Any recommendations for gloves, scarves, and a fedora?

 

What I'm looking for, I suppose, is more of the Parnis, Anderson-Little, and Bexleys', i.e. solid quality at a very good value. And while I came in around $2k, any suggestions as to where I could save some money would, of course, be greatly appreciated, as I'm also moving into my first apartment and would like to start an investment portfolio! Thank you so much for any advice you can lend me and I look forward to gleaning some wisdom from the SF community!

 

Much appreciated! 

post #2 of 17

Brooks Brothers has some "sports shirts" that are suitable for business casual. I'm 15.5x33 in their extra-slim fit and got a medium ESF sport shirt and it seemed to be approx 15.5x34 - tolerable given that the cuffs be buttoned pretty narrow.

 

And those shirts have some bold designs.

post #3 of 17

Regarding the shoes, while I can't comment on the quality of the ones you selected, your plan sounds sensible. I would, however, skip the black cap-toe oxfords. This is a very formal business shoe, and from the looks of it (no suits, tweeds, etc.), your environment tends more toward the casual side of business dress. I would also probably go with a merlot/oxblood instead of a second brown shoe.

 

I'm not sure how many shirts you have already, but you may need more than 5 or 6. Your color selection also seems to be on the conservative side. You may not need two whites and one solid blue, especially if you are wearing these alone or with sportcoats. You may want a few more shirts in the "bolder" realm that would work on their own or with a suit, should you need one.

post #4 of 17
Re: the Parnis watch -- it's a solid choice and definitely a good buy at $100. I would advice you to be aware that Parnis watches are often "homage" watches (a nice term for watches that crib the look of a more famous maker). For reference, the Parnis you linked is basically an IWC Portuguese imitation.

This isn't a bad thing necessarily, and I love some homage watches (Steinhart's Ocean 1 looks almost identical to a Rolex Submariner and costs about 7% as much). But just be aware that every once in a blue moon, someone may see your watch and think it's an IWC; and perhaps 1 out of 4 of those times, they may comment on it, and you'll have to say, "Oh no, it's just an homage."

Best of luck -- sounds like you're on the right track!
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thank you jt, msulinski, and minervau!

 

Any further input from the SF community would be greatly appreciated! 

post #6 of 17
Not sure if others would agree with me but given my own personal growth in the last 2 years, I would slow it down. Don't buy the whole wardrobe at once but by fewer more expensive pieces that will last a long time and then slowly add to your collection as you go. Work with what you have for as long as you can while you buy new pants, jackets and shoes.

If it were me, I would spend about $1k on 2 pair of shoes, $700-$800 on a blazer, $200 on dark grey pants, and then go cheaper on a couple of BB shirts or a ties.
post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cant kill da Rooster View Post

Not sure if others would agree with me but given my own personal growth in the last 2 years, I would slow it down. Don't buy the whole wardrobe at once but by fewer more expensive pieces that will last a long time and then slowly add to your collection as you go. Work with what you have for as long as you can while you buy new pants, jackets and shoes.
If it were me, I would spend about $1k on 2 pair of shoes, $700-$800 on a blazer, $200 on dark grey pants, and then go cheaper on a couple of BB shirts or a ties.

This is just overkill for a starting wardrobe. He'd be much better off spending a little less and getting more.

For example, you can get 2 pairs of AE shoes (say, park avenue and fifth avenue) for < $500 with sales. I just picked up a half canvassed navy blazer (fitzgerald fit) from BB for $400.

Right there he's at $900 vs. $1800. $900 buys a LOT of basic wool pants and dress shirts. ($46/shirt for BB slim fit on sale. For pants, he can probably find something decent in the $50-$150 range).
post #8 of 17
My point is he will want to replace the cheap stuff in a year (maybe longer). So if you can take your time, why not start buying good pieces now if you already have enough clothes to work with?

I do have a BB blazer which I still wear and am quite fond of so but had I known with a bit of research I could have picked up a Canali or Zegna blazer for a few hundred more, I would have waited for the right deal. Another example, I purchased several pair of pants in the $100 range only to find I eventually replaced them all with ones in the $200+ range for better material, wear and comfort.
post #9 of 17
I've been interested in the Bexley shoes. It's an awfully good price for a Goodyear welted shoe. There are a couple of threads here, but I've been hesitant to pull the trigger.
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 

Cant kill da Rooster, zerostyle -

 

I suppose what I'm looking for are pieces that, while, yes, relatively inexpensive (or cheap, you could say), would be of such quality that I would still feel confident wearing them as I continue to build my wardrobe. For example, I'm believe that even as I expand my wardrobe with more expensive pieces, that I would still be comfortable wearing the Anderson-Little blazer because it is of comparable quality, just acquired at an excellent value. However, perhaps I am naive in the belief. Nevertheless, thank you for your advice!

 

kmcq - 

 

I wish I could report back to you, but I'm afraid I don't know enough about fine shoes to offer an informed opinion.

post #11 of 17

An excellent question deserving a long answer.  If in doubt, go versatile.  I understand that your problem is that you want to buy something that you won't have to immediately replace, but at the same time you can't go without sweaters or new pants.  So here's a few answers that try to thread that needle:  

 

1.  Watches:  If you want something acceptable, try Skagen.  You can find something that will fit in at the office (though definitely not with watch people who look closely at it) for about $50 online or $100 at a store.  Leather strap, trim styling.  You can save a bit there.  Don't worry about matching leather watch bands to anything.

 

2. Pants:  I have exactly your build and specs and I'd warn against getting anything BR - the last 18-24 months everything there has been extremely tight in the seat and has been like riding a wire fence.  For wool dress pants, try Linea Naturale, which are in the $60 range online.  I'd recommend not OD'ing on wool pants, though, as you'll get more casual uses out of cotton pants and more work usage than you'd think.  Not sure if Incotex/Mabitex is in your price range, but sometimes you can find them in these forums for $75 or so (don't look at MSRP!) in the cotton vein.

 

3. Coat & Accessories:  I'd suggest going vintage with some combo of a pea coat, duffel coat, or topcoat depending on what floats your boat.  You can find all of those in the $100 range apiece vintage, and the styling will not have changed on them almost at all.  2 out of that combo is $200, under budget.  Look for Johnstons scarves on Sierra Trading Post, which are pretty comfy and often as little as $10-15 apiece (just not in cashmere but they don't have to be).  I'd skip the fedora in favor of some decent winter hats (you live in Chicago, dude), like a navy blue beanie ~$20.  If you want a dressier winter glove, I'd recommend a pair of Dents' gloves at $90 if you can afford them (a few are on sale at Mr Porter right now for ~60).  

 

4. Shirts:  Avoid non-iron slim fit as they tend to be uncomfortable.   Don't buy them unless they say Slim Fit on the tag or you know the fit on the brand very well.  If you have very dark hair (I'd say if you have a high-contrast complexion but let's keep it simple) focus on the shirts in white and blue, maybe 2 apiece.  If your hair is lighter, I'd keep the blue shirts but go off-white with the rest; if in doubt go plain.   One I'd recommend for good fit (your build's close to mine) and good basics would be Calvin Klein Collection - on sale or on Yoox you can find it for around $50 and they're versatile.

 

5. Sweaters:  Avoid silk blends as you'll need the warmth.  Johnstons is a very good quality bet here if affordable.  Also in the $75 is used cashmere sweaters on eBay, which also don't really change, are appreciated by xx-chromosome-possessors and are quite warm.    

 

6.  Shoes:  Can't speak to Bexley, but in general this is the one area where I see fewer economies as I personally just haven't seen quality leather for under MSRP of $300.  It might exist but I haven't seen it.  Being the Midwest (I know), there are a fair amount of workplaces that don't usually have blazers, so actually I'd recommend that you skimp on the sport coats and go for some decent quality leather instead (e.g. try to find some Bruno Maglis or something of that vein on sale at $200 - look at current sales for that).  Figure out a couple brands that sell normally around a $300 price point and try to scavenge them on sales, eBay, or thrift stores. 

post #12 of 17

Two last comments:  

 

1. Read the "Good Fast Cheap" article on Put This On (putthison.com) for an idea as the tradeoffs you always make with these clothing purchases.  Can't speak highly enough of the thinking on this count.  

 

2.  Set aside time and money to read some more blogs and buy some books to inform your purchases.  What you want to develop is taste and a concept for what you need - you're doing okay in the latter department but the former's all practice.  If one of them guides your thinking so that you skip a loser piece, they've paid for themselves.  Others have more eloquent reading lists than mine, but above all don't get something that seems too fashion-concerned (though you shouldn't dismiss fashion completely).  If I got one book, I'd say Alan Flusser's Dressing the Man and just focus on the first 2-3 chapters, especially about color.  Just to develop some intuition for what'll work for you, that's key.  The rest is useful but can wait until you have more context. 

post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 

lestyr - 

 

Thank you very much for taking the time to write such a thorough response - a lot of valuable information.

 

Much appreciated!

post #14 of 17

Glad I got to read through this thread, as I am also a recent college grad about to begin my first job. I would agree with the advice not to worry too much about purchasing your entire wardrobe up front. You'll quickly learn what is acceptable attire at your office and you should conform to that.

 

As for the shoes, you can't go wrong a nice pair of AE's Park Avenues. Also agree with the poster who mentioned going for Walnut instead of a second brown.

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Shirts: Avoid non-iron slim fit as they tend to be uncomfortable. Don't buy them unless they say Slim Fit on the tag or you know the fit on the brand very well. If you have very dark hair (I'd say if you have a high-contrast complexion but let's keep it simple) focus on the shirts in white and blue, maybe 2 apiece. If your hair is lighter, I'd keep the blue shirts but go off-white with the rest; if in doubt go plain. One I'd recommend for good fit (your build's close to mine) and good basics would be Calvin Klein Collection - on sale or on Yoox you can find it for around $50 and they're versatile.

The fit part is accurate. Color advice depends on more than just hair color. For example, pale skin and solid white tends not to look good, though there white needs to be worn occasionally. For "business casual," checks should be fine. Maybe even better than stripes, for stripes on a thin man who isn't wearing a jacket can make him look thinner. Most patterns should be a mix of blue and white. Maybe also purple or pink on white.

A cotton blazer (technically, a sport coat, not a blazer) might be comfortable, but it very likely is too casual for the office. Tropical weight wool or perhaps with wool with a little linen would be better. Half-lined could provide extra comfort, too, but virtually unlined probably would look too casual.

Agreed on not buying a fedora. On a young man, that usually looks like costume.

The jacket should be an overcoat or topcoat, to go with a suit or sport coat.
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