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Help expanding my young business casual wardrobe

thompssc13

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I just started my first job post-college and am about to receive my relocation bonus. I'd like to take some of that and invest in building a stylish yet versatile wardrobe. The environment I work in is very laid back, the engineers work wear whatever they want and look generally frumpy and are everywhere. The finance folks (where I work) dress better, but that usually means chinos/slacks and an OCBD or polo. Jeans are not confined to just Fridays, although Fridays everyone tends to dress down a bit on the whole. But as long as you aren't wearing jeans every day, no one particularly thinks anything of it if you wear them on a Tuesday. However, there are some folks that consistently dress well, either simply wearing slacks and a decent OCBD every day, or there are a handful of people that wear ties frequently. So there's some freedom. Currently I have:

Pants:
  • Slacks: Charcoal, mid-grey, navy, and a somewhat textured dark brown
  • Chinos: very light pair of these
  • Jeans: Two pairs of 501's, one in solid black and one in a dark navy (not sure what color exactly it's called)

Shirts:
  • 3 BB's dress shirts (Slim Fit): two are light blue and white checks- one predominantly blue, one predominantly white. Third shirt is a pink and white stripe
  • 2 Nordstrom Slim Fit OCBDs: one in solid white, one in solid light blue
  • Some Express 1MX shirts that fit me like freaking bedsheet- light blue, royal blue, lavender, and a spring/pastel green (I never wear these because they are waaay too big and after wearing the BB shirts, I hate the quality of 1MX)
  • 2 Polos: 1 green Merona (fits great), 1 orange-ish striped golf shirt.

Shoes:
  • Black J&M captoes
  • Burgundy AE Bergamos (soooo comfy)
  • A pair of black J&M slip-ons that I hate. Square toed, just crappy looking.

Ties:
  • Bright green, relatively solid but textured
  • Baby blue, relatively solid but textured
  • Yellow, relatively solid but textured (little bit of blue in the fine check/texture)
  • Red/blue striped bow-tie
  • Pink/blue striped bow-tie

What I'm looking for: I feel like I'm off to a good start in terms of versatility. I've got a good range of slacks, and most everything I read emphasizes starting with white and blue shirts, which I have. While I could probably stand to pick up a few more, I don't think I'll have any trouble finding more of those I like. I'm looking for advice on other colors that are relatively traditional/conservative, for shirts.In terms of pants, I feel pretty set here, but I feel like I could use another pair of chinos, I just don't know what color would be good.

I also really need a pair of brown shoes- I'm leaning towards penny loafers because I really like how my AE Bergamos look, it's a casual yet refined look. I think brogues would be out of place at my office. I also think penny loafers would be able to be worn with jeans casually. But I'm open to shoe suggestions. Budget is in ~$400 or less for shoes.

Definitely on my list of things to get is a blazer, but I don't know where to get one. Seems to be a lot of love for BB on here for suits, but I've heard they fit pretty big. I also am a fan of ones that don't have a lot of shoulder padding. How is BB in this regard? I also want to get a vest but again, I don't know where to get one. Does brand matter as much for vests as for say, suits and blazers? Also, what color would be good to start with? Black? Or are black vests frowned upon the same as black sport coats? Also, what material is best? I'd like for this to be worn for work as well as more casual occasions such as going out. Obviously, I know nothing about blazers.

I'm open to any suggestions beyond what I listed as things I "think" I need. I'm not trying to make the cover of GQ (or any style publication you all actually may hold in high regard), but I would like to always look well put together and stylish. I want to have an overall versatile wardrobe to accomplish this- at my last job I just wore my ties a lot and became the "tie guy". I don't want to be the "tie guy" or "bow tie guy" or "blazer guy" or whatever. I just want to always be well put together.

Thanks guys!
 

jrd617

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There's no reason that you have to wear the same thing everyday. (Your main concern in the last paragraph)

For "conservative business dress" days, wear a suit, tie, white or blue shirt, and black or brown captoe/punch cap oxfords.

For regular days, wear slacks and a shirt with derbies, loafers, chukkas, split toes, or monks. For days "in between," you can add a sportcoat and tie.

Hope this helps.

You might want to check out:

http://www.styleforum.net/a/how-should-i-start-my-business-wardrobe

http://www.styleforum.net/t/309783/if-you-do-not-own-the-following-things-you-are-not-well-dressed
 
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jrd617

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Also, be sure to get a navy blue blazer. Black looks strange. Go to Brooks Brothers for that. Ask for something with a softer shoulder.

Best brown loafers under $400 I can think of are the Rancourt weltlines ($300) or the AE Westchester or Patriot ($250). Those Bergamos aren't my cup of tea
 
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johng70

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Forget blazers and ties. Judging by what you've written, no one there wears them. Spending money on blazers and ties causes two issues:
1) you become the "tie guy" or "blazer guy" which you said you don't want to be
2) you are wasting money you could better spend on quality business casual clothes

There was another discussion a week or so ago where the OP was complaining he was being made fun of for being stylish. What it boiled down to was he was being made fun of for over-dressing. You're not working in a place where people wear ties and blazers and suits. So, don't be "that guy". Continue to buy fitted shirts and pants. In business casual, build toward a 15 shirt rotation and about 10 pairs of slacks. 2 quality pairs of shoes with matching belts are a great start.

Don't waste money on over-dressing by buying ties and sport coats / blazers when they are not the style of dress where you work. Stay within the formality of dress there.
 

archibaldleach

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Pants: Consider some more mid-grey trousers. They are probably the most versatile trouser you can own. With respect to getting more chinos, I think tan would be a good color choice.

Shirts: Add at least one solid white non-BD shirt for formal occasions when they come up. You can also never have too many blue dress shirts. Just try things with different patterns / textures (herringbone, different width stripes, etc.).

Shoes: Agree with JRD's suggestion for brown loafers from Allen Edmonds.

Ties: You are missing solid navy, solid black and solid grey, which are basic staples you should get at some point.

Suit: One solid navy or solid mid-to-dark grey suit is a wardrobe essential for formal business meetings, future interviews, weddings, charity events, etc.

Blazer: A navy blazer is a must have as well. Great for when you want to look a bit nicer without putting on a suit. Can also be worn sans tie.

Focus on buying versatile pieces that go with as many things as possible. You're off to a decent start. As far as being "blazer guy" or "tie guy," just show up most days wearing trousers and a dress shirt. Save the jacket and tie or jacket sans tie look to maybe once a week or when you have something you want to look nicer for after work (dinner, party, date, etc.). Also, don't wear a tie without a jacket. It's a silly in between look that accomplishes nothing.

Forget blazers and ties.  Judging by what you've written, no one there wears them.  Spending money on blazers and ties causes two issues:
1) you become the "tie guy" or "blazer guy" which you said you don't want to be
2) you are wasting money you could better spend on quality business casual clothes

There was another discussion a week or so ago where the OP was complaining he was being made fun of for being stylish.  What it boiled down to was he was being made fun of for over-dressing.  You're not working in a place where people wear ties and blazers and suits.  So, don't be "that guy".  Continue to buy fitted shirts and pants.  In business casual, build toward a 15 shirt rotation and about 10 pairs of slacks.  2 quality pairs of shoes with matching belts are a great start. 

Don't waste money on over-dressing by buying ties and sport coats / blazers when they are not the style of dress where you work.  Stay within the formality of dress there. 

Disagree on this. Obviously wearing a suit and tie everyday in a casual environment as a junior employee isn't the best idea, but this does not mean that OP does not need at least one suit for any rare formal meeting at work or other special occasion (weddings, etc.). A navy blazer is also the quintessential odd jacket and can be a useful thing to own. People have things to go to after work sometimes and occasionally dressing a bit nicer than the norm isn't the sort of thing that will get OP noticed in a bad way. . I do agree that much of his focus should be on acquiring business casual items such as trousers and shirts, but a suit and navy blazer are true wardrobe essentials that pretty much any guy really should own.
 

johng70

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Archibald - I agree every young man should have at least one suit - Navy is a nice choice that can be worn for business, wedding, funeral as needed. Throwing the wearing of a suit - even occasionally into a business casual with emphasis on casual work environment just doesn't work. I didn't see anything in the OPs post that indicates he is meeting with external clients where full business attire is appropriate. If the OPs management team isn't wearing suits the notion that there will be a formal meeting at work with him in it isn't likely.

And, unless the OP is independently wealthy, spending money on full business attire is going to have a very poor return on investment for him.

To that end, if the OP does not already have a suit, a suit is a much better investment than just a blazer when you're just starting to build your wardrobe.

To the OP - in my opinion, switching between polo and sleeved shirts just appears odd for chinos. Either decide to save the polos for jeans days or - if you're going to wear them, stick to short sleeved in warm months, long sleeved in cold months. But, wearing polo and chinos on monday and long-sleeved Brooks Brothers dress shirts with slacks on Tuesday does not work in my opinion.

You could make the choice that you always wear long sleeves with your chinos/slacks and that's fine - do that. but if you decide to wear short sleeves, don't bounce back and forth between long/short. And, wearing a polo one day and shirt/tie the next is definitely a bit schizophrenic.
Again, there's a formality spectrum:
Jeans
slacks with short sleeve
slacks with long sleeve
slacks with long sleeve and tie
slacks with tie and sport coat
2 piece suit
3 piece suit

Bouncing back and forth between levels of formality within a week can be difficult to pull off well. At most, you probably only want to move one notch up/down with the exception of "casual Friday" type of days. But, I just don't think bouncing around too much within a week works well. If you always wear long sleeve shirts then the occasional tie or sweater is a good change of pace. But going from polo to tie/shirt looks odd to people that see you every day. So, decide on your formality of dress and then flesh out the clothes for that formality level. Your personal attire is something completely different. You can stay within a formality level and dress very stylish.
 

archibaldleach

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A) Agree that a suit is a better investment than a navy blazer if he has to pick one and does not already own a suit. He probably isn't going to need the thing for work and I agree that a suit and tie would be 3 levels above the norm and may not be a great option in a business casual environment. I didn't suggest he wear it to work on a regular basis (though it's fine to do if he's going somewhere after work that will require him to be in a suit), just that he needs one. It's more one of those things he should have in case he needs it. You could even look at it more as insurance (you suck it up and buy it so you're covered when you have to be) than an "investment."

B) If he's wearing the navy blazer without a tie, it's really not a dramatical jump up on the formality scale, especially if his jacket is off most of the time he's in the office anyway (which is often the case). I think it's a very useful item for mid-tier formality purposes. For that matter, I'd take the trousers, dress shirt and tie look off the formality spectrum and replace it with trousers, dress shirt and odd jacket (sport coat) which is a classic business casual look in many offices (plus throwing on a jacket is easier than putting on a tie). A tie is kind of pointless without a jacket and the jacket actually has a functional purpose keeping one warm outside when it's not quite chilly enough to break out an overcoat.

C) I think the polo / chinos look could be fine on casual Fridays. I get the sense that OP mostly owns traditional dress shirts (the BB ones and Nordstrom OCBDs) and think he should keep buying these (they work in his office and provide a better base to dress up or down). I don't think we disagree here; just suggesting another way to wear the polos.

D) Dramatically altering what you wear in terms of formality can be tough to pull off in some places and having a standard look / level of formality can be helpful. I agree. I do think that if you have a reason to be wearing a jacket and tie (after work thing, etc.) and go back to a standard business casual look, nobody will give it a second thought. I see partners at my firm wear chinos and a polo most days and sometimes show up in a suit and tie for a client meeting. If OP needs to wear a suit to a wedding (yes, I've been to weddings on a Friday) or nice dinner, he'll be fine.
 

VinnyMac

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You're fresh out of college, and you're going to waste your bonus on a new "business casual wardrobe?"...get the fxck out of here OP.

Look around your workplace. Figure out what types of outfits will work, and go from there. Whenever possible, try to pick things that will also work outside of work. Don't create a whole project out of buying clothing for work. The odds are that you'll leave that job pretty quickly anyway, so use your money for things that you'll enjoy beyond work.

EDIT:

Fit is also the key for casual clothing. Most of those guys who look "frumpy" in chinos and polos look that way because their clothes don't fit well.
 
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SBear

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+1 "Fit is also the key for casual clothing. Most of those guys who look "frumpy" in chinos and polos look that way because they're clothes don't fit well."
 

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