Chicago Tribune

When It Comes to Clothes, Fit and Quality Make the Man

March 21, 2012  By Kristyn Schiavone

There are a lot of men in my life who ever so kindly read this column even though the topics at hand are of little interest or consequence to them.

These same men have recently begun asking me things like, “What do you think of this shirt?” “Will you send me some examples of dress shoes that are good for summer?”

In order to show these fine gentlemen my gratitude for their interest and reinforce the positive trend of dudes caring what they look like, I’m giving the ladies the week off. Note: This is the honor system, not an excuse for shenanigans like visible bras or pants that might actually be tights. I’m watching you.

But back to the men. Most of you look just fine (some of you, more than fine) in your t-shirt or polo shirt and jeans for the weekend, as long as said items fit well and are of decent quality. It seems there’s more confusion the nicer the clothes, so I sought the help of Phillip Williams, director of sales at Chicago-based men’s clothing store Haberdash, which carries brands like Alan Paine, Gant, Rag & Bone and Woolrich.

I asked Williams to focus on business casual and casual workplace attire, as many businesses these days are opting for a more relaxed dress code. The general rule of thumb? Never sacrifice fit or quality.

Below are some more specific tips. Take them under advisement, because I must tell you, the guy did look sharp.

Look for quality over quantity

When you’re starting a wardrobe from scratch, it’s easy to think that since you’re on a budget and need to stock up on enough shirts for two weeks, you should look for cheaper options.


Since men’s fashion only changes about every 10 years, Williams says, you’re looking for clothes that will last. They may be expensive now, but you won’t have to keep replacing a $125 shirt the way you would a $40 shirt.

As an added bonus, men can get by with just the staples, leaving plenty of time to gradually build a wardrobe – and as Williams points out, there’s a difference between a wardrobe and a closet.

“Every guy should have a white shirt, a blue shirt, a pair of black pants, and a pair of chinos,” he says, plus dark denim, ties and a pair of nice shoes.

After that starting point, add one piece per month or a couple per season, and you’re well on your way to a large selection of great clothes.

Know your size

It’s not just the ladies. Everyone should know their size, and guys, you have more measurements to keep track of. I’ve noticed that most of you claim to have terrible memories, so if that’s actually the case and not just a preemptive excuse for forgetting something important, write down your measurements.

Or, here’s an idea. Try things on.

“Whenever you’re shopping, do not compromise the fit for you,” Williams says.

He says most men in their mid- to late-20s and 30s tend to buy clothes that are too big, and younger guys err on the too-snug side. If you’re unsure, get fitted at a men’s store or department.

Other rules:

–Look for shirts that are trim-cut and not boxy.

–Pleats only work on men who are very tall and slim. Otherwise, go with flat-front pants.

–Never buy the shirt that’s just a little too small, Williams says. It will pull across the chest, and you won’t be able to wear a tie.

Accessories matter

The right shoes, especially, are critical to looking polished. Williams advises steering clear of square-toes and go with wing-tips, oxfords, round-toes or loafers instead.

Obviously, it’s important to make sure the shoes match everything else you’re wearing. He also says to make sure you have shoe trees and polish the shoes regularly, especially before you go on an interview.

Be a smart sale-shopper

It may seem like common sense, but Williams says the key to good sale shopping is getting there first for the best selection.

He stresses that you should never buy something just because it’s on sale, and that it’s not plausible to expect that you can get everything you need, and that’s high quality and fits you properly, at a discount. (Good advice for everyone, not just men).

Always think about the value of what you’re buying, rather than the price you’ll actually pay.

Some final thoughts

–Always save the buttons that come with your clothes, so you can have them repaired.

–The second you try to “pull off” a look, you’re in a red zone. Wear what you’re comfortable wearing, within reason.

–”If you look like a slob, don’t leave the house.” Hey, I didn’t say it.

[Original Article]