Blue. Especially navy. It’s the backbone of many a guy’s wardrobe. So much so that sometimes it’s tough to avoid. But y’know? That’s not always a bad thing. Quite the opposite for some of us in fact, and leaning on dark blue can be a great strategy for the men’s style newbie. Let’s give one of the most popular colors in men’s style its due. Ten “essentials” (there will always be exceptions, these are more guidelines really) follow, with a few picks for each.
#10. Casual Woven/Macrame Belt
- J. Crew Made in the USA Braided Web Belt – $39.50
- Jomers “Sagamore” Made in the USA Macrame Belt – $20.00
These are especially useful during the warmer months, but also look great with a pair of jeans in fall & winter. Once the weather gets hot, use it with shorts, lightweight pants, and even to further dress down a light summer suit. There are plenty of more colorful/preppy casual belt options out there, but hardly any as versatile as a deep blue or navy woven belt with leather accents.
#9. Lightweight Mac and/or Warm Wool Peacoat
- GAP Twill Mac Jacket – $118.00 (full review here)
- Billy Reid “Bond” Peacoat – $695 (but seriously, check your Army/Navy surplus store)
- J. Crew 10-button Dock Peacoat – $298
The standard khaki trench looks great on most, but a dark blue lightweight mac for spring/summer, and a classic deep blue peacoat for fall and winter are a little more subtle. Less Inspector Gadget. Prices, depending on the maker, can vary wildly for both of these styles. From the hyper inexpensive to the 401k wrecking level, yet each might be able to be sourced (especially peacoats) at your local army/navy surplus store for a heck of a lot cheaper than you’d think.
#8. Chinos and/or Wool Trousers
- Year’rounder Wool Dress Trousers in Tailored or Traditional Fit – $89
- Nordstrom Wrinkle Free Straight Leg Chinos – $45.90 ($69.50)
- Banana Republic Emerson Vintage Straight Cotton Chinos – $69.50
- Bonobos “Nighthawks” Washed Chinos – $68 ($88)
This is an “or” situation for most. If you work in a more casual environment, then flat front cotton chinos are probably as formal as you’ll want to get in terms of stand alone pants. (Suits? That’s another story, and coming later on in the post.) But if you’re in a white-collar workplace, navy wool trousers are gonna see plenty of time along side mid-grey sportcoats, sweaters, and shirt & tie combinations.
#7. Socks. Especially wool socks.
- Nordstrom Wool Blend Above-the-Calf Dress Socks – $9.90 ($14.90)
- Gold Toe Men’s Windsor Wool Dress Sock, 3-Pack – $21.00
- SmartWool New Heathered Socks- $11.90 ($18.95)
The guideline is to match your socks to your pants. Or at least get close. Wearing blue socks with blue pants (even jeans) helps make you look taller, since showing matching sock elongates your legs, instead of having a bold contrast visually cutting you off at the ankle. (Shoes pictured are the out-of-production Allen Edmonds Fairfax in the old Chili.)
#6. Grenadine or Matte Silk Necktie
- TheTieBar 3” Grenafaux in Navy – $15.
- Nordstrom Calibrate 3” Navy Solid – $49.50 (can be found for less at Nordstrom Rack)
- Brooks Brothers Solid Repp Tie – $79.50
For grey suits of all kinds, from light grey to charcoal, pinstriped to solid. A deep navy tie is a serious tie, but the bit of texture that grenadine offers can keep it from looking too slick. More on the advantages of navy ties (and ties of other colors too), can be found over here.
#5. Merino Wool Sweater
- Express Italian Merino V-Neck (look for them in the fall)
- UNIQLO Extra Fine Merino Wool – $39.90
- Banana Republic Merino V-Neck (also look for them in the fall)
Looks equally as good with contrasting pants like traditional khaki-chinos, or with an all-blue outfit up against dark wash denim. Most brands release their merino sweaters in August as we start sneaking up on fall. Merino just might be the perfect material too. Not too bulky, not too itchy, warm but breathable, and nowhere near the cost of cashmere.
#4. A Cotton or Linen Sportcoat
- J. Crew Factory Unconstructed Chino Sportcoat – $138.40
- UNIQLO Cotton or Cotton Blend Sportcoats – usually $70ish (look for them in the fall)
- Nordstrom Regular Fit Cotton Travel Blazer – $147.49 ($295)
- Hugh & Crye Seneca – $195
Less is more here. You want less lining, and skip the functional sleeve buttons which can be a pain to tailor. An all cotton chino, or cotton/linen blend sportcoat is extremely versatile, and can really elevate even the most casual looks in a pinch. Navy cotton chino blazers used to be on the racks at every friggin’ retailer on the planet. Even Old Navy. Now? They’re a bit tougher to find. But the new J. Crew Factory option looks to be perfect, and keep an eye out for more to be released at the likes of UNIQLO, Banana Republic, and others in the fall. (Sidenote: what the heck happened to the Bonobos washed chino blazers?)
#3. Dark Wash Denim
- Levis 505/501/514/511 – $39 – $59 (especially in Tumbled Rigid or Rinse)
- Bonobos Slim Fit Jeans in Resin – $71.90 ($108)
- Banana Republic Traveler Jeans – $118 (review here)
- GAP Standard Taper – $69.50
- UNIQLO Regular Fit Selvedge – $49.90
Some of us could live in dark wash denim. Some of us DO live in dark wash denim. And it doesn’t have to be some bespoke $200 pair of selvedge, raw, hand rubbed by free-range Civets immediately after passing their butt-java jeans. A pair of $40 Levis does just fine. More than fine. With everything from a plain t-shirt to an OCBD and a rumpled blazer.
#2. A Versatile Wool Blazer
- J. Crew Legacy Blazer in Ludlow or Crosby Fit – $388
- Lands’ End Regatta Wool/Poly Blazer – $198
- Bonobos Wool/Cotton Jetsetter Blazer – $398
- BOSS “James” Trim Fit Wool Blazer – $329.90 ($498)
- UNIQLO Wool/Cashmere Blazer – $99.90 (look for a return in the fall)
A little less structure than a suit jacket, but still easy to dress up with chinos or trousers. Often looks dynamite with jeans. Some guys prefer the traditional, brass-button look, but others want darker buttons on their blazers. Details like top-stitching or patch pockets, along with less structred shoulders, keep those blazers without the traditional brass buttons from looking like orphaned suit jackets. More on the differences between blazers, sportcoats, and suit jackets can be found here.
#1. A well fitting Navy Suit
- SuitSupply Napoli Fit – $399
- J. Crew Factory Worsted Wool Thompson Jacket & Pant – mid $200s – $300
- J. Crew Ludlow or Crosby – $450 – $650 (depending on sales & codes)
- Brooks Brothers BrooksCool Fitzgerald Fit – $488 – $698 (depending on sales)
Charcoal might be more versatile (it can be worn in more serious and somber situations, like a funeral), but most guys just look better in a navy blue suit. Plus, as long as the buttons are a dark brown, you can wear just about any color shoe with it. From black to walnut, and everything in between. For a guy’s first navy suit, he should look for a suit with a sold fabric, notch lapel jacket, and flat front pant. And it should skim, but not strangle your frame. More navy suit picks over here.
Also receiving votes for this list: Suede Bucks, A dark chambray shirt, a classic umbrella, a wool scarf, a corduroy or velvet blazer for the holiday season, and/or a navy tuxedo.