The media bombards us with images of Cary Grant, (a newly single) George Clooney and Don Draper.
It sure can intimidate a bloke, cant it?
These men are at the peak of style icon-dom (yikes, is that a word?).
But an Aussie man can still look great even if he isnt as formal or as "done" as those boys. This post shows you a man's essential winter pieces (a "starter pack wardrobe") that look great for an Australian (down to earth) lifestyle.
The starter pack consists of ordinary clothes that can mix and match, that will look smart and wont make you look "gay" (as alot of my straight male friends say).
By building up the starter pack, I envisage that you can look something like this.....
This is how Sportscraft recently outfitted the wallabies...nice!
and by adding a jacket, you can do something like this....
and if its gets cold, you add a sweater & the scarf.
Want to make it dressier? Tuck the shirt in, add a belt and a leather shoe.
IF THESE LOOKS APPEAL TO YOU AS AN AUSSIE SMART CASUAL LOOK, THEN KEEP READING.
When does the starter pack wardrobe apply?
The starter pack wardrobe consists of a "smart casual" collection of clothes which can be worn in a casual business environment (or casual Friday).
It can also be worn for "play" - when visiting friends on the weekend, for your first Thanksgiving together,
at the pub or club, at the movies, (dare I say) at the shops and at a smart casual dinner.
Danger, danger Will Robinson!
The starter pack wardrobe can be used for dating. Be cautious here though - due to the minefield of sub text with clothes on dates, I will do other posts for dating clothes...stay tuned.
Not a single item in this starter pack wardrobe is intended to be worn mowing the lawn, fixing the car, helping a mate erect his shed, cleaning the gutters, playing sport, loafing around the house doing nothing or any activity remotely resembling any of the above. There are no exception to this rule. EVER.
What the starter pack collection doesnt cover?
The starter pack wardrobe doesnt cover business clothes.
Nor will it cover sporty/gym attire.
So when you see George Clooney in this photo, be assured that these clothes are ONLY worn when he is playing sport. And no, catching up with friends at a BBQ or after dinner drinks with workmates isnt "sport".
The starter pack wardrobe will not cover black tie situations - & please dont be intimidated by this anyway - its as simple as a rental & these guys (who are these guys anyway?) are outfitted by their publicists anyway!
Nor will the starter pack wardrobe cover situations when you need a matched suit. We'll deal with that later.
Over 80 looks with a few simple basic non threatening pieces
The starter pack wardrobe will give a man at least 80 different base looks using 4 pairs of pants and 5 shirts.
Since this starter pack wardrobe is designed around the cooler seasons, for warmth, it also includes a jacket and two sweaters - these extras will give a man additional options, of over and above the 80 looks.
What about summer clothes?
The starter pack wardrobe will not cover summer clothes - we'll save some ideas to "summerise" the wardrobe package at minimal cost when it gets a bit warmer.
Northern hemisphere people, you'll have to wait a bit longer.
What's in the "winter smart casual starter pack"?
Jeans - 2 pairs
Chino pants - 2 pairs
White tee shirts - 5
Shirts - 5
Jacket - 1
Sweaters - 2
Belts - 2
Pairs of shoes - 2
Oblong woolly scarf
One word of advice before we get down to serious shopping business....
THE CLOTHES IN THE STARTER PACK HAVE TO FIT YOU - THEY CANT BE TOO TIGHT OR TOO BIG. IF YOU ARE USED TO WEARING THINGS IN THE WRONG SIZE, YOU NEED TO RE-EVALUATE THIS FOR THE STARTER PACK OTHERWISE ITS A WASTE OF YOUR MONEY.
So, here we go....
The Jeans - 2 pairs:
*Unless you're super young and super skinny, keep the leg straight, not skinny & not flared.
*If you are super young and super skinny - congratulations & you can wear skinnies if you like
*Avoid acid wash - too 80s
*Include a very dark blue version as it can pass as pants at alot of clubby & eatery establishments
*Include a lighter version
*Get them altered to the right length - most stores can arrange this for you
*Ensure you're not a Harry or too much of a Larry - see my earlier blog post
*Dont go for dark grey or black - after many washes they can start to look a bit 'westie"
TIP: If the fit is amazing and the two suggested washes are available, grab both in the same style. Trust me - no one is going to notice you have two pairs of jeans in the same style - they will be too busy eyeing off your butt to actually notice the cut of the jean.
Well fitting chino pants - 2 pairs
* One in a dark shade, perhaps, a donkey colour
* The other in a marginally lighter shade, perhaps khaki
* Dont go for black or navy - when these very dark cotton colours are washed, they start looking white at the seams - not a good look.
* Dont go for very light taupe like this one - it'll get dirty at the drop of a hat & will spend more time in the washing machine than on your bum.
* If you have a beer belly - opt for soft pleats at the front.
* There are a gazillion choices on line especially from the US (Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy etc) that have loads of options. Get someone to help you navigate the fine details of the descriptions and fabrics before committing to buy.
TIP: No trackies (unless you're at the gym). No exceptions, ever.
5 white tee shirts
* Make these short sleeve, crew neck, slim through the body & able to be tucked into the jeans/chinos.
* These will act as a base under sweaters and shirts - providing options as well as another layer of warmth during winter.
* They can be washed (with bleach to spruce them up) & be prepared to replace them when they start to look grey. If you know someone good with whitening whites, they can last many year.
* Kmart, Big W are perfect locations and often have them in packs of five for $10 a tee at the most.
*Avoid $2 shops - they tend to do a "grey-white" version of white which can look draining.
* Dont worry - you can add pattern & colour as a next step - we are selecting the basic building blocks (aka starter pack) ATM.
TIP: I have excluded patterned holiday (eg: Bali), AC-DC, Hawaiian, cartoon, offensive tees...keep them in your cupboard or for washing the car or for at the beach. No exceptions, ever.
5 cotton shirts
Unless you have some pathological or medical addiction for short sleeve shirts, make these long sleeve.
Sure, short sleeve can be "cool" depending on how its worn, but 99% of straight Australian men above 29 cant pull this off.
* Colour is important - choose colours that suit you, include at least one plain one.
* If your complexion can take it, you can include a black, navy, chocolate etc - ie: whatever dark colour suits your complexion.
* Not sure? Ask someone (preferably a woman - but not the sales woman at the store) to help you.
* Patterns can be small checks, stripes, chambray (in a different shade to the denim jeans you have selected), even small flowers.
* Avoid anything too strong or "too busy" for now - lets take small small steps. Smaller and plainer prints are easier to match.
* Avoid the cowboy look, the Oxford St look and the Hawaiian holiday look - baby steps. If you really love these looks, we can add them later.
* Quality is important: buy the best quality you can afford - these babies are going to last you a few years.
* Cotton with a touch of polyester (the poly helps avoid wrinkles) is good.
100% cottons can wrinkle alot during wear and cramp your style (pun intended).
* Avoid anything made in India - Indian cottons are often low grade and look horrible in the store and worse after wearing.
* Stay away from business shirts - this is smart casual and we dont want you to look like a nerdo accountant.
* Can be button down at the collar if that's what you like.
- brands like Sportscraft, Trenery (the better quality big brother of Country Road), RM Williams, Tommy Hilfiger are great to create similar styles to what this blog shows.
- brands like Jag, Jeanswest, Saba, Tarocash, Witchery Man, Oxford, tend to bit a fit more trend focused than the above but can easily be incorporated into the looks in this blog.
- brands like Glue, Quicksilver tend to be focused on the early 20s & are quite trend focused - they generally wont give you the looks shown in this blog.
- brands like Cotton On, Lowes tend to be hit & miss - you gotta know what you're doing (ie: understand quality & fit well) to shop here - waht to shop here? get help.
- brands like Ralph Lauren & Gant are way too expensive - avoid at all costs at full price.
However on sale (40% off & greater, yes - their selections are great.
- if you can get help, I'd suggest some web surfing for US brands - better quality and better prices than domestic stuff - but you gotta know what you're doing
TIP: In Sydney, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger have warehouse stores in Birkenhead Point Drummoyne (see my earlier post). They have a tremendous selection of mens shirts for $40 & upwards. Amazing prices!
* The sweater are important - choose colours that suit you - sound familiar?
* I'd suggest your sweater is looser than this - otherwise it may be classed as a bit "gay"....hahahaha.
* If your shirts are mainly patterned, make these sweaters plain.
* If your shirts are plain, you can make these patterned - but go easy - baby steps - sound familiar?
* If you dip your toe in the patterned water, try argyles (smaller scale is easier than larger scale) or a stripe border at neck & sleeves (like a cricket jumper) or patches on sleeve elbows.
* As for colour, how about a colour that you know suits you because you get loads of compliments when you wear it?
* I'd suggest a pure lambswool - please, no acrylic nor viscose.
* If you can afford it - splurge on cashmere - it'll last you forever.
* A cotton blend is a possibility (with the lambswool or cashmere) but I'd rather build up cotton blends for the summer starter pack - cotton just isnt warm enough for the winter starter pack.
* You may want to vary the necklines - crew or vee depending on what you're comfortable with.
Look at George in a wide vee neck with a plain white tee - perfect & easy to replicate. You can teem this with the chinos or the jeans.
* As part of the starter pack, I'd avoid a turtle neck since you cant wear shirts under them and at this stage you want the maximum options.
* No tracksuit tops
* No hoodies - they are not sweaters!
* This will be your most expensive item and it will be worth every penny because it will last you for years and years and it will still look good.
* The jacket is what will class up your image - when needed. I must point out George Clooney at this point. That bloke is rarely without a jacket - not necessarily a matched suit jacket, but something to give his look style and presence. And it works brilliantly. After all, why do you think some restaurants say "jacket required"?
* The jacket will work back with the jeans, the chinos and the shirts.
* It'll be a traditionally cut singe breasted jacket - shoulder pads, pockets, lined.
* The jacket will end up being a cotton/wool blend not too thick & woolly - so it can carry you through spring, autumn and winter.
* Preferably it will be a solid - but since it has so much work to do (matching back to 4 bottoms), its best for it not to be black. Black will be too harsh for your lighter solid pants.
* Instead choose a softer colour (grey, navy?) and if it has a pattern (make it subtle) try to incorporate all the colours of the pants (a subtle chocolate or camel pin stripe or a tweedy woven fabric). You will need help here. Use someone who can help you and understands colour and pattern (me!).
* An old business suit jacket will not suffice.
* No hoodies (unless you're still 18), no, no, no
* No blouson styles, unless you're going for the accountant look
* No outdoorsy styles - too casual unless you're trecking
* No denim jacket - it will look dorky with the jeans & dorky isnt the look you are going for
* Nothing too current like an aviator style or a (US) letterman style - you'll look too 2011 if you pull it out in 2012, 2013 & 2014.
* I'd prefer it not to be a leather jacket - small steps - leather takes some maintenance to keep looking good and to get maximum mileage, I'd rather you go for a more traditional look - for now.
* In due course, you will invest in a coat - but for an Australian climate, not as part of the starter pack.
* Even a jacket with a white tee looks crisp & amazing (with the chinos or the jeans) - see George in a leather jacket with a dark tee.....too easy!!!!
* A dark belt that will work with the darkest pants (like black or navy or grey)
* A lighter belt that will work with the lighter pants (like the lighter chino)
2 pairs of shoes
* Ideally a lace up or a loafer.
* A darker shoe that will work with the darker belt (like black or navy or grey)
* A lighter shoe (but not too light) that will work with the lighter belt
* No running shoes (unless you're at the gym)
* No summery style sandals nor boating shoes (you can include these for the summer starter pack)
* No dressy work shoes - you'll look like you didnt change into your civies after the work week moved into the weekend.
TIP: Women generally dont look at the brand or the quality - they look at how well looked after they are. So, ensure they are polished, not dirty and looking sharp. No exceptions, ever.
Dark socks - that blend in with both of the the shoes
A woolly scarf -
* You will need this for warmth.
* Oblong in shape.
* Go for lambswool or cashmere.
* Select a plain colour for maximum versatility (eg: navy or camel or grey? depending on what suits your complexion best)
* Avoid acrylic or viscose.
Jewellery - if you must, then make it simple - a simple chain, a simple bracelet.
Nothing too gangster-ish
Some more pictures of putting it all together....
A note from me: I have made several references to "gay men" in this post.
This was not derogatory in any sense and is not intended to be. However I want to explain it in case it confuses readers.
We all know Aussies in general are pretty laid back.
Australian style and European style are on opposite ends of the planet and I am not just talking geographically!
IMO a gay man typically has a more advanced sense of style than a straightie. But its gonna take a million light years for an average Aussie straightie to get to that level of style.
I'd bet my whole shoe collection that this wasnt taken in Australia - it was taken by Tommy Ton on the streets of the recent Mens Fashion Week in Milan. No surprises here! This man could well be straight. But if he was in Australia, chances are he would be a lovely gay man.
Given the laid back Aussie culture, IMO, most straight Aussie men are scared (in fact, terrified) of fashion - and that is one of the reasons I think they dont want to look "gay"...because they dont want to be seen as adopting a style they dont understand and that scared the living daylights out of them.