Using accessories to add pop to your outfit is a great way to personalise your attire. But knowing what accessories to wear, without going over the top can be tricky for a beginner. So what do I count as accessories? Well a good basic description would be your accent pieces. Think along the lines of the brightwork on a car, the chrome pieces certainly add to the look of the car without necessarily any other function, the same can be said for style accessories. Some are functional, whilst some are simply there to add subtle detail.
For many, the idea of adding accessories to your outfit may seem confronting, confusing or leave you feeling like a Christmas tree. But what if I was to tell you that in all likelihood, you have already worn accessories and that there is a good chance you are doing so now? A watch, a belt or a tie are among the most common of fashion accessories for men and I count them as the Basic Accessories. The ones that are a good starting point and are familiar and easy to use. A second group is the non wearables, which includes items like your wallet and phone. Items that a smart dresser never overlooks. So what then of the others, the more Advanced Accessories? These are the types of accessories that can make a huge difference to your style but must be worn with a less is more approach. These include, tie bars, cufflinks and pocket squares, items that used with restraint can turn a nicely dressed man into a Stylish and Sharp Dressed Man, (Cue the ZZ Top song. ) and will be discussed in Part 2 of this blog.
These are the accessories that you will already be familiar with and no doubt wear already. That doesn't mean that you can't step your game up a bit. Unlike the more advanced accessories, these basics can be worn at the same time. As a general rule these are everyday accessories, which means that you should have multiple options for each, at the very least, a casual and dressier option.
Watches. Watches are no longer the necessary timepiece they once were, our use of the smartphone has seen us use them as the most common way to know the time. Watches, whilst still a wonderfully usefully timepiece are often more of a style item now. (Although I do hesitate to include the ubiquitous fitness tracker as an item of style.) Watches of course come in a variety of styles and the prices can be the same as that of a family house. The world of watches is a complex one and best left for a latter blog. The rudimentary thing to remember with watches as style accessories is that they match your outfit. An informal fabric banded watch will not work with a suit just as a formal watch will look silly when worn with shorts and t-shirt at the beach. For this reason it is best to have at the very least, a formal and informal watch option. As you evolve your accessory and watch collection you will develop a feel for specific watches for specific situations.
Belts. Every man should have a variety of belts in their wardrobe. Much like watches their are formal and informal styles. A general rule of thumb is that formal belts have smaller buckles and tend to be narrower than casual belts. The finish on formal belts will be better too with the edges often stitched. There are other rules for wearing belts, match your belt to your shoes, this applies mostly to leather belts and shoes. A black belt with Brown shoes and vice versa is a definite style No-No and doing so will mark you out as someone with no dress sense whatsoever. Have a look at your pants, if there are belt loops, you must wear a belt to do otherwise will make any outfit look scruffy.
Belts come in a wide array of styles and materials, for the most part however there are 5 styles that should comprise your minimum collection of belts. Leather belts in both formal and casual styles in both Black and Brown and a casual canvas or woven belt. If however your need for formal belts is occasional at best, a good quality leather reversible belt can cover both black and brown. My advice is to buy quality leather belts, never skimp and be tempted to buy cheap vinyl or bonded leather belts, not only do they look cheap but will appear tatty and frayed after one or two wears. Look to spend between 50-80% of the price of a good pair of jeans and your belt will outlive all the pants in your wardrobe. The other thing to remember about leather belts, is to maintain them. A good quality leather treatment or polish regularly will keep them smart and fresh.
Socks. At the moment, socks ( or lack there of) are very much an on trend item. Socks are an interesting item to put in the Basics category. Loud socks with very bright colours can make a huge difference to your outfit, but are perhaps not for someone beginning to experiment with colours and style. My advice is to start with a more classic approach. The rule of thumb is to match your socks to your pants.This allows the lines of your footwear to not look deformed and the lines of your pants to flow. So this should be your default if you are unsure.
The current trend however is for more vibrant colours to act as a contrast between your shoes and pants. I would avoid novelty socks and stick with striped, argyle patterns or block colours. Novelty socks tend to look more juvenile and so not very becoming of someone in their fifties. Feel free to experiment but remember you are trying to look stylish and not look like Crusty the Clown.
Another trend at this point in time is the sockless look. A couple of points to keep in mind if you wish to try to pull this look off. Firstly, have a look at the cut of the pants you intend to be wearing, to achieve this look without looking ridiculous you need to have either skinny or slim cut pants. ( Personally, I think skinny cut looks ridiculous on most people anyway). If the diameter of your cuffs are too large then the sockless approach just looks sloppy. Secondly, keep hygiene matters in your mind, your feet will sweat and without your socks to absorb it, your shoes and feet will smell. There are a few ways to combat this. The best way in my opinion is to find invisible socks, socks that are so low cut that they cannot be seen when wearing shoes. Invisible socks come in a range of cuts and are not suitable for every shoe type. Another option is to rotate your shoes, if you have enough pairs of shoes to do so. For every day you wear a pair of shoes sockless, don't wear them for 2 or 3 days. The third option is to use foot powders or sprays to keep your shoes and feet smelling fresh.
Ties I myself rarely wear ties, I feel my lifestyle is more casual than the look that is reflected by wearing a tie. Having said as such, I do have some ties and wear them on occasions. So not being a tie expert, I will only briefly mention a few pieces of advice. The first thing is that ties go out of fashion, that tie you wore to a wedding 10 years ago will not do you any favours wearing it now. Stay away from those hideous novelty ties, as, much like socks, just make you seem immature. The last thing I will say is about quality, to the uninitiated a cheap tie looks OK, but to those in the know, they look cheap and nasty especially when paired with an expensive suit. A moderately priced off the rack suit or jacket can work with a moderately priced tie, but if you have invested in a quality suit or jacket its best to buy a similar quality tie.
I should also mention the bow tie. Yes a bow tie can be seen as a bold piece of attire. But, as an accent piece they can work very well. I have on a number of occasions worn a bow tie, but be mindful not to wear too many statement pieces at once, as it will come across as trying to hard and look rather silly. I will mention more about statement pieces in part 2 of the blog.
Sunglasses. Nothing says I don't really care about my appearance more than generic sunglasses bought when refueling your car. Look after a quality pair of sunnies and they will last a lifetime. Some Style bloggers will suggest that you have multiple pairs for different occasions, but as I wear prescription glasses, my sunglasses are a prescription pair and therefore a bit pricier it is not a school of thought I subscribe too. A quality pair of sunnies will certainly compliment your look.
The Non Wearables
For many, when talking about style accessories, the mind only thinks of items that are worn. However, ensuring that your non wearable accessories are up to scratch can make a big difference in your appearance. Remember, accessories are about the finer details and so if something seemingly minor is tatty, all the effort made becomes irrelevant.
Wallet. Your wallet is something that you will carry with you at all times and as such usually cops quite a beating. I myself, prefer the use of a micro wallet, in my case a small credit card sized aluminium wallet with an inbuilt money clip, called The Ridge Wallet. However, before I started to use a micro wallet I had two wallets. The idea being I had an everyday wallet which contained all my cards and money and was usually found bulging and misshapen( with loyalty cards not money) and a quality leather wallet that I used when going out. When heading out I would transfer my drivers license, credit card and cash to my "good" wallet, so as to keep a slim line appearance.
Mobile/Cell Phone. Another forgotten item that is usually in full view by all and sundry is your mobile phone. Again, I find the best approach is to have at least two cases for your phone. An everyday one and one that is used for better occasions. In fact I would recommend having a few options on hand dependent upon the occasion and what you are wearing. i.e. having a case that has a more formal appearance reserved for more formal occasions.
Another thing to add when it comes to your phone case is that many phone case incorporate slots to hold cards. So take your credit card and license out of your daily wallet , put them in your phone cover and use a money clip for your cash.
Keys. We all carry keys, be they car keys, house keys or both. Keys can be a really bulky item and keeping them in your pants pocket can result in an unattractive bulge. I myself use a metal key holder that has a much simpler and more stylish appearance. The thing to remember is that you are after a stylish and streamlined appearance, something that a loose set of keys will never be.
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Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.