Listen up, you dapper readers out there. I have a serious announcement for you.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a killer wardrobe!
There are a few key essential staple items you can get (for relatively cheap, if you play your cards right), that you can mix and match into just about any outfit. Here are some of my favorites that I don’t think I could ever live without:
1. A solid colored Oxford shirt
I suggest blue, like this slim fit J-Crew beauty. Layer it under a crew neck sweater, over a t-shirt, or, my favorite, wear it as is with a pair of jeans. An oxford is perfect for your friend’s dinner party, or date night, or even weekend wear.
+Pro-tip- don’t wear an Oxford with a suit. Please. Just don’t. Unless you’re a college physics professor. Or Kanye West. Then you can do whatever you want.
2. A quality V-Neck and crew T-Shirt
I seriously can’t emphasize enough just how important this is. If you only listen to one thing I ever say, listen to this. Get a good looking, high quality V-neck and crew neck T-shirt in a solid white. And I’m not talking about those three packs from Hanes. Yes, I admit, I own a few of these, but in a couple of washes the collars start to wrinkle. Not to mention the fit is horrendous- the sleeves are too long, and they usually go down to your knees. If you MUST buy the Target special Fruit of the Loom brand, wear them strictly as undershirts.
A lot of fashionistas will tell you to spend $75 on a designer T. But I’m a realist, and also a broke graduate student. I won’t be able to spend $75 on an undershirt for another three years, at least. Instead, I suggest something like the Legend crew neck from American Eagle.
Or this Essential V-neck from Gap.
Wear it by itself in the summer with a pair of dark jeans for a classic James Dean look, or put it under a button down as a layering item. The possibilities are basically endless.
3. A solid crew-neck sweatshirt
Crew sweatshirts were everywhere this fall. And I’m pretty sure they’re not going anywhere, because they’re a staple. That’s the beauty of all of these items. They’re timeless. I own two from H&M (their Divided label in the “basics” department) and I wear them all the time. I’m wearing one in gray right now, actually, layered over a blue Oxford (see, I told you… Staples). You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look good. These H&M crew necks are under $15. They aren’t going to stand the test of time, but, like most of H&M’s stuff, you’ll get trendy clothes for cheap.
Like anything else, fit is key here. Notice how this sweatshirt isn’t your Dad’s baggy Champion thing he wears to pickup basketball. The arms are slim, and the armpits are high. Also, notice how the body doesn’t sag. Contrary to popular butch theory, extra bulk will only do that– add bulk. I like to wear this as a sweater, with a button down underneath, or with a plain white t-shirt for a more classic look.
4. A white dress shirt
“But isn’t that the same thing as an Oxford, Dapper Butch?” No. No it’s most definitely not. And shame on you for thinking so (but that’s why you’re here, right?). An Oxford is made of cotton, and has a very collegiate feel to it. The collar is buttoned down for a more casual look. What I’m talking about here is a white dress shirt. One to wear with that suit you just bought after reading my previous post. Or, you can wear it with a pair of navy or gray dress pants, with or without a tie (just stay away from black, lest you want to look like a waiter at the Cheesecake Factory).
I, personally, love the 1MX Slim Fit Shirt from Express. The only problem I find is that the sleeves tend to be a little on the long side. Express also sells similar shirts in a “modern fit” (which is a little more relaxed and accommodating for the bigger chested among you). Go with a solid white for starters, since it will literally be the most versatile piece in your wardrobe. Seriously, I just packed for our cruise next week, and I’ll be able to wear this shirt with my suit (and no tie) for formal night, and open-collar style with a pair of khakis for dinner.
5. Wing tips
Buying shoes has proven to be one of the most difficult parts of butch fashion for me. I’m small, but my feet are on the average end of the spectrum for women (I’m a women’s size 8). Here’s the issue though; most men’s shoes only come as small as a size 7 (that’s a women’s 9). I’m able to wear a 7 with a thick pair of socks or some padded in-soles, but for those of you who have smaller feet (like, a women’s 6??) my advice to you is boys, boys, boys (well, not really… I mean, the boy’s department). For the tiny-toed among us, check out J-Crew for their kid’s dress shoes. Also, sometimes Zara and H&M carry decent ones, although they can be hit or miss. I admit that my black cap-toe dress shoes are from Payless (I know, the shame!), and are a boy’s size 6. The rule of thumb is that your size in a men’s shoe is your size in a women’s shoe minus two (or, for those mathametically inclined readers, that’s W-2=M). Same with kid’s sizes. In summary, I’m a women’s 8, and therefore wear a men’s and boy’s 6 (or, a 7 if I find myself a really hot little number I can’t live without).
I know wing tips are going to be a bit of a stretch for some of you. They’re reminiscent of a Mad Men era (which is why I love them), but the stitching on them makes them a little more daring than a plain shoe. What I like about them is they’re stylish, but also timeless. Go with a brown (I especially love a lighter brown) like these from Call it Spring, and wear them with your gray, navy, or tan pants (just, please, not black). They also look slick with a pair of dark jeans. And, for the bolder butches out there, swap out the laces for a pair like mine from Cole Haan (below) for a fun flair.
+Pro-tip- Check out Aldo, and their sister store, Call it Spring. They carry inexpensive, fashionable shoes (and lots of wing tips) in as small as a size 6 (online). My brown wing-tips are from Call It Spring, and I pretty much wear them everywhere (note the laces have been changed out for these khaki colored ones).
6. A tailored blazer
I can’t even begin to tell you how much you can do with a fitted blazer. I’ll be honest, I found my first one at a thrift shop. It’s a navy blue (with pin stripes) Calvin Klein boy’s jacket which I spent $10 on. When Richie the Tailor was done with it ($80 later) it fit like a dream. Bottom line, I don’t care where you find it (thrift shops are awesome. Just be patient), just get it tailored. The same rules for suits apply for blazers. Go for the H&M, Zara, or Top Men selection, and remember, make sure the shoulders fit right (everything else can be altered). Butches also really like the J-Crew Ludlow collection, like the jacket below.
Stick with a solid gray or navy, no crazy prints. And, general rule of thumb, avoid pin stripes (unless they’re so subtle you have to be really close to see them, like mine). This makes it much easier to pair with an outfit. Wear it with dark jeans and a button down. Add a tie for a more dapper experience. Or, if you can rock it, wear it with a solid crew neck T-shirt (just don’t do the Mike from Shah’s of Sunset and pair it with a tank top. Seriously, what is happening there?).
+Pro-tip- Two words; pocket. square. If you’ve never ventured into the world of accessorizing your suit, this is a great way to do it. Just make sure to match the colors of your pocket square to at least one of the colors in your shirt or tie. Feel free to mix patterns (in fact, I encourage it, when you get brave enough). Trust me, I almost feel naked wearing a blazer sans pocket square now. Start with a solid white, and then slowly up your game to gingham (just stay away from silk… they make you look like you should be drinking brandy in a smoking room with a bathrobe on).
7. A timeless (get it?) watch
This one is up for interpretation. If the thought of yellow gold makes you cringe, then go for silver. If you want to play it safe with a round face and simple dials, do it up. A watch is something that you can use to express your style, and also to get some serious attention. I, personally, have about ten watches, all for different occasions, because I’m a watch slut, and I would spend every paycheck on watches if my girlfriend wouldn’t kick me out.
Speaking of my wonderful girlfriend, for Christmas this year, she gave me my favorite gift of all time– this tank watch from Omega, made in the 70’s. I love it because 1. it was a thoughtful, beautiful gift from the girl I love and 2. she put a lot of research into it, so that it pretty much completely sums up my look. She knows I love JFK and Steve McQueen as icons, so she did a little (okay, a lot) of looking into what kind of watch they wore back in the day. And she came up with this beautiful Omega vintage watch I adore, and wear everyday.
Straight up, find a watch you love, that you want to use as a daily-wearer (no, this is not necessarily the same as your dress watch you wear when you have a nice night out). Change out the band, get it sized, do whatever you have to in order to make it yours. Just be wary of the face. I’m relatively small-wristed (that’s not a gay euphemism), and have a hard time with modern men’s watches, as the faces tend to pretty much take up my entire wrist. This just looks sloppy. If you have to go for a women’s watch that is made to look more masculine, do it.
Start with these 7 must-haves, and you’ll be up and running.