Starter Style Review: Club Monaco

Editor’s note: Building great style on a budget can be difficult and expensive. This is the seventh part in an occasional series chronicling great locations to start a wardrobe and buy affordable, good-looking style staples. Past entries have chronicled places like Banana Republic, Target and Express. Check out the full set of six posts in the series here .

When starting out reinventing your personal style, there are certain incremental steps along the way. And even for those of us who’ve worked at our style for a while (doing things like embracing fit, paying attention to small details, and reaching for timeless style essentials), there’s always opportunity to improve and mix things up. One of the easiest ways to do this in a relatively quick manner is turning toward a new brand. While some brands offer tried-and-true basics for almost everyone, the great thing about the world of men’s style is the amount of versatility and limitless variety out there, both from domestic and international brands.

Owned by Polo Ralph Lauren, yet decidedly different.

Owned by Polo Ralph Lauren, yet decidedly different.

In that regard, Club Monaco is a brand that shakes up the traditional #menswear fornula just enough, providing the ideal opportunity to explore new styles and items at decent prices (for the most part). They have a more continental vibe than J. Crew, they have more variety than a basics outpost like Old Navy, and although some styles are zany, they don’t stray into full-on Urban Outfitters territory. They’ve been owned by Polo Ralph Lauren for about 15 years, but the brand seems to occupy its own space, something reflected in its clothing offerings. The brand itself is a hybrid of sorts  — a mix of tailored wear with unique touches, and casual stylings that are just different enough from typical tried-and-true offerings.

Some of the brand's washed casual shirt offerings.

Some of the brand’s washed casual shirt offerings.

The first noticeable thing about any Club Monaco outpost is the variety — spread throughout the store and within each individual section. Think heathered T-shirts next to sneakers, with casual washed blazers just a few steps away. It’s arranged in a pleasing manner that flows naturally, something that could be disastrous if done wrong.

Stripes, small prints and casual washes -- the Club Monaco basics formula.

Stripes, small prints and casual washes — the Club Monaco basics formula.

Club Monaco seems to emphasize  variety in color as well, but again, in a pleasing manner. Its T-shirts, shorts and polos aren’t highlighter-bright and plastered in logos (looking at you, Express). Instead, there’s a nice mix of washed shirts, pocket tees and striped long-sleeve and short-sleeve offerings in neutral colors, none of which would look of place on its own or layered in mostly any season. Again, a basic grey T-shirt suddenly doesn’t look so basic when combined with a heathered wash, for example. The one area where certain casual offerings don’t jump out that prominently would be denim — the jean selection in-store (at least in this particular shop) isn’t extensive when compared to other brands. On the other hand, chinos receive slightly more prominent displays (a good choice considering the continental aura with many of their styles).

Peak lapels help this suit stand out from other, more plain suiting options.

Peak lapels help this suit stand out from other, more plain suiting options.

And the brand’s tailored wear is a strong point, too. The fits and stylings are more conservative than ultra-tight offerings from H&M or another retailer, yet they’re still trim and polished. The requisite variety in the suiting game is there too — heightened blues, glenplaids and checks, mixed in with peak and notch lapels. The suit above is  a nice example of the typical variety taken in  an approach by Club Monaco — changing up the traditional navy suit by adding peak lapels and a ticket pocket to the jacket. The price point is where some might find issue, however. $525 for a cotton suit jacket seems a bit steep when compared to a jacket from J. Crew’s famed Ludlow suit ($358). And while there’s no denying the quality of the Ludlow suit, Club Monaco doesn’t seem to get as much play when it comes to well-dressed guys suiting up.

A deep (and artfully-arranged) array of shoes from menswear favorites.

A deep (and artfully-arranged) array of shoes from menswear favorites.

But, moving through Club Monaco yields some high-quality finds in the shoe department. The brand has partnerships with noted #menswear favorites Wolverine, Grenson, Clarks, and Tretorn. That’s a pretty hefty lineup of heavy-hitters, which brings great variety to the brand’s lineup, especially in-store. The quality of the shoes is just as good as going through the brand directly (take these Tretorn sneakers, for example) And the prices via Club Monaco for some shoes, like a pair of Grenson brogues, are significantly lower than the UK site itself ($380 vs. $450). The brand’s ties are, like the rest of the store, just different enough — neither too silky-smooth or plain, there’s a nice mix of current lightweight summer fabrics, like cotton and chambray, next to toned-down silk offerings (seen below).

A mix of ties in woven knit and summerweight ties, along with traditional silk.

A mix of ties in woven knit and summerweight ties, along with traditional silk.

The standout attribute about Club Monaco is the way in which the brand takes traditional favorites, like a standard T-shirt, and slims down the fit, changes up the wash and injects it with some new life. The same applies to their suits (with features like peak lapels and slight textural differences) and shoes (sneakers with some variety versus traditional low-tops, for example). While their prices are above that of J. Crew in some respects (as high as some of us might go when paying full-price), the return on the investment, particularly when it comes to sharp footwear and quality basics, appears to be worth it.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s