Sand & sun, Part 2: Celebrating Christmas in Florida

Editor’s note: Click this link for more posts on how to travel in style.

Exploring J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge near my parents' home in Fort Myers, Fla.

Exploring the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge near my parents’ home in Fort Myers, Fla.

In the midst of planning ahead for 2016 on both the work and blogging fronts, I was really grateful and glad to be able to get to Florida for a bright and sunny Christmas. It was a rather hectic travel day on Wednesday between wrapping up some work for my day job representing Timberland, and travel delays out of New York City didn’t help the situation  — the chaos at the airport was pretty unimaginable! But that gave way to warm evenings and long, sunny  (but all-too-brief!) days in Fort Myers with great family and friends — for that, I’m definitely thankful. And making the style transition from the in-between weather in NYC to the record-high temperatures in Florida proved more than doable with the gear I brought along for the trip.

Sturdy waxed canvas made this bag a great travel companion. Leather luggage tag by Owen & Fred

Sturdy waxed canvas made this bag a great travel companion. Leather luggage tag by Owen & Fred

To get from Point A to Point B, I brought along my trusty Satchel & Page Slim Mailbag and my new but still-reliable United By Blue Mt. Drew Duffle — I would definitely recommend picking up a trusty weekender bag crafted from a durable waxed canvas, particularly if you only find yourself on the road for a weekend or a few days at a time. It proved more than accommodating for the gear I brought with me, and the extra gifts I brought back! And it’s a good thing I packed relatively light, as temperatures throughout the Fort Myers area were in the 80s throughout the duration of the trip! That made it extra-refreshing to check out a sure-to-be-favorite spot — the nearby Point Ybel Brewing, a relatively recent addition to the burgeoning craft beer scene in southwest Florida. Myself and my family sampled some great brews, including the delicious Captiva Cream Ale seen below — if you can get your hands on it, I’d recommend you bring home some fresh-canned beer from the brewery itself. For that excursion and much of the rest of the trip, I found a comfortable tee (in this case, a rugged-yet-stylish Pistol Lake short-sleeve henley) and some tailored shorts worked just fine.

Sipping on a great brew at the nice Point Ybel Brewing Company in Fort Myers. Olive short-sleeve henley by Pistol Lake. Classic Bristol leather watch by Daniel Wellington. Glasses by Warby Parker.

Sipping on a great brew at Point Ybel Brewing Company in Fort Myers. Olive short-sleeve henley by Pistol Lake. Classic Bristol leather watch by Daniel Wellington. Glasses by Warby Parker.

The laidback outfit also worked well to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens — and MAN, what a movie. We capped off Christmas Eve with some more family traditions, including watching “Love Actually“, playing a few games and enjoying a delicious meal before awaiting Santa… And my sister and I were certainly very lucky and blessed this year — Santa definitely fulfilled some of my #menswear wish list! I’m extremely excited and grateful for the incredible gifts I received, including the stellar Hemingway Elbow Patch Shirt from Todd Snyder and an amazing pair of Tom Ford Snowdon sunglasses (as worn by James Bond — WOW.). Those will definitely be accompanying me on future trips!

A look at some of the gifts Santa left for me. Brooklyn Field Guide by Wildsam. Beard Balm by Brooklyn Grooming. Beard & Face Brick by Clifford Originals. Notebook by Public Supply. Beer tasting book by 33 Books Co. Chocolate by (who else?) Toblerone.

A look at some of the gifts Santa left for me. Brooklyn Field Guide by Wildsam. Beard Balm by Brooklyn Grooming. Beard & Face Brick by Cliff Original. Notebook by Public Supply. Beer tasting book by 33 Books Co. Chocolate by (who else?) Toblerone.

It was an amazing Christmas Day, and I’ll now have even more new style gear to add to my wardrobe, including an eco-friendly watch from Sprout and a pair of lovely Americano Dress Cords from Bonobos. But perhaps the best part of the day was relaxing with my family and enjoying a traditional turkey dinner – it’s a good thing I went with casual style, as I was plenty stuffed with Christmas cookies. There’s perhaps no better way in my mind to cap off a great holiday than by spending it with the ones you love, so that made things even better.

Dressed casually for a hot Florida day. Organic cotton pocket tee by United By Blue. Olive sweatshorts by Pistol Lake. Navy Rosen Runners by GREATS Brand. Eco-friendly watch by Sprout. Glasses by Warby Parker.

Dressed casually for a hot Florida day. Organic cotton pocket tee by United By Blue. Olive sweatshorts by Pistol Lake. Navy Rosen Runners by GREATS Brand. Eco-friendly watch by Sprout. Glasses by Warby Parker.

But there was no time to rest with a shortened visit – and we had to work off all that food! We made the most of the day after Christmas by heading to the famous J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge for a bit of exploring – – I tackled that part of the trip with a pair of comfortable (but not sloppy) Pistol Lake sweatshorts and my reliable GREATS Brand Rosen Runners. Both picks proved more than adequate for lots of walking – as you may know, I’m a huge fan of GREATS, so I’d recommend you toss a pair in your bag on your next excursion.

Exploring the beaches near Fort Myers. Setter Swim Trunks by Orlebar Brown. Organic cotton pocket tee by United By Blue. Eco-friendly watch by Sprout. Snowdon Sunglasses by Tom Ford (thanks Santa!).

Exploring the beaches near Fort Myers. Setter Swim Trunks by Orlebar Brown. Organic cotton pocket tee by United By Blue. Eco-friendly watch by Sprout. Snowdon Sunglasses by Tom Ford (thanks Santa!).

As to the refuge itself — it’s an incredibly tranquil setting that’s really second-to-none in terms of natural beauty in southwest Florida – if you’re a fan of bird-viewing or fishing, definitely consider exploring the refuge. We also stopped by a local beach for a bit of exploration, which I was more than able to tackle in my Orlebar Brown Setter Swim Trunks and an organic cotton United By Blue pocket tee (similar style here), plus the aforementioned Tom Ford sunglasses. When you hit the road yourself, consider picking up a pair of sunglasses that’ll look sharp with outfits both dressy and casual – some slim Randolph Engineering aviators would be a great start.

Before enjoying some brews at The Lodge, we saw some of the sights around Fort Myers. Vintage 'drinks' shirt. Dark denim by Mott & Bow. Navy Rosen Runners by GREATS Brand. Snowdon Sunglasses by Tom Ford.

Before enjoying some brews at The Lodge, we saw some of the sights around Fort Myers. Vintage ‘drinks’ shirt. Dark denim by Mott & Bow. Navy Rosen Runners by GREATS Brand. Snowdon Sunglasses by Tom Ford.

We finished up our day in Fort Myers by heading to The Lodge, a cavernous downtown bar replete with rustic wood furnishing, delicious barbeque and (my personal favorite), the ability to pour your own beers from their long list of taps (the Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter from Fort Myers Brewing is worth a few sips!). We were joined by some old family friends in town for a visit (Hi, O’Brien family!)  — it was a wonderful evening filled with lots of laughter and reminiscing, plus new memories made.

Catching the last of the Florida rays. Ringer Pocket Tee by Tommy John. Khaki shorts by Banana Republic. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta. Vintage ballcap by Goorin Brothers. White Wilson sneakers by GREATS Brand. Snowdon Sunglasses by Tom Ford.

Catching the last of the Florida rays. Ringer Pocket Tee by Tommy John. Khaki shorts by Banana Republic. Stainless steel dive watch by Invicta. Vintage ballcap by Goorin Brothers. White Wilson sneakers by GREATS Brand. Snowdon Sunglasses by Tom Ford.

But as with all great trips, the journey home has to start sometime. We had the chance to pick up some locally-famous donuts from Bennett’s Fresh Roast on Sunday morning– once again, this place is a must-visit if ever you find yourself in the Fort Myers area. We finished off that leg of the trip by taking in the last of the nearby ocean views. With walking in the itinerary, I grabbed a comfortable Tommy John Ringer Pocket Tee in Heather Grey, which fits slim and is crafted from remarkably soft fabric. I topped off the look with a vintage ballcap from Goorin Brothers – although the option you see here is sold-out, a stylish, minimal cap never goes wrong when traveling, nor do versatile captoe sneakers.

Shop the latest in Men's styles Under $50 + get FREE Shipping on orders over $100 at Frank & Oak!
With all that activity (and new #menswear gear) in the bag, it was time to hit the road – for travel, I threw on my trusty Mott & Bow denim and some sturdy Thursday Boots suede chukkas. I’d certainly recommend you reach for comfortable, stylish pieces the next time you hop on a flight. Aside from some travel delays on the way down, the trip was about as amazing of a holiday as I could have hoped for, and I can’t wait to visit southwest Florida again. The natural beauty is second-to-none, the local attractions are unique, and the sunshine isn’t a bad way to spend Christmas – or any other time of year! I’ll be looking forward to my next trip, and I hope you’re able to travel & see loved ones as we head into 2016. For now, look for a New Year’s Eve Style Suggestion hitting right here tomorrow.

Until then – stay stylish!

-Beau

Guest Post: Five Ties Guaranteed To Make You Stand Out

Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by Madhav Sekar of wardrobedomination.com. Madhav’s site helps young men with limited style knowledge quickly and inexpensively improve their style to live better lives. Take it away, Madhav! 

We'd all be fortunate to have this many ties in our arsenal. For now, here's a few versatile picks.

We’d all be fortunate to have this many ties in our arsenal. For now, here’s a few versatile picks below. Image courtesy Shutterstock.

It is essential to own the classic ties, those ones that have found their way into the closets of guys for decades on end (think a red pindot tie or a blue repp stripe tie). These are the kind of ties even presidents wear over and over again — the ones that are just that timeless. However, we all need to toss on a unique piece of neckwear from time to time. Style isn’t just about looking good or fitting a “dress code” — it’s a way to communicate and express yourself and your creativity. You want to show people that you are different and that you take risks.

Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting you wear psychedelic paisley ties that look like they came straight out of a hippie’s latest hallucination… just ties with a bit of personality that will get you noticed.

Here are five ties that will separate you from the herd (in a good way).

#1. The Tie Bar Washed Navy Chambray Tie — $19

A subtle pattern, great fabric, and affordable price.

A subtle pattern, great fabric, and affordable price.

 

If you haven’t heard of The Tie Bar yet, you should probably start shopping there. It’s a great brand. Their ties retail between $15-$25 and they actually combine quality and looks for the price. This tie is made from chambray, a lighter fabric that makes for an extremely stylish look, particularly in warmer weather.  Chambray is one of my favorite materials right now, and designers are literally using it to make every article of clothing. This tie will stand out in equal parts for its design, color and material.

#2. J. Crew Factory Gingham Tie — $30

Gingham is a must-have for your wardrobe.

Gingham is a must-have for your wardrobe.

It’s hard to make any sort of clothing recommendation without mentioning J. Crew.  While this tie doesn’t have striking colors or crazy patterns, it will still help you stand out. I am personally a huge fan of gingham (I may or may not own five different gingham shirts). Gingham may be the most underutilized pattern in a man’s closet. This tie can be worn in any sort of situation – for a big meeting or a more casual event. It would look especially stellar paired with a crisp khaki suit. If you need more convincing: anytime I’ve worn any gingham article of clothing, especially this one, at least two or three people have complimented me on it.

#3.  Barney’s Multi-Stripe Tie — $39

 

Rebelling from the classic repp stripe tie.

Rebelling from the classic repp stripe tie.

Even though this piece is a mere striped tie, it still brings a unique edge thanks to the rather unusual color blending (a couple shades of blue, some white & red and a caramel stripe, too).  I love this tie because of its implications for the rest of your outfit. First, you can find a great pair of socks that complement or match this tie in terms of color. Second, the possibilities for your pocket square are endless. You can choose a square with similar color and a different texture, a completely different color with a similar texture, or something completely random!  As always, you should be wearing a watch with this outfit.  The other ties in this list are either too bold or not bold enough for this kind of accessory freedom. When paired with a neutral khaki suit, each piece should work quite well together.

#4. J.Crew Silk Tie with Embroidered Insects — $75

 

For the first time on this site — recommending you wear an insect pattern.

For the first time on this site — recommending you wear an insect pattern.

This tie is probably the first, and last, time you’re going to see insects mentioned in any style-related context. But here they are. Ties with some creepy crawlers on them. It’s different, but different is good. I could actually imagine this tie working especially well in a formal setting. Here’s why: when you rock this tie with a nice suit or blazer you’re basically saying, no proclaiming, “I respect the workplace environment, but I’m also bold enough to explore and do unconventional things if I have to!” The chance of a promotion after wearing a tie like this increases 98-99% on average (source: too much data to cite). A note on price — try and use that student discount if you can swing it!

#5. Bo Clothing Fasel Tie – $80

Can you handle this tie?

Can you handle this tie?

This tie is a bold piece – and also an expensive one. Here’s how you can justify your purchase. The chance that you’ll accidentally wear a similar tie as a co-worker or friend is basically nonexistent. You will get compliments. You will get asked about it. You will cement your position as a man who knows what he’s doing. If you need more convincing, think of this tie as an investment. You won’t get tired of wearing it and you’ll get endless happiness from looking at yourself in the mirror. Another tie that brings similar pattern for much less can be picked up from team at Harrison Blake Apparel. Tone this one down with a crisp white OCBD and a navy blazer.

Honorable Mention:

Another great and essential piece is the silk knit tie.  This tie is super versatile in that it can be used to dress down a formal outfit or dress up a casual one.  Regardless of which route you choose it is a highly stylish piece.  Wearing it will definitely get you noticed.

The Hill-Side has a vast selection of unique ties made out of lovely fabrics, in addition to also unique clothing and accessories in general.  While these ties are a bit pricier, they are undoubtedly worth the investment.

The ties by the folks over at General Knot are also well-made and similarly priced. They’re all limited edition and created using rare and vintage fabrics found all around the world (Editor’s note: Anyone have experience with this brand? Never tried them out, but curious!).

Whichever selection you go with, each of the ties on this list really bring great spring & summer styling potential — from the boardroom to the bar and back.

Would you experiment with any of these ties?  Do you have any more suggestions?  

Editor’s note:  Need more spring style content? I’ve been writing a series of weekly Buyer’s Guide pieces on VOUCH Mag — the next is coming up on Wednesday, April 29.

 

Online Shopping Picks: Owen & Fred

Goods made in America with an eye for masculine design.

Goods made in America with an eye for masculine design.

No, you’re not confused — although there was indeed a review on Frank and Oak published here last week, Owen & Fred isn’t that brand’s equally well-dressed set of twin brothers. If anything, Owen & Fred is a complementary set of lifestyle offerings centered around well-made items you never knew you needed. The Brooklyn-based company offers affordable, made-in-America accessories  (much more on that below) that add some cheeky zest and a nice masculine touch to … just about any area of your life you can think of. Best of all, the brand’s website is remarkably clean, easy to use and set in a crisp typeface that’s very pleasing to the eye (if that matters to you — which it should!). Peruse some picks from their Web store below, and get on into one of their partner retailers to grab some gear as well.

#1. Army Green “Work Hard, Play Hard” Duffel — $99

Sturdy exterior, nice space and a versatile olive color make this one travel-ready bag.

A turdy exterior, nice space and a versatile olive color make this one travel-ready bag.

The first pick on this list definitely fills a product category every guy needs — a great weekender bag. While it just missed the cut on that last roundup, it tops this particular set because of that rich (yet neutral) olive color, sturdy duck canvas exterior and moderate dimensions that make it ideal for a quick trip. And when you get down to it, a bag like this is going to see a lot of use — especially at that price point. It’s a little sporty mixed with a lot of classic.

#2. “This Bag Is Not Yours” Leather Luggage Tag — $26

Purchased on a vacation, fittingly enough, and ready for lots of use on the road.

Purchased on a vacation, fittingly enough, and ready for lots of use on the road.

Does every bag need a luggage tag? Not necessarily. But I guarantee you if you pair this tag with the above bag or another weekender (or heck, a regular suitcase), you’ll get questions and compliments, and you’ll feel just a little … dare I say it … cooler. Take it from a guy with this very luggage tag on my weekender. It’s not the most necessary accessory to be sure, but it’s well-crafted and made from thick, vegetable-tanned leather. It can definitely withstand everything you throw at a bag, which is saying a lot for a leather square.

#3. “You Earned It” Bottle Opener — $29

Nothing better than a little pick-me-up opened with this thing at the end of the day.

Sure, we’ve all got an assorted jumble of free bottle openers lying around, but there’s an argument for upgrading the little things — and thereby upgarding your lifestyle, bit by bit. The team at Owen & Fred is on to something with this one here (although by all means, if those freebies are your bag, more power to you). This is one bottle opener that’s hefty, made in the U.S.A from solid brass. And what’s better than a delicious soda or an ice-cold brew (perhaps one mentioned in last week’s Friday Read)? Knowing that you earned it, and using something this cool to crack it open.

#4. “It’s Only Money” Brass Money Clip — $20

Another cheeky piece that simply looks cool & serves a nice function.

Some would argue that spending $20 on a small money clip to hold more money might mean that you’ve simply got a bit too much cash. But this piece goes hand-in-hand with the bettering-your-lifestyle argument above, and it’s the little things that help that happen. Another piece made out of sturdy brass, and even having this thing should encourage you to carry more cash.

#5. English Bridle Leather Coasters in Black — $29

Water-resistant, English bridle leather coasters that’ll more than cushion any drink.

Perhaps you’re not the type who has a home bar, or even the space to do something like that. And if you’re recently out of college or still in college, this might be something to save for a purchase down the road. Although they’re just coasters, Owen & Fred’s mission shines through here with a simple design and high-quality materials, resulting in a minimal, premium product that would complement any living room table or bar.

Again, not all of these products are necessities for anyone, most of all if you’re shopping around for style on a budget. But any one of these items would really upgrade a home or bar and bring with it a nice, premium and … cool feel.

Tell me: Would you think about picking up any of these items? What’s the one accessory you’d really like to have for your space?

Online Shopping Picks: Versatile Men’s Watches On A Budget

A Timex Ameritus Sport watch with a No. 8 Chromexcel Horween leather band from Form-Function-Form, a recent addition to the personal collection.

A Timex Ameritus Sport watch with a No. 8 Chromexcel Horween leather band from Form-Function-Form, a recent addition to the personal collection.

Across the past few weeks, I’ve gotten questions from some of y’all out there (thanks for reaching out, by the way!) on stylish budget picks for all manner of things, from weekender bags to blazers. That area also includes watches — and watch shopping can be a bit tricky. If you’re like me and really into watches but don’t want to drop, oh, nearly $20,000 on one watch, there’s actually quite a lot you can do.  The picks below encompass watch styles that would work with lots of different outfits, although they skew towards varieties that don’t require matching the leather of your watch strap to your belt and shoes, conversely. There’s also not necessarily preference given to automatic versus quartz watches – leave that to the watch snobs. Check out them out below and let me know your thoughts!

#1. Invicta 8926 Pro Diver — $85.27 

An up-close look at a versatile timepiece, the Invicta 8926 Pro Diver. Cardigan by Todd Snyder.

An up-close look at a versatile timepiece, the Invicta 8926 Pro Diver. Cardigan by Todd Snyder.

That’s an up-close look above at an outstanding watch for the price. The Invicta 8926 Pro Diver has more than shades of a Rolex Submariner, yes, but for a vast amount less. Some people aren’t into watches that pay homage to more famous and iconic styles, but there’s no denying that the strong black face and crisp silver numerals around the bezel are a great look. This watch is dressy yet durable, fit for casual wear (think a white henley and jeans) and at the same time sharp.

#2. Orient Black Ray Automatic Dive Watch — $135

$135 for a slightly faster loooking, durable dive watch.

$135 for a slightly faster loooking, durable dive watch.

This second watch keeps things in the stainless steel-silver links-black dial category yet there’s something just a bit different about it. Maybe it’s the shape of the numerals on the bezel or the pointed red arrow on the seconds hand, but it feels a little faster and sleeker. The price jumps up a bit in comparison to Invicta’s diver, but plenty have praised Orient for the quality-to-price ratio. This watch is again, durable-looking but plenty fine for wearing with a suit on one end, and with shorts and a T-shirt on the other.

#3. Stuhrling Original Classic Ascot Stainless Steel Watch — $70

The numerals are swapped for slim lines around the dial.

The numerals are swapped for slim lines around the dial.

While the first two options bring a nice dressy-casual combo, the Stuhrling watch pictured here leans a touch more dressy thanks to the absence of numerals on the dial. Stuhrling’s watches are a nice price for the quality, although I don’t have personal experience with any of their dive watches. The diameter is a shade larger than the Orient Black Ray, but at 42 mm, this should still work with everything on up from a chambray shirt to a suit.

#4. Breda Stephen Watch — $39.50

From JackThreads — that brown-black combo just works with watches.

From JackThreads — that brown-black combo just works with watches.

This pick could be one of the more controversial on here — it’s not a stainless steel diver, so that requires going with brown dress shoes when the time calls for it, it’s not from a tremendously well-known brand, and it’s not incredibly dressy either. But let’s say you’re on a budget and don’t have the need or desire to wear a stainless steel diver — well, here you go. It’s more of a business-casual option thanks to the large numbers at 12, 3, 6 and 9, but it could also pair with a blazer-khaki chinos combo in a pinch (Note that the Timex Easy Reader would also be a good pick here).

#5. Timex Weekender with Slip-Thru Strap — $36

The Timex Weekender — customize it any which way you please.

The Timex Weekender — customize it any which way you please.

Again, this is another option that won’t necessarily fit for everybody — it’s a great casual watch and could see lots of duty on the weekends but isn’t nearly as versatile during the week. However, if that’s what your lifestyle calls for and you’d like a watch that’s simple but not sloppy, this is the one. The Timex Weekender can be customized with all different types of strap options, including floral paisley patterns if you’re feeling bold.  And some lovely leather strap options are also available from Form-Function-Form if you need a slightly more polished look.

When putting together a list like this, there are simply too many to go through to include everything — some honorable mention picks include Skagen’s exceptionally clean and modern Steel Mesh Watch, the Classic Ascot Agent from Stuhrling, the Timex Easy Reader mentioned above, and the Men’s 5 Automatic Watch from Seiko (needed some variety in there, ya dig?). You can also Shop New Arrivals Up to 84% off + Free Delivery via The Watchery here!

What are your thoughts on this list? What’s one versatile watch every guy should have?

The Watchery

Shopping on a Budget: An Updated Men’s Style Starter Kit, Part 4

Last week was a departure from regularly-scheduled programming on Siblings With Style, as I shared with you a profile on a fast-moving start-up company, Linjer Leather Goods (who has now raised a whopping $71,240 of its initial $50,000 goal). But this week, we’ll get back to the basics — and back to the bottomline — with the final part in an ongoing series on rebuilding (or adding to) your wardrobe on a budget. While previous entries have tackled dressier items, casual knits and basic footwear, this week will wrap things up with the details that can sometimes be most important — your accessories. Read on and prep your shopping cart for a budget-friendly revamp.

The Versatile Jacket: Old Navy

A classic silhouette at an affordable price.

A classic silhouette at an affordable price.

For one of the more essential accessories a guy can have in his wardrobe, we turn once again to Old Navy, a store with a history of providing polished basics at affordable prices. They’re a great place to go to for easy-wearing knits, and the same proves true of their classic bomber jacket. It’s a piece that’s absolutely on-trend at the moment, while also being utterly classic. The ribbed cuffs and trim silhouette aren’t overly flashy — just straightforward and reliable. While it would also be useful to diversify your offerings with, say, a more rugged denim jacket or a dressier belted trench coat, starting out with a classic piece in an easy-to-match color makes a lot of sense. This particular silhouette is a lot like the classic Harrington coat, but this option is a lot more affordable.

TOTAL: $40

The Overcoat: Uniqlo 

Dressy? You bet. Casual? Works there, too.

Dressy? You bet. Casual? Works there, too.

While a lightweight jacket like the above option can get through at least two (or three) seasons of the year when taking the right approach to layering, there are times where something more polished-looking (and slightly warmer) is required. Uniqlo’s topcoat has been popular across the blogosphere for a while now, and it’s a solid option for a piece that can work over a variety of outfits. It’s long enough (and dressy enough) to cover blazers and suits, yet it can (and should) be worn casually, too (see No. 1 on this list for more on that). Although it’s not the warmest of coats (at least according to some reviews), it should be fine when layered properly (think dress shirt, sweater, blazer, topcoat, if it does indeed get extra cold). Again, this isn’t necessary the only coat you should have in your fall or winter wardrobe, either (a workwear-inspired coat might also be nice to have), but it’s one heck of a versatile jumping-off point.

TOTAL: $150

The Belts: Old Navy

Assuming that from this wardrobe rebuilding (or revamping), you’ll be incorporating both black and brown shoes into your wardrobe, belts that match both those shades are a definite must. And if you’re already an old pro at creating fail-proof outfits, it never hurts to find out a low-budget alternative to cheaper belts, right? Old Navy again and again offers surprises in the #menswear department, especially these belts. Available in black and a middle-of-the-road brown (with an eye-catching gold buckle), either would work well for business casual wear or even more dressed-down outfits, particularly at 1 1/8″ wide.  Scoop up two now for a total of about $20 and you’ll be set for dozens of outfits.

TOTAL: $20

The Sunglasses: American Optical Aviators 

A timeless frame with military history.

A timeless frame with military history.

It’s tough to argue with something as classic as an aviator silhouette, especially the choice above. They were James Bond’s sunglass of choice in his most recent outing, and they’ve gained notoriety plenty of other places, as well. They look good on a variety of face types, they’re wearable with casual and business casual outfits, and they’re a style that won’t be going away any time soon. If these aviators don’t strike your fancy, J. Crew Factory offers a rose-gold aviator option, as well as other sunglass styles for even less than the pair pictured here. Although the price tag might be a little misleading (cheaper generally equals lower-quality), this company’s the real deal — a military supplier with pedigree, and more affordable than Warby Parker or Ray-Ban.

TOTAL: $60

The Watch: Invicta

Rolex Submariner styling for thousands less.

Rolex Submariner styling for thousands less.

It’s true that not every man needs a watch, or wears a watch, for that matter. But it’s an accessory that can set one apart for those same reasons. In an age of so much digital technology, there’s something comforting about a solid, sturdy wristwatch. Since loading up with several watches is something of an aspirational, long-term goal, the focus here is on one timepiece that, like the rest of these offerings, works for both casual and dress situations. A silver dive watch fits the bill perfectly — it doesn’t need to be matched with black or brown leathers, and that in-the-middle color also means it can be worn with brown dress shoes and a brown belt. Mimicking the classic Rolex Submariner, the Invicta Pro Diver is affordable, versatile and durable. In my own personal collection, the diver has worked wonderfully with everything from T-shirts and jeans, blazers and chinos and a light grey suit.

TOTAL: $87

The Socks: Express

Lots of color and pattern for not a lot of dough.

Lots of color and pattern for not a lot of dough.

While some would rule out Express when building a well-curated wardrobe, it’s an often-overlooked starting point for crisp, well-fitting dress shirts and even other pieces (as long as that pesky logo stays out of the way). Namely, socks hit the sweet spot at Express — while a bit much at $10.90 per an individual pair, bundling through their frequent sales can net as many as four pairs for $25. That’s a pretty good deal when you look for pairs in versatile (yet fun) colors that can complement pieces already in your wardrobe. They offer a couple different options, too — some marled dress socks, a zany plaid pair or a more traditional Argyle pattern all definitely work here.

TOTAL: $25

The Rest: H&M, J. Crew Factory 

Both wallet-friendly options that will fight the cold.

Both wallet-friendly options that will fight the cold.

The truth is, not everyone needs cold-weather gear (and if you’re one of those lucky people, good for you!). For the rest of us who need to bundle up against a vicious polar vortex at least once a winter, staying warm is essential. There are definitely ways to splurge on fine gloves and scarves (look no further than MR. PORTER’S website, for example). However, there are definitely ways to save money, too. H&M’s leather gloves, while perhaps on the slightly-thin side, are one way to keep some money around for a potential upgrade later on. Up top, you could add in an extremely affordable beanie cap as a finishing touch. And as far as scarves go, one reliable option that would be a step up over H&M is J. Crew Factory. Featured earlier in this budget series, you can get a neutral-colored knit scarf for under $25 when on-sale, a far cry from other, significantly less affordable options.

TOTAL: $53

When factoring in all the necessary accessories you might need to build a basic (and functional) wardrobe, that brings today’s total to $435.  Across the entire four-part series, that brings the overall total to $1,285 (so the $1,300 Budget Challenge is in effect for next year!). As with the other parts in this series, the total here is substantially more than last year’s overall recap. However, this year’s series is much more inclusive, more category-driven, and more focused on season-specific pieces, like gloves, a scarf and an overcoat for the fall and winter months. It’s also worth noting that all of these pieces don’t have to be bought at once — in fact, your wardrobe should be replenished gradually over time. Additionally, these pieces are exceptionally versatile and should last for multiple seasons — granted, they won’t last as long as long as major investment pieces might, but sometimes, buying a piece at a lower price gives you more time and motivation to save up for a larger splurge down the road. We can’t all dress on James Bond’s budget, but you can steal similar looks for lots less.

Starter Style Review: Express

Editor’s note: Building great style on a budget can be difficult and expensive. This is the fourth part in an occasional series chronicling great locations to start a wardrobe and buy affordable, good-looking style staples. Catch the first, second and third parts in the series here . Look for more in the coming weeks!

There are a couple things pretty apparent upon first entering Express. First: It’s bright. Everything from the clothes themselves to that lighting to the bright red 40% sale signs. And it’s kind of loud. The music is often a mix of strange techno-electronic beats, which makes for one interesting shopping experience.

And there it is. That notorious lion logo.

There it is. That notorious lion logo.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s that lion logo. That thing is everywhere — on T-shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, polos, jackets, graphic tees —you name it, that logo’s on it. Since many are now heading in the anti-logo direction, that’s a definite hit against the clothing. Granted, it could be layered over if it’s on a T-shirt, but not so with a sweater. There’s a few stacks of shirts and sweaters without that logo, but a good chunk of the clothing is emblazoned with that large lion. Even items that would be perfectly good on their own seem to have it.

So that’s upon entering the store. When digging around, there are actually some alright finds. The Photographer chino (as pictured below) fits about like a Dockers Alpha Khaki (although it’s more expensive). But in a light khaki shade, a grey and even a darker amber color, it’s a good buy. Generally, anything without a logo is actually quite solid in terms of fit and quality. Outerwear looks to be a good buy from here, as the pieces are often cut slim and in neutral colors.

Actually a decent buy at the right price.

A decent buy at the right price.

The store’s suit separates actually aren’t half-bad either — the trick would be to catch them on a sale. And since suit separates are becoming more ubiquitous this year, it’s a good idea to get into that market at a lower price. The color selection is surprisingly nice, with a few patterns thrown in there, too. The quality and construction isn’t up there with anything from a nicer department store, but in some solid shades (like navy or charcoal), a blazer or pants could be a good buy when on sale. The dressier department is also where the pitfalls keep popping up, unfortunately.

A light shade of khaki that wouldn't look out of place in the summer.

A light shade of khaki that wouldn’t look out of place in the summer.

Certainly most of us remember (and probably wore) the middle school or high school dance-esque bright solid shirt and bold patterned tie combo. It’s not inherently bad, but if it’s ill-fitting (likely the case), it’s a recipe for disaster. In the dress shirt area, that’s what Express seems to specialize in. Granted, the fit of the Express 1MX shirt is a personal favorite, but only makes a ton of fashion sense with a white or light blue shade – not highlighter yellow, bright purple or dark maroon.

Lots of silk ties, not a lot of winter-weight texture.

Lots of silk ties, not a lot of winter-weight texture.

The ties themselves actually have some half-decent patterns to them, but again, harken back to the solid shirt-patterned tie combo. And the lack of winter-weight fabrics or knit ties (at least on the shelves in this store) is somewhat disconcerting.

Other dress shirts are hit or miss, as well. A green checked shirt hanging on one of the racks wouldn’t look out of place under a khaki summer suit with a grey knit tie, but then there are anomalies like an odd shirt fading from one color into another (see below). There was also what looked to be a newer ‘soft wash’ shirt (the phrase on the tag), which felt much more forgiving to the touch than a starchy, bright dress shirt.

This shirt seems to be a miss.

This shirt seems to be a miss.

Neutral basics like crew neck and v-neck tees, along with briefs and boxers, are available in typically bright shades but also dark solid colors — while a bit overpriced, these are likely a decent purchase. Patterned socks from Express are actually a personal favorite, but like much of the rest of the store, wait until a sale to snag two or three pairs at once.

Jeans are another area where Express seems to have some misses. Although they introduced the ‘super skinny’ Alec jean last year, the store still offers (and tries to push, no less) bootcut jeans (for more than $60 on-sale, more than $100 full price). Dark blue denim, free of distressing, is in short supply here, unfortunately.

Accessories from Express (like a belt or a watch) could work on a budget — a reversible leather belt takes care of 2 things at once, for example — but there are certainly better (and less pricier) places to go than Express for, say, a good watch.

The ultimate takeaway from the store would be this: stay away (if it’s your preference) from those large, garish lion logos. Look for solid basics including outerwear and slim suit separates, but steer clear of those neon dress shirts and patterned ties. Keep an eye out for solid buys like crew neck or v-neck tees or a collared shirt with a colorful, understated pattern. Buy on-sale and in pairs with most items like briefs or socks. And maybe pick up some chinos if needed. Again (and this is important) watch out for those lions. Happy shopping!