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.

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Starter Style Review: Banana Republic

Editor’s note: Building great style on a budget can be difficult and expensive. This is the sixth part in an occasional series chronicling great locations to start a wardrobe and buy affordable, good-looking style staples. Catch posts 1-5 in the series here .

The more formal, older brother of the Gap, Inc. group.

The more formal, older brother of the Gap, Inc. group.

Earlier in the year, I took a  look at some essential stores that can be used to start building great personal style at nice, affordable prices. Now, we’re getting back to that same idea, diving into the dressiest of the Gap-Old Navy group — Banana Republic. It’s a store that most of us seem to shop at during one point or another, and it’s not that tough to see why. The prices are, by and large, affordable. The quality is well put-together, and the items feature a fairly good bit of variety. So why does a store like J. Crew seemingly get more attention and appear more on the cutting edge? It’s a question worth considering.

A trip to an NYC Banana Republic (the Upper West Side location, for those curious) offered some answers to those questions and revealed some unconventional items. BR does a lot of things well, quite well, but doesn’t appear to stand out in one particular area (as J. Crew does with its Ludlow suiting and its curated collaborations with brands like Mougin & Piquard or Timex and Alden). However, that doesn’t mean the store is worth overlooking in its entirety.

A selection of lighter-weight blazers on display.

A selection of lighter-weight blazers on display, right next to some polos.

Namely, the store’s lighter-weight blazers and tailoring are a particular strong point. From houndstooth linen to a light grey cotton-linen blend and a khaki option, all were relatively high-quality, with nice, trim fits, minimal interior lining (a crucial point in the hot weather), and features like slimmer lapels. The basics were included too, like some navy and light grey suiting options. However, the selection even in this NYC store was nowhere near as extensive as the website, and only appeared to include the brand’s Tailored Fit option, as opposed to the trimmer Modern Slim option. On the other hand, there were quite a few tailored dress shirts and silk ties on display, making BR a pretty solid first bet to pick up a starter suit and tie set.

Some of the extensive shirting and ties offered at BR.

Some of the extensive shirting and ties offered at BR.

So, the suiting and dress shirt selection is solid and reasonably-priced. What about the rest of the store? Banana Republic has, to this point, done a nice job staying competitive in the men’s footwear market. Some of the more modern options offered in-store (like the Ryan suede double-monk strap shoes, as reviewed here) seem durable and of reliable quality in terms of construction and appearance. And the options offered in-store seem to reflect that  — basic oxfords in grey and navy suede, a chukka sneaker option and some leather loafers, among others. The selection had nice variety in terms of color and options offered, and when on-sale, (like the 30% off featured on this particular day), the prices are knocked down to just north of $100 for some shoes — definitely not a bad price at all.

Shoes on shelves, mostly in summer suede.

Shoes on shelves, mostly in summer suede.

But, it seems Banana Republic could do more to draw in younger customers looking for more contemporary items. The brand’s slim-fit denim is a relatively recent arrival, and exists on the website next to a relaxed-fit option — admittedly, most younger, trimmer guys are looking for something a little more polished and free of most pre-distressing, as found in some of BR’s pairs. Now, not that a lighter-wash or slightly distressed jean is a bad thing (it’s certainly not, especially in the spring or summer) but when combined with a slightly less-trim fit, it would seem that J. Crew has Banana Republic beat in this department (with its slim 484 fit).

The 'vintage straight' fit, as seen in-store.

The ‘vintage straight’ fit, as seen in-store.

Elsewhere however, the brand turns up some pleasant surprises. Many seem to love the dressy sheen of BR’s Luxe-Touch polos,  which can also be worn fairly casually with shorts. Some other eye-catching options include the washed vintage polos (as seen near the bottom of this page) and a bevy of striped and colorblock selections (try and avoid that logo, though!). And some more unique, sporty-looking summer and early fall sweaters were on display, too (think thicker, athletic-inspired stripes, sturdy buttons and ribbed collars — like this option here.

The store’s selection of T-shirts, in both crewneck, V-neck and pocket options, is pretty straightforward, although the shirts that combine, say, colorblocking, a slight wash and a pocket (as seen online) look promising for the future. Much of the same goes for Banana Republic’s shorts, which recently underwent a slight overhaul with the introduction of the slimmer-fitting Aiden short. As always, be sure to keep an eye on the sale section — a spin through that area of the store turned up some pieces with a pop of color, including the dark green military-inspired jacket below (which was not available on the website).

photo 1While the brand has done a nice job positioning itself as a good entry-level location for suiting and tailored blazers, as well as standard sweaters, polos and T-shirts, it appears there’s one key factor that could be keeping younger customers out of Banana Republic stores. The brand seems a little more straightforward and less edgy than, for example, J. Crew, and has only fairly recently introduced more tailored fits in some products. The slimmer fits are largely a positive step, but it’s come a bit later than other brands.  And the same qualities that make it ideal to build starter style also might keep more stylistically advanced customers away.

At the end of the day though, it’s a store that’s worth checking out for affordable, more tailored basics and some good steals in the shoe department. When combined with slightly more forward brands, like J. Crew, BR’s products can definitely exist side-by-side as part of a well put-together wardrobe. That’s about all you can ask from your closet.

Starter Style Review: J. Crew

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

As far as budget style goes, J. Crew is about the top of the pile for most of us stylish #menswear fanatics on a budget. The brand seems to do just about everything right — they hit on great trends, provide modern, slim and updated looks, and cover every basic men’s style or fashion staple you could want to cover — all at prices that, when on sale and in the right location, are pretty within reach for most us out there (even college students – thanks for that 15% student discount!). Even the Ludlow suit on its own, with a tapered, substantial-feeling jacket and slim pants, makes the store worth stopping by (and checking out online). It’s about the essential barometer for modern men’s style in terms of a trim, updated suit. And, it’s well-known that the store meets so many crucial benchmarks for lower-budget style geeks (check out this Dappered article covering J. Crew for proof).

A trip to a J. Crew store certainly reveals just as many great things as bloggers (myself included ) love. Out of the stores covered to this point on Starter Style Reviews, (see previous posts above in the editor’s note), J. Crew does  a heck of a lot of things right. They eliminate the gaudy logos of Express,and they offer updated fits and stylish colors while avoiding things like gaudy graphic tees, for example. The quality is a definite step up from Old Navy, and and the same thing holds true for past Starter Style Review participant Target — although those stores do provide great staple pieces at nice prices.

Another great thing about J. Crew is the commitment to the overall brand, which now extends to cool in-store aesthetics like neat books and collaborations with companies like Harry’s.

In short, it’s the ideal place for the modern man to shop, be it in your twenties, thirties or beyond. The clothes in the store certainly reflect those values, as well. On a recent trip to the nearest brick-and-mortar location, some of the earliest spring rollouts were taking place – think colorful shorts with some slight pre-wrinkling, striped T-shirts and casual, soft sweaters perfect for throwing on during cool evenings.  Other spring offerings included some low-profile Vans sneakers and a pair of white Nikes with the iconic black swoosh.  Don’t forget about the extremely eye-catching orange New Balance kicks recently released, too.

Newest crop of spring arrivals.

Newest crop of spring arrivals.

The Stanton short (with a 9″ inseam) is a personal favorite — the wide variety of colors, trim cut and above-the-knee fit check off all the major hallmarks of a great pair of shorts. The rest of the store’s early spring offerings were great as well — soft, slim T-shirts with colorful stripes, all-season chinos in brighter spring colors and soft popover shirts (photo below). Items like that are what truly set J. Crew apart — the popover is a shirt with roots as far back as the 1960s in terms of iconic style, and yet with J. Crew, it’s given a modern take and fit.

Retro style, modern update.

Retro style, modern update.

The rest of the store can’t be overlooked either. J. Crew’s sweaters — which were, admittedly, in short supply with spring on the way — fit trim and come in a variety of colors and fabrics, including the ultra-pricey cashmere option. Other sweater options include chunky, fisherman-inspired knits that bring to mind rustic cabins and outdoor settings, like the one pictured below. A trim grey cardigan also looked to be a nice transitional piece in between the depths of winter and the first signs of spring.

A thick knit with vintage roots.

A thick knit with vintage roots.

The dressier accessories really complete the in-store experience at J. Crew, as well. Although purchasing the Ludlow suit wasn’t an option at this particular store, the selection of both casual soft-wash and spread-collar slim fit shirts was extremely on-point. There were all kinds of patterns, styles and fabrics available in the shirting department, all of which would pair perfectly with the right winter blazer (or summer blazer, for that matter).

Numerous colors, styles and fabrics to choose from.

Numerous colors, styles and fabrics to choose from.

As far as the rest of the shopping experience goes, J. Crew knocks it out of the park as well. It’s almost astonishing how well the store does so many different things in just the right way (from a personal standpoint). The jeans and chinos, at least in the 484 or Urban Slim Fit for myself, are a fantastic purchase that keep a slim silhouette and offernumerous color options. The store’s selection of socks are colorful, patterned and eye-catching, and other accessories (like their fantastic, yet pricey, collaboration with Timex)  and their collection of pocket squares with tipped edging and wilder floral patterns add modern edge and flair to an entire look. Keep in mind, too, that J. Crew offers more online in terms of shoes and other accessories — all free of gaudy logos, for the most part.

The one big key with this brand is to, for the most part, wait for sales and discounts. Shop J. Crew Factory online or in-store o get replica-type items at ridiculously low prices. And use whatever discount might apply (especially the college student or teacher discount!). However, buying at full price isn’t a bad bet, either. The pieces are, at the higher points, definitely investment-worthy —particularly the Ludlow suit. The next time you have a substantial and essential menswear purchase in mind, chances are — J. Crew’s got you covered.

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!

Starter Style Review: Urban Outfitters

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

Going underground with a trendier store.

Going underground with a trendier store.

For all the great things about stores that offer classic style essentials, there’s something to be said for brands that, for the most part, turn the entire model on its head. The first striking thing about walking into an Urban Outfitters (if you’re fortunate enough to have a brick-and-mortar location near you) is the explosion of color and pattern, particularly in the men’s section. Oh, and the full-size bear costume (see below). Now, the thing with the entire brand is that they offer a highly unique shopping experience, selling things like nifty housewares and books on how to bake with Nutella alongside, yes, a bear costume. But, if you can get past the store’s relative eccentricities, there are actually some great takeaways. Like those pops of color and pattern, and plenty of eye-catching, wild designs (some of which look strangely wearable in a street style-esque way).. The store leans distinctly younger because of that, but it’s always refreshing to see brands push the boundaries, like with the crazy floral print crewneck sweater below, which, I’ll be honest, I took a hard look at (I have a soft spot for wild patterns and designs).

Well, hello there.

Well, hello there.

The sweater below certainly was eye-catching in a statement piece sort of way, perhaps an item to wear to a particularly ironic college party. However, there are actually some tremendous finds within the store once you can get past some of the more out-there designs, including some wilder-looking tees and, um, unique drape scarves.

Maybe, just maybe, a bit wearable?

Maybe, just maybe, a bit wearable?

A particularly strong point is the store’s collection of nice basic tees, made by BDG. They often sell colorful striped and solid T-shirts in bargain packages, which makes it easy to stock up for casual wear in the spring and summer (a particular favorite of mine). In the warmer months, as long as the shirt has some color to it — and stays firmly away from crazy graphic tee territory — a tee is always a solid and basic style pick.  The selection of henleys and long-sleeve shirts also is a positive, and the shirts are cut slim, another definite plus.

photo-34

Stacks on stacks of shirts.

If you need to stock up on slim jeans or corduroys, Urban Outfitters has you covered here, too. For just under $40 (the price of some Levi’s on sale), you can pick up pants in either the 510, 511 or 508 fit — the 508 fit has a slouchier rise, but isn’t cut nearly as slim through the leg and thigh as the 510 or 511. Cords, black and grey jeans and tan twill pants all were in stock, any of which would be a good buy from personal experience.  Unfortunately, it didn’t look like this particular location had any of the versatile and tremendous 513 — maybe a change in stock or buying practices?

photo-36

A terrific price for some basic jeans or cords.

Urban Outfitters also does a nice job with colorful, yet slightly ‘out-there’ socks — extraordinarily colorful to the point that they even feature ‘colorful’ language on one of the pair’s designs. But paired down with a nice desert boot (as seen below) and some dark denim, they might be a nice talking point for an outfit? The desert boots in question also were offered in a great shade of grey that wouldn’t look out of place with jeans or chinos either.

photo-37

Stumbled upon a classic silhouette in a trendier store.

The biggest takeaway with Urban Outfitters is that, like any store, there are going to be hits and misses. Distinct hits and misses, in fact — like that hilarious bear costume. But scouring the shelves in this case led to some astonishingly low prices (like $39 for a pair of Levi’s), some extremely solid essentials (like the striped and colored v-neck and crewneck tees) and some unique finds (like the strangely eye-catching floral print sweater). As with any location, go in with some essentials in mind, and you might be surprised by what you leave with.

Starter Style Review: Old Navy

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

There's more than meets the eye with this brand.

There’s more than meets the eye with this brand.

Old Navy is one store that often seems overlooked when it comes to style and fashion. Maybe it’s because they fall under the large, large banner of Gap (which also includes Banana Republic) or perhaps it’s because the brand’s looks lean decidedly casual and tend to cater to a younger crowd (note the expansive kids section and back-to-school deals). However, there really are some terrific finds in terms of style essentials — in fact, a decent amount of Siblings With Style’s budget picks  for a menswear starter kit were gleaned from Old Navy. A good look through the store reveals just as many essentials in-person as online, all at very reasonable prices.

When browsing through the store, there certainly are some fantastic finds. In the local brick-and-mortar location, there was a massive clearance sale that marked large quantities of items down to as low as $5 (in this case, a selection of pique polos).

One of the store's standout selections.

A style staple at a low price.

Perhaps one of the better bargains around is the store’s selection of v-neck sweaters (for $10 in some instances). The sweaters are mostly offered in darker hues fitting winter and fall, but navy and grey v-necks as seen above are two items that can pull duty regardless of season.

Shirting also is a surprising strong point at Old Navy. As seen below, Old Navy featured a nice selection of light chambray and denim shirts, in addition to classic Oxford cloth button-downs (a tremendous polo alternative) and shirts with some interesting, subtle patterns, like pin dots and various symbols. The selection of strong plaid and striped shirts also was on-point with other brands — shirts with patterns like that are a steal at a bargain price and can even make do with little tailoring if layered under a sweater.

Winter-appropriate textures and fabrics

Winter-appropriate textures and fabrics.

Old Navy denim and trousers also earn the store significant style points. In offerings ranging from relaxed and straight to slim, the store had a variety of washes, including an inky black and some dark denim with slight distressing. At the particular store in question, slim-fit jeans were going for $35 — less than a pair of Levi’s for quality that can’t be beat for the price and fit. Corduroys also were on-sale for low, low prices, going for as little as $10. The fact that the pants were offered in a variety of darker shades (like navy and grey) helps them fall perfectly in line with the hues of the season while remaining a style essential.

Corduroys on sale at Old Navy.

Corduroys on sale at Old Navy.

The store’s selection of basic essentials is something Old Navy’s always done well, and it appears they continue to emphasize nice-fitting, basic T-shirts, henleys and thermal long-sleeve shirts (some of which can be seen next to those corduroys above). Buying these shirts in bundles can yield some nice, low prices. Old Navy’s jackets and outerwear are tremendous for the price, too — don’t forget about that essential navy peacoat.

Dark denim. Low price.

Dark denim. Low price.

Additionally, Old Nav offers some slightly trendier items, including puffer vests (now being layered above suits), a camo thermal long-sleeve shirt, and a shirt-jacket cut trim through the body and arms, in addition to a selection of jean jackets. The sale racks are absolutely worth looking over as well, as selection is actually quite extensive for most every size. And Old Navy does the basics, like boxers, boxer briefs and undershirts, at low prices, too — maybe not a bad idea to stock up there.

With Old Navy, like any store, there are sure to be magnificent finds at low prices as well as ‘duds’ at high prices. However, it’s definitely a store worth browsing to pick up style essentials and start a wardrobe at low prices.

Starter Style Review: Target

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

Bullseye. Starting things off with Target. Yep, Target.

Bullseye. Starting things off with Target. Yep, Target.

Putting together a great wardrobe can seem a daunting task at first. Starting from the ground up, particularly trying to build in style essentials on a budge, is also taxing to a certain degree. But thanks to the explosion of an interest in men’s fashion, plenty of stores are now carrying more style staples than ever before — and at great prices.

In fact, when style inspiration comes from so many places (including affordable brands like Old Navy and Uniqlo), it can actually be tough and tiring getting bogged down in a long list of locations. That’s why it’s wise to keep certain stores from slipping under the radar. Chains with surprising names are increasingly stocking everything you could need to build some a basic wardrobe, including Target, however unlikely it might seem (witness Target’s collaboration with noted designer Phillip Lim this past fall).

A look at some of Target's shirt selection.

A look at some of Target’s shirt selection.

Target’s Merona line offers fantastic men’s style items, including, at varying times, a nice selection of blazers.  A recent trip through a Super Target revealed just as much. Keep in mind that Super Target is larger than the typical Target store, of course, but just as many style essentials were on-hand.  In addition to the Merona line, the rest of the men’s section was well-stocked with Mossimo polos in a variety of colors, v-neck and crewneck t-shirts with stripes, patterns and bright solid colors, and some shorts with interesting patterns for spring and summer.

Shelves were also stocked with short-sleeve and long-sleeve henleys, two pieces that can become layering staples year round. There was also a nice selection of corduroys in seasonally appropriate shades (as seen below), and slim-fit jeans from Denizen, a branch of Levi’s. The store’s Merona Oxford cloth button-downs are a particular personal favorite, and at a nice price point, too. For under 25 bucks a pop, it’s tough to turn down an item that can pair with so many different outfits.

A rich shade of orange in a seasonal corduroy.

A rich shade of orange in a seasonal corduroy.

Along with some style staples, the store also offered pieces with a slightly trendier take (like the sweater below). An item like that isn’t for everyone, but through collaborations with designers like Phillip Lim, the chain is offering affordable pieces with a more fashionable bent that could be worth taking a risk on if you fancy changing things up. In addition to those trendier pieces, the store’s shoe collection is also solid, featuring some solid desert boot-type silhouettes, along with loafers and dress shoes.

Classic crewneck sweater with a trendy pattern.

Classic crewneck sweater with a trendy pattern.

Accessories are a high point, too. Things like socks (in mainly solid colors, but with some wild patterns) can also be had at low prices, as can, for example, undershirts. Notably, Target offers one of the better deals on the versatile, casual and ultra-affordable Timex Weekender and Timex Easy Reader, two watches that, when paired with the right outfits, are as versatile as any below $100.

In addition to these items, there are certainly some hidden gems waiting to be uncovered in Target’s shelves, all at great prices most likely. When stores like Target do something as unexpected as men’s style in such a surprisingly good fashion, it’s definitely worth checking out. Keep that in mind as you browse the shelves for groceries on your next trip to the bullseye.