If you want to build your style muscles, you have to put in some time at the clothing stores. You have to augment your perception by adding data about material, fit, drape, color, and, most important, price. Luckily, you have a personal trainer: me. Here’s my workout for you:
Shoulder runs: Go to a men’s suit store. Run your hand across the shoulders of the jackets in one fluid, slow motion. Use your eyes as well. Look and feel for differences in consistency, sheen, and quality. Now look at the prices and analyze what you’ve perceived. Do one set whenever you see a rack of suits. Superset: Do the same for a rack of sport coats nearby.
Tie runs: Like shoulder runs, except with racks of neckties. Do one set whenever you see a rack of neckties. Filene’s Basement is great for this, though the clearance prices make that information less meaningful. But you can still feel the quality differences. Superset: Get a slender tie and wear it with a casual button-down shirt under a sweater.
Tie lifts: When you get home, take off your tie. Keep your suit and shirt on. For each tie you own, put it on, look in the mirror, note the problems and happy accidents (color, texture, reflectiveness, proportion), and take it off. Do one set per suit. Repeat with any new ties. Superset: Make the same tie work with three shirt-and-suit combinations.
Denim drops: At the clothing store, grab seven or eight pairs of jeans in different styles, brands, and sizes, based on colors and washes that appeal to you. Try them all on and study them in the full-length mirror. Rank them according to your gut. Buy the winner. Do one set whenever you want a new pair of jeans. Superset: Ask for a pair of raw-denim jeans for Christmas and forsake all other casual pants, and don’t wash them for the first six months, at least.
Rubber rejections: Give all of your rubber-soled dress shoes to Goodwill and replace them with leather-soled ones. Do one set for each pair you own. Superset: Replace them with wingtips.
Crazy socks: Buy a pair of over-the-calf socks in a pattern and color you’d never wear, then figure out a way to work them into your wardrobe. If this means you have to buy a new pair of pants, well, so be it! Do five sets. Superset: socks with lobsters on them.
Brooks brogues browse: Go to a Brooks Brothers store and ogle the shoes, particularly the tan suede wingtips (can you tell I’m in a wingtips phase?), until you’re almost in tears. Do one set whenever you’re in the neighborhood. Brooks Brothers’ shoes are the shoes to emulate when you’re at Filene’s or DSW. Superset: Buy the Cordovan oxford boots for your favorite style blogger ($1,500). On an unrelated note, my birthday is in September.
Clip clunk: Drop the belt clip for your phone into the garbage unless you’re an ER doctor. Stick your phone in your hip pocket or, especially if you’re wearing a suit, in your back pocket. Your jacket’s interior pockets might work, but check the mirror to make sure the phone isn’t dragging half of your jacket out of balance.
If you have any big lifts that you stand by, let us know in the comments.