This is the final part of the How to Expand Your Style Comfort Zone series, where I’ll cover the “style swap.”
It’s a simple strategy that can help you break free from your comfort zone & spread your sartorial wings.
If you’d like to start at the beginning, feel free to refer back to part one here or part two here.
When I first started paying more attention to how I dressed, I thought square-toed shoes were the holy grail of men’s formalwear. In fact, I bought from Kenneth Cole and Aldo religiously. It was convenient and I thought pretty damned stylish.
But little did I know that wars have been waged against those style abominations.
This isn’t an article to bash square-toed shoes, but a friendly nudge to help you expand your style comfort zone. For every square-toed shoe, exists a more stylish and classic option.
Same goes for the safe colors in menswear; black and white. Some guys only wear these two colors and that’s their style. No problem with that.
While black and white are great, there’s a world of color in menswear for you to discover.
And in order to truly take your style to the next level, you have to be willing to try new things. [Tweet this]
So let me show you how with these 6 Style Swaps:
Style Swap #1: The Black Suit >> The Navy Suit
Navy is a color I’d recommend over black most of the time. If you’re getting your first legit suit, you’ll want it to be navy.
At a glance it doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but there are quite a few.
The navy difference:
- Less stuffy and corporate feeling than black
- More appropriate for most offices
- Versatility–you can wear them for more than just funerals and formal gatherings
- More bang for your buck–a navy suit blends harmoniously with almost every color which means you’ll be wearing it more frequently
- Pretty much any situation you would pull out a black suit, a navy suit can work better
- As an aside–after navy, a charcoal gray is a good second suit option
Premium Navy Suit: Indochino, $419
Napoli Navy Suit: SuitSupply, $499
Navy Wool Suit: Nordstrom, $596.25
Thompson Voyager Dark Navy: J.Crew Factory, $299
Thompson Navy Suit in Worsted Wool: J.Crew Factory, $299
On a budget?
Blue Twill Slim-Fit Suit: Perry Ellis, $90.99
Navy Modern Fit Suit: Combatant Gentleman, $160
Style Swap # 2: Black Silk Tie >> Navy Silk Knit Tie
Anyone can wear a black tie. It’s a safe pick. A knit tie on the other hand can be a game changer.
Growing up and even as a young adult, I defaulted to standard silk ties. You know, the extra-wide variety that made me look horribly disproportional.
It wasn’t until I purchased my first knit tie on eBay for a few bucks that I really began expand comfort zone.
As they say, the rest is history. These days, when I rock a knit tie, I feel my most stylish.
In favor of the knit tie say aye:
- Has the luxurious feeling of a silk tie, but it’s inherently more casual, yet can still be worn with a suit
- Visually arresting–people may ask you about it
- Dress it up with a suit
- Dress it down with jeans
- Wear it with a button-down
- Wear it year-round
- Pairs exceptionally well with a tie clip
- Super easy to achieve the ever-elusive tie “dimple”
Burgundy, Dotted Knit Tie: Etsy, $15.60
Burgundy is a highly underrated color in menswear. It’s the perfect summer-to-fall transitional color.
The white polka dots add an element of playfulness and pairs easily with many other types of patterns.
The knitted texture is another element that sets this tie apart from the rest. Wear it confidently and feel like the sartorial bad ass that you are.
On a budget?
Solid Knit Ties: eBay, $2.51
Style Swap # 3: Black Shoes >> Brown Lace-ups
If there’s one aspect of your style that you want to be on-point, it’s your shoes. One of the first things women notice is a guy’s footwear.
You always want to make a great first impression.
So instead of standard black shoes (if you’re still wearing square-toed shoes, burn them. I kid, but seriously there are much better options) maybe it’s a good time to try on a pair of brown lace-ups for a classy, more versatile, and polished look.
Brown in town? Why yes:
- Versatility–it’s easier to mix and match outfits with brown
- Shades on shades–there are a myriad of shades in your arsenal with brown that helps keeps things interesting
- Chocolate browns
- Visually interesting–you’ll be able to wear it during the day and at night for many more occasions than you would a more formal black pair of shoes
- You’ll look and feel like a million bucks–your shoes really can make a huge difference
On a budget?
Dark Brown Oxford: Cole Haan, $139.00
British Tan Oxford: Cole Haan, $94.99
Strand Cap-Toe Oxfords in Walnut: Allen Edmonds, $335.75
The decorative punching on the toes and along the seams are called brogues.
A pair like the Allen Edmonds Strand is more casual than a plain or cap-toe oxford, so you can dress it down with a crisp pair of jeans or chinos and still dress it up with a suit.
It really is the ultimate smart casual shoe that should be the foundation of any stylish man’s shoe collection.
Style Swap # 4: Stone Wash Jeans >> Dark Wash Denim
You may have a pair or two of faded, stone wash jeans from years ago when they were the latest hot trend.
If you own only one pair of jeans, you want it to be a darker wash. And of course make sure that it fits well.
Dark wash denim—a style staple:
- Wear it at a more casual office and still look like you mean business
- Wear it day or night and at the office or at the bar
- Dark wash denim is versatile:
- Pair it with a textured henley and light vest on a cool fall day
- Pair it with a shawl collar sweater for those cold winter months
- Pair it with a field jacket for a chic yet rugged look
- Wear it casually with an untucked oxford cloth button-down shirt
- Wear it with with oxford lace ups, dress boots, desert boots, or loafers
- Dress it up with a tucked in button-up with a silk knit tie and blazer
Style Swap # 5: Athletic Sneaker >> Gray Canvas Sneaker or Chukka
Do you wear athletic, running sneakers all the time because they’re comfortable?
If so, this style sin is killing your game and probably your chance with the ladies too. You might want to try a new casual go-to shoe.
It’s best to leave your running sneakers for the gym. There’s really no reason to wear them with jeans or khakis.
The running sneaker alternatives:
- The Canvas Sneaker:
- Casual, comfortable and stylish
- Gray, beige or navy are neutral colors and will pair with most anything
- You can play with laces and swap them for leather ones for visual interest
- The Desert Boot (also called chukkas):
- Inherently casual, but you can still dress them up
- You’ll look like you actually give a damn
- Durable and as comfortable as well
On a budget?
Levis Canvas Sneaker: Amazon, $29.99
Style Swap # 6: Baggy Hoodie >> Thick Shawl Collar Cardigan
Nothing screams teenager more than a baggy, ill-fitted hoodie, especially if there’s a huge logo printed on the front.
The shawl collar cardigan is a great alternative. It’s comfortable and stylish, will keep you just as warm, but the clear difference is that you will look like a well put-together adult.
Graduate your style with the shawl collar cardigan:
- It’s a great layering piece:
- Layer it overtop of a crisp flannel shirt
- Layer it overtop of a fitted thermal henley
- Layer it overtop of a button-up and tie combo
- Wear it under a top coat
- It’s the most versatile knitwear–feel free to wear it as a jacket
- It’s the perfect winter sweater because of the thickness
On a budget?
Textured Shawl Collar Cardigan: Kohls, $49.99
Heathered Shawl Collar Cardigan: J.Crew Factory, $44.50
By thinking of what you can “swap” when curating your wardrobe and putting your outfits together, you’ll be in a great position to take your style to a level you never thought possible.
This concludes our 3-part series on How to Expand your Style Comfort Zone. I hope this has been as informative for you as it was a joy for me to write.
Which style swap is the most appealing to you? Let me know in the comments below!
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