When men are given advice on how to look sharp, they’re usually told a couple of do’s and don’t’s about what cut of suit they should wear, how they should match their ties to their shirts, or if cufflinks are appropriate for the occasion. But while that’s useful to know and all, we doubt you’re really willing to break out the three-piece just to hang out with your friends.
Still though, you’ve decided you want to start dressing better. Good for you, it’s about time you stepped up your style game. But since you don’t want to suit up—and with our climate, we don’t blame you at all—it’s a good thing, then, that you don’t actually need to try that hard to look classy.
One of the easiest ways to pull together a smart get-up is to incorporate a piece or two of formal wear into your casual outfit. Ideally, a man should have in his wardrobe a selection of clothes fit for swanky occasions. Since that’s not something everybody can afford though, for the sake of this article, we’ll assume you have at least the basics in possession:
The Dress Shirt
It’s a staple in every man’s wardrobe and without a doubt, something you can use for many different occasions. If you want to keep it classy, make sure you don’t dress it down so much that it looks like any ol’ collared button down in your closet (while the same style of garment, dress shirts are typically made from high quality material and in solid colors/with minimal or muted patterns).
Maintain its crisp appearance by keeping your dress shirt tucked in and ironed, but throw on a bomber or moto jacket on instead of the suit jacket—this will give you a different silhouette, add a touch of danger and boldness to your look, and keep you sharp without being stuffy.
One way to punch it up is by putting on your tie, further emphasizing the contrast between formal and casually cool.
The Suit Jacket
A full suit, or an Americana to us Pinoys, is a set of trousers and a jacket made from the same cloth. While it is designed to be worn as one outfit, the suit jacket, by itself, is a great piece you can use to pull off an elegant yet relaxed look.
Treat it like you would a simple blazer, which is a jacket of a similar but more casual cut, and just throw it on over your shirt or tee. If worn with the former, avoid the tie if you want to maintain an informal air, and pop open a couple of the top buttons. Always keep in mind that the right fit is the key to looking good, so don’t wear a bulky suit jacket if you don’t have the layers underneath to fill it out.
For extra steez, you can slip on a pocket square as a finishing touch.
Otherwise known as a vest, this piece is traditionally a part of business or formal attire, and is worn under the jacket but over the shirt. It’s not something every Filipino man owns, for the simple reason that most of us already boil alive under just two layers of clothing, we dare not add another one to the mix (pro-tip: pick a suit made from breathable fabrics so you’ll feel comfortably light no matter how many layers there are).
But the waistcoat is definitely something you should consider adding to your wardrobe. When worn correctly, it can add a touch of class to your ordinary suit and tie combo. You can also wear it casually by leaving the suit jacket at home and letting the vest take the spotlight.
You can push your look even further and jazz it up with a fedora. To add some rugged appeal, you can slip on accessories like beaded bracelets and necklaces.
The Dress Shoes
Formal occasions usually demand you slip on your shiniest leather lace-ups. But shoes like oxfords, derbies, and brogues don’t exist purely for those times you’re dressed to the nines. You can also wear them with outfits that don’t require you putting on slacks When styled correctly, a well-chosen pair can make even the most boring outfit look sharp. Do it wrong and you could look awkward.
Jeans actually look great with dress shoes, just make sure you don’t wear them with a tank top or a t-shirt. You can also neatly cuff the hems to give your jeans a more custom fit that will match well with your shoes.
If you’re wearing chinos or khakis, statement socks are a great and quirky way to bridge the style gap between your pants and shoes. On the other hand, you can also go sans socks entirely—it’s a daring move, but going sockless and showing a bit of ankle will definitely highlight how dapper your shoes look without making you look too formal.
So there you have it, four pieces of formal wear that you can readily use any day of the week. It might feel like you’re breaking a couple of unspoken fashion rules when you put on a suit jacket without the matching trousers, or wear a pair of oxfords without socks, but believe us, these are rules you can definitely break without sacrificing your style.