My boyfriend is turning 37 this month and has stated that he’s ready for a wardrobe update. His current look is heavy on graphic T-shirts (bands, sports teams) and jeans. He’s a software developer and works remotely but is ready to invest. When it comes to high-quality casual staples for men, what’s most important to keep in mind? — Katie, Brooklyn. N.Y.
This is like “The Princess Diaries,” but with a different gender and without the pomp and circumstance. Or maybe a real-life version of the Ryan Gosling revamp of Steve Carell in “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” only with a different starting point. We tend to focus on women when it comes to makeovers or wardrobe updates, in part because men’s wear always seems so proscribed, but there’s a long (if subtle) history in male makeovers too.
In fact, between the end of the suit as the default male dress code, the rise of working from home and the general blurring of boundaries when it comes to gender expectations, my guess is that the male makeover may become more and more of a thing. There’s a reason “She’s All That,” the high school makeover movie of 1999, just got its own makeover as “He’s All That.” It’s in the air.
Besides, it doesn’t take a lot to update a wardrobe — just some key pieces and a slight change in perspective so that clothes are seen as investments in self over the long term. To that end, some general points to keep in mind:
First, focus on quality. This is true no matter what garment or gender. If you want clothes that last, you need to spend some money on materials. Test seam strength and make sure prints line up. And take some time to research where and how something is made. If you’re going to spend some money, you might as well use it to support a brand that produces responsibly.
Guy Trebay, our men’s fashion critic, suggested that whether or not a man is going back to the office, the wider return-to-work mood means it may be time “to put on hard pants and a jacket.” To that end, he said, there are “some labels making it bombproof to dress stylishly if not in an aggressively fashion-y way.”
He suggests Quaker Marine for “its re-imaginings of all-American classics,” especially the chore coats — cooler than a blazer but nevertheless with a hint of structure; and Faherty for “a selection of terrific five-pocket or ‘comfort’ twill trousers that look grown-up yet have enough stretch” to connect to a former sartorial identity.
And, he said, keep an eye out for what Michael Bastian is doing at Brooks Brothers (especially when it come to Oxford shirts) and for what Brendon Babenzien, a co-founder of Noah and the former lead designer at Supreme, is going to do with the J. Crew men’s wear.
Unfortunately, he added, regarding the graphic tees, it may be time to put them away for posterity. Though given the way the resale market is going, they may turn out to have investment value.
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