In your 20s your style was guided by a lot of choices: relaxed or straight-laced? Vivid colors or earth tones? Modern or classic?
By now, you should be mostly past either/or binaries. This is an age when you should have a base style and be looking to expand on it. If you don’t have a base style yet, find one — you might start flipping through GQ and Esquire for some decent, fairly mainstream examples of grown-up fashions, or just take a trip to classically-styled menswear stores like Brooks Brothers.
Here are just a few looks that every 30-something male should be able to pull off, and the clothes you’ll need to do it:
The Casual Suit
Hopefully you already have a proper business suit at this point, even if it’s not a regular staple of your work wardrobe. (And if you don’t have one yet, go buy it: solid charcoal gray or navy blue, single-breasted jacket, notched lapels, tailored fit.)
By your 30s, it’s time to add a casual suit to the wardrobe as well. This has a lighter color and often a pattern of some kind to it: think medium-gray sharkshin, blue- or gray-scale Glen check, brown tweed. You get the idea.
This is something you wear to nicer, more conservative social events: Sunday church and brunches, weddings (when there isn’t a stricter dress code on the invitation), bar mitzvahs for friends’ children, and so forth.
It’s your way of showing the world that you’re an adult even when you’re having fun. It also has the advantage of looking really good on you, as long as you got the fit adjusted to your personal measurements, and it sets you apart from all the guys wearing dress shirts and slacks.
So get yourself a suit that you couldn’t wear to work at a law firm or a financial office. Make sure no one will mistake it for re-purposed business wear. And have fun looking sharp in it.
The Ever-Changing Sports Jacket
By your 30s you should be wearing a jacket more often than not. It doesn’t have to be a formal jacket — you can get quite casual with things like corduroy, bright colors, and vivid patterns in your off-hours — but it should be there.
The best shape is, of course, the classic sports jacket or blazer. It gives you the same “broad shoulders, narrow waist” look that a suit jacket does, with less formality. For starters, a navy blazer, a woolen tweed, and a soft, colored corduroy or velvet makes a good trifecta for the beginner’s closet.
Expand your collection aggressively, through whatever means suit your budget and your shopping habits best. A man on a limited budget can do very well for himself buying thrift-store jackets close to his size and having a tailor make the necessary adjustments.
In addition to your sports jackets and blazers, this is also a good age to have (or be working on) a collection of stylish coats and outerwear. If you don’t have a couple options for your top layer, fix that. A dressy wool overcoat is good for the fanciest nights out, and for lower-formality occasions you’ve got options like denim and leather jackets, military-style fatigue jackets, wool hunter’s coats, peacoats, cardigans, and more.
The Summer Casual
Most suits and jackets are what’s traditionally called “three-season wear” in the fashion industry. They’ll hold your wardrobe down from around mid-September to early May in temperate, northern-hemisphere climates (men in more exotic locations obviously need to adjust a little bit).
Having something stylish to wear in the hot summer months is a big step in a man’s wardrobe.
Summer looks for stylish grown-ups aren’t actually that hard, but they do include pieces of clothing that a lot of men never get around to buying, or that they buy cheap when they do purchase. You should own at least a couple short-sleeve shirts that are appropriate for an older crowd: polos are good, as are button-fronted shirts with turndown collars.
You’ll also want some lightweight pants (khakis and white cotton slacks are traditional), leather loafers, boaters, or other slip-on shoes, and maybe leather-strap sandals like Birkenstocks for more casual events.
To really crank it up a notch, there’s classic Southern styles like seersucker suits and white bucks — not an essential part of a man’s wardrobe, certainly, but a good way to own the summer. And linen suits, jackets, trousers, and even shirts are an indulgence that a man should definitely treat himself to as he ages. Just be sure not to mix your linens; if you’re wearing a linen suit, wear a cotton shirt.
Written By Antonio Centeno
Founder, Real Men Real Style