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Dressing up doesn’t always mean dressing to the nines. Being subtle about it, especially in our ever-increasingly casual culture, is often the way to go. And it’s also cheaper this way! Here are 10 ways to work a little style in on the sly, while also staying on budget.
#1. Wear a simple dress watch with everything
- Timex Milano 38mm – sold out on leather? you can get it on a bracelet though
- Orient Bambino V3 “Bauhaus” Automatic – $110
- Q Timex 1978 Reissue Day-Date 37mm – $169
- Dan Henry 1937 Dress Chrono – $270
Even with a t-shirt and jeans. Good enough for your James Dean, Cary Grant, and your Grandpa, good enough for you. Yes we love some wrist-chunk around these parts, but wearing a slim and simple dress watch both dressed up AND down looks weirdly classy. There’s a real high-low thing going on, even if the price of the dressy watch was anything but high. Most of us have a dress watch already, but it just doesn’t see as much use these days. Here’s reason to dust it off and put it to use once again.
#2. Put in a pocket square
- TheTieBar Blue Gingham Pocket Square – $5 FINAL ($10) similar to above
- Kent Wang Made in France Notre Dame Rose Window Pocket Square – $45
- TheTieBar Wool Bandana Pocket Squares – $14
- Suitsupply Made in Italy Wool Grey Dot Pocket Square – $49
Having a bit of pocket square sticking out from a suit, blazer, or sportcoat’s breast pocket is one of the easiest things you can do to level up a basic tailored look. Especially if you’re skipping the tie, and going with a solid/quiet color of suit. Also works if you’re doing the jeans + blazer thing.
#3. Wear some patterned socks
- Allen Edmonds Made in the USA Merino Cool Socks – $7.97 – $12.97 ($19.50)
- Taylor Stitch Made in Italy Merino Socks – $22.50
- Nordstrom Cushion Foot Socks – $12.50
You don’t have to get mega crazy and wear hyper contrasting bold stripes. No one is recommending a Wicked Witch of the East look. Subtle dots or thin stripes will do the trick. And if you wanna wear shark socks? So be it. More power to
#4. Try a shawl collar sweater instead of a hoodie.
- Target Goodfellow Shawl Collar Cardigan – $34.99 (shown above, size small on 5’9″ / 155)
- Amazon Goodthreads Lambswool Shawl Collar Cardigan – $40 (review here)
- Banana Republic Supima Shawl Collar Cardigan – $150
- Old Navy Shawl Collar Sweater – $40ish
There are many, many alternatives to wearing a hoodie. And no one is saying you need to trash your hooded sweatshirts. But keeping them in the drawer every once in a while in favor of a timeless shawl-collar can help up your style-quotient a touch.
#5. Shave clean, or trim your beard.
Many of us go a long, lonnnnng time between beard trims, scruff cuts, or clean shaves. But a clean shave or just getting consistent with keeping your beard length in line can make an enormous difference. Just be aware that even a simple trim or shaving after a bit of stubble can leave you feeling weirdly unfamiliar with your very own face.
#6. Embrace the Chinos Chukkas & Polo look
Intentional enough to look dressed up, yet still nowhere near suit and tie. Here’s more on why it works, and here’s our archive of many, many ways to pull this combo off.
#7. Clean your place
Your home is a reflection of your own personal style. So picking up, dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning bathrooms absolutely counts towards “dressing up” and feeling your best.
#8. Put on a knit tie
- Polo Ralph Lauren $59.99 ($95) similar
- TheTieBar Striped Sweater Tie – $25
- TheTieBar Pointed Tip Knit Ties – $25
- Kent Wang Made in Italy Knit Ties – $65 – $75
Knit ties are inherently more casual than their smooth silk counterparts. The texture, colors, and often matte finish makes these things lean friendly, and much less “I’m here to lay-off 30% of your workforce.“ You can usually get away with wearing one of these even in a super casual work environment. Just don’t do it often. You’ll alienate your co-workers.
#9. Wear your brown dress shoes with dark wash jeans
- Allen Edmonds Park Avenue – $395 (shown above = weatherproof brown, all but sold out)
- Allen Edmonds 5th Ave. in Mahogany – $299 ($395)
- Charles Tyrwhitt Cap Toes in Dark Chocolate – $249
- Bruno Magli Luna Oxford – $189.97 ($395)
- Nordstrom Dane Cap Toe Oxford – $99.95
As long as they’re a conservative shape and not too pointy, you should be able to wear your go-to brown dress shoes with dark wash denim. Those are Park Avenues in the dark brown “weatherproof” leather shown above, but the mahogany is a perfect shade here too. And yes, I hiked my pants up a touch to show off the socks for the camera.
#10. Wear chinos instead of shorts when it gets warm
- GAP Khakis – $40ish
- BR SPORT Slim Core Temp Chino – $60 ($100)
- J. Crew Stretch Chinos in Slim or Straight – $79.50
- Lululemon Warpstreme Commission Pants – $128 Shown above. Spendy but awesome. Review here.
- J. Crew Stretch slub cotton-linen pants in 484 Slim or 770 Straight – $89.50
Make sure they’re a washed, more casual fabric. Or if they’re tech, something matte and easy wearing. You don’t want pressed and slick office-ready trousers. Wear them with classic court style sneakers, and if you still feel a little funny wearing chinos instead of shorts, try cuffing the hems a touch for a more casual look.