: Remember those lofty New Year’s resolutions that you came up with three weeks ago? Yeah, neither do we. Most people don’t even make it 21 days (the time it takes to form a new habit) before those goals fade from memory. That’s the bad news. The good news? You still have another 11 months to make changes for the better.
The problem is that most people set goals that are too big and, frankly, unachievable. We’re here to get you back on track with incremental and (fairly) painless changes that get you closer to your goals. The 110% Project will help you improve just 10% more than last year. Want to save more money? Look better? Improve your sex life? Setting small, achievable goals is how our greatest accomplishments begin. Let’s get started.
Improve Your Sex Life
When it comes to style, men are often classified into two categories; the haves and the have-nots. In the eyes of most observers, you are either a guy who has your look together and spends a large amount of time cultivating your appearance or you are rather clueless and know nothing about style. And if you fall in the latter category, people will most likely think you are simply out of luck.
The common myth is that it takes a man a great amount of cash, effort and energy to be stylish. But this is simply not true. There are many things you can do to look better without touching your wallet or investing hours into your appearance. With a little confidence and a few helpful tips, you can start looking better tomorrow.
We spoke to Tony Kretten, creative director of JackThreads, style expert Matthew Simko, and Dave Pompel, vice president of men’s dress at Rockport for tips on pulling your look together with a minimum amount of effort.
1. When It Comes To Belts, Simple Is Better
You want a belt that is made from quality leather, and has a simple brass buckle of some sort. Any sort of “flashy” belt buckle is a huge mistake — unless you are going to the county fair. Dave Pompel concurs: “When you’ve gone 10 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu, then you can wear the ornate belt. Until then, wear simple, clean belts that match your shoes’ color and texture.”
A simple belt is the wardrobe staple every man needs. Pick a belt that is made from quality leather and has a simple buckle that won’t draw stares. You want to be dressed for success and not like a full-time bull rider. For starters, buy a black and brown belt. You’ll need both. And guys, match your belt to your outfit and shoes. Don’t wear a brown belt with black pants and black shoes. Just don’t.
Stock Up: Leather Dress Belt, $68.00 at JCrew.com
2. Get That One Really Good Pair Of Shoes
A great pair of shoes is noticed by men and women alike, and can pull any outfit together. Nothing else you wear is as likely to get you compliments from total strangers as a sharp pair of shoes. “If you can’t move and be comfortable on your feet, you will likely have a very challenging day. Buy a good pair of shoes,” says Pompel. “‘Good’ isn’t based on price, but instead on what fits, offers all day support, comfort, traction (you waited 15 minutes for that latte, do you really want to slip and drop it?) and offers the ability to be easily dressed up or dressed down. My personal go-to shoe is a pair of black wingtips with a rubber sole and great support.”
The shoes a man wears tells you a lot about him. So don’t let your shoes be sending the wrong message. A nice leather or suede shoe will pull an outfit together. A stylish pair of shoes is the cherry on top to a really great outfit.
Stock Up: Hudson Shoes, $160.00 at BespokePost.com
Find a pair that fits comfortably and makes it through your day. If you do more walking, you’ll need more support. Again, black and brown shoes are staples — like these Johnston & Murphy oxfords. Get those and eventually you can venture into blues, greens and reds.
Stock Up: Cap Toe Oxford, $155.00 at Nordstrom.com
3. Lose The Logos
At this point in your life, you should not have to be told this one. Drop the logos and the Ed Hardy-type t-shirts. Don’t be a walking billboard. “Choosing a color, pattern or great stripe says more about your personality than a brand can ever say. Finding pieces that resonate with you is your best bet,” says Kretten.
Logos are dead. There’s a reason you don’t see sprawling brand names on shirts as much as you used to. People no longer want to be walking billboards, standing out with obnoxious (and hideous) logos. Solid color tees, subtle stripes and standout patterns show your sense of style more than some logo ever will. A polka-dotted tee is perfect to wear with jeans for a night out with friend while a striped or patterned button-up will add a little something extra to your office outfit.
Stock Up: Dot Shirt, $34.50 at FrankAndOak.com
4. Your Collar Should Stay Home
There you are, looking tight in a perfect suit and an amazing shirt, and all of it is ruined by your collar sticking up or otherwise being out of whack. Buy a collar stay. Simko is a fan: “A wrinkled collar with turned up ends is a quick way to look unkempt. Permanent collar stays, like the metal variety, are inexpensive and will keep your collar looking sharp, neat, and hold it down in place.”
Collar stays are a must for perfecting your dressed-up looks. Collar stays help your collar from moving around and turning upwards. Nothing says you look rushed and lazy like having a messed up collar. Although plastic collar stays are great, metal ones provide a better weight and last longer. Choose collar stays that fit the shirt you’re wearing and your collar will be perfectly crisp every single time.
Stock Up: Ted Baker Collar Stays, $29.00 at Amazon.com
5. Buy Quality Fabrics
Don’t skimp on the quality of the fabrics you are wearing. Sure, that shirt from Old Navy may look fairly similar to the one from J. Crew, and that shirt from J. Crew might look a lot like that Gucci shirt you liked so much. But when on your body, the quality of the fabric and the workmanship put into the shirt is obvious.
“Buying high-quality fabrics is essential for men’s clothing. You’re more than likely going to machine-wash everything. A great fabric will stand up to that. Even a basic item like a tee shirt will look polished in a quality fabric,” says Kretten.
Once you start buying clothes made of quality materials, you’ll notice the difference. They feel more comfortable, and they last a lot longer than those $5 tees from Walmart. A quality tee can even stand on its own. It’s not just a base layer. Quality clothes fit better, look better and wear better than their subpar counterparts. They may be more expensive, but you’ll get more wear, making them cheaper in the long run. Remember: clothes are investments.
6. Make Sure It Fits
Of all of the things that are on this list, this one might be the most important. Most guys wear things that are too large, which is understandable because the only thing worse than wearing something too large is wearing something too small. There is another option: Wear clothes that fit.
“The number one reason an outfit looks messy is due to clothing not fitting properly. Regardless of what the label says, you need to absolutely — 100 percent — try on clothes when shopping. For shirts, if it fits in the shoulders, it should fall in place everywhere else. For pants, length and rise (the distance between the crotch and waistband) are the most important. The tailor is your best friend if you’re a shorter or taller guy,” says Simko.
Ill-fitting clothing is the #1 reason how bad outfits happen. You don’t want to drown in fabric and you definitely don’t want to wear clothes so tight they’ll rip or show areas that don’t need to be shown in public. When shopping, always try clothes on. No piece is ever exactly the same, so you never know what you’ll get. Find shirts that fit your shoulders without feeling tight and that skim your body with enough room to move. Pants should fit comfortably around your waist without falling down and be long enough for your height. You won’t find clothes that always fit (especially if you’re a shorter or taller guy), so find a tailor you trust to help you find a great fit.
Stock Up: Gingham Dress Shirt, $55.00 at Topman.com
7. Take Some Risks
Try new things. Don’t be afraid to wear what you like, and try to cultivate a bit of a personal style. Note that this is the exact opposite of being trendy. Get out of your comfort zone, and try something you have always wanted to try. If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to the norm tomorrow. “Try mixing patterns and color combinations to see what works best. You’re going to have some fails, that’s a given, but you never know until you try. To start, try taking risks with trends in small places like socks, shoe lace, ties, or pocket squares,” says Simko.
No risk, no reward, right? Fashion is all about risks, so take some from time to time. Find a great pair of pants in a bold color? Rock them. Buy a shirt that isn’t a traditional color or pattern and show it off. Fitting in isn’t always the best thing to do and it sure isn’t the most fun. Find something that you love and rock it with confidence. You might even start a new trend.
Stock Up: Cut And Sew Skinny Shirt, $38.00 at ASOS.com
8. Don’t Be Trendy
By definition, trends are styles that are in right now — and won’t be around much longer. There is a large gap between timeless cool and trendy hip. Always try and be the former, and if you need to be the latter, try and tone it down as much as possible. “Chasing trends simply means you don’t understand who you are, where you work and what matters to you. You’re looking for someone else to define and validate your life. Unless you have the desire and money to replace your wardrobe every few months, invest in pieces YOU want to keep and wear, not ones that someone you never met is telling you to buy,” says Pompel.
9. Work Your Sock Game
Socks seem like a very small detail. But if worn correctly, they can change your whole vibe. “Whether you choose to wear socks or not is a seasonal play, meaning late spring, summer and early fall make those Brogues look like spring shoes with no socks. But if you choose to wear socks, this is one of the few areas [you] can really have fun with pattern and color. Think about how your socks ties back into what you are wearing — even in a subtle way — otherwise it will simply look as if you chose them pre-coffee,” says Pompel.
Socks are the underrated star of your outfit. They aren’t shown off as much as your shirt or pants, but glimpses are seen throughout the day. Make those glimpses stand out. You can be more whimsical here by wearing bright colors and bold patterns. Of course, it depends on the occasion how crazy you can actually get, but most of the time you have free range. Just stay away from inappropriate images or sayings at work or an important event. Go wild and show your personality!
Stock Up: Corgi Socks, $28.00 at JCrew.com
10. Skip The T-Shirt
“Part of dressing is actually taking to the time to learn about what you are wearing, when to wear it and how to wear it,” says Pompel. Case in point: The whole t-shirt underneath the dress shirt thing. Back in the days, one would never consider wearing a dress shirt of any sort without a high-quality t-shirt underneath. Well, those days are gone. Going commando is where it is at these days (with shirts anyway).
11. Shine Your Shoes
Shining shoes is a lost art, at least with guys who are a bit clueless about fashion. Guys who care about how they look have been doing this all along. A nice shine brings a pair of shoes up a couple notches, which makes your whole look shine as well. Simko agrees: “A pair of scuffed shoes will instantly bring down your look, no matter how put together the rest of it is. A shoe shine is a really quick way to perk up a pair of well-worn leather shoes.”
12. Match Your Accessories
This one should be rather simple to most men, but sadly it is not. Well, things are about to change right now. No excuses on this one. “Yes, in fact, you did learn all you need to know in kindergarten: If one of these things is not like the other, it just doesn’t belong. Matching colors (and textures in belts and shoes) cleans up your look and adds a level of sophistication —people can tell that you get it,” says Pompel.
13. Remember: Details Matter
Little things tend to add up and make a difference. Learn how to work your tie knot to perfection, have a really nice scarf or two, wear that perfect knit hat (but only when it is cold), use a tie bar to keep your tie in place. All of these things are somewhat minor details but good examples of how you can look tight with a minimum of effort. Simko breaks it down further: “Small details like a tie bar, cuff links, or cool socks speak volumes. If you think no one will notice your white socks with dress shoes, you’re quite mistaken. It’s those pieces that will bring your outfit together. With style, like in life, it’s the little things that matter. Plus, you want everyone to think you actually give a crap.”
The little things matter. They may not seem like much, but they add up. Wearing a chic tie bar adds a classy touch that most people don’t have. Topping off your cold-weather outfit with a great knit beanie adds another styler layer and keeps you warm. Choose quality details that will bring your outfit to the next level. Cuff links, cool socks and dapper scarves are perfect additions that’ll have people saying “wow.”
Stock Up: Wool Beanie, $32.00 at BespokePost.com
14. Become Friends With More Than One Belt
Most of us have that perfect belt that we like to wear every day. But people notice that — even if only subconsciously. Having a small stable of simple and classic belts, think three or four, is a really good way to improve your style. Simko offers some advice: “If your shirt, tie, or jacket have a tick of color in them (maybe a blue pin stripe), experiment with a navy leather belt. If you’re comfortable/proud of your midsection, try a bright bold pop of color or even a pattern.”
Once you’ve gotten the two basic brown and black belts, venture out a little more. Switching between two simple belts everyday can be a little boring. Opt for adding belts with more texture or different colors. A blue suede belt can change up your look without going too far. If you’re really feeling adventurous, try adding brighter belts for pops of color. But if adding something out there feels forced, don’t do it. Choose something you love and it will show.
Stock Up: Woven Belt, $185.00 at MrPorter.com
15. Weave In Some Color
I know, this one is a little hard. You thought wearing blue was a bold statement. But don’t be afraid to weave in some reds, some yellows, and even some mellow pinks in your wardrobe. Think muted, not too bright — and that pop of color should just be a complement to your basic wardrobe. You want to stand out from the crowd, but not too much. “Life is so much more than black and white. Colored denim is on trend and available just about everywhere. Plus, in a sea of blue jeans and khakis, you’ll stand out in a good way. A basic grey or blue suit is instantly punched up with a brightly colored button down,” says Simko.
Don’t just wear black and khaki pants. You can be professional without looking boring. Burgundy is a really easy and versatile color to add into your wardrobe. A white or black shirt pairs perfectly with burgundy pants. Or throw in an olive shirt or pant. Stay away from really bright colors as those can burn your retinas, but a subtle shades of color will make you the best-dressed man in the office (or at the party).
Stock Up: Democratic Chino, $98.00 at Huckberry.com