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Tips for Building an Essential Menswear Collection

February 28th, 2013

Building a solid and versatile menswear collection can definitely seem overwhelming. Whether you’ve already begun your collection or are starting from scratch, if you are like me, just thinking about the scope of such an undertaking can lead to confusion, frustration, and a sense of defeat. A little strategizing can go a long way though. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Take Stock. Categorize. Make A Plan. Identify Your Economic Comfort Zone. Be Disciplined. Stay On Point with the Style Values.

Take Stock. This is a great time to go through your closet and identify what you already have on hand. There’s a good chance you’ve forgotten what you own and it is equally likely that you will stumble upon some real gems. There’s absolutely no way to know what you need if you don’t know what you already have. And while you’re at it, make a note of the pieces you haven’t worn at all in the past one, two, three, or more years—we’ve all got clothes like that—and get rid of them. Seriously. If it’s been that long since you’ve pulled something out, you’re not ever going to wear it again. A good closet purging is liberating. More on this topic in the near future.

Categorize. Just like making an outline was the way we were taught to compose a coherent essay or term paper back in the day, the same rule applies for building a menswear collection. Breaking menswear down into its most general components will put your collection in focus and give you a template to fill in with what you already have and what you need. Here are the categories:

– Suits
– Shoes
– Casual Pants
– Shirts
– Sweaters
– Outerwear
– Accessories
– Seasonal Items

As the site goes on I’ll be breaking each of these categories down into their essential elements, complete with looks offering up some of the many possibilities each piece presents. The end result will be a resource and lookbook called The Essential Menswear Collection. My hope is that this will serve as a guide as well as inspiration to those looking for it. Definitely stay tuned.

Make a Plan. This is your menswear to-do list. Decide what you need and/or want the most. If you are just getting started or missing an extremely versatile staple piece—like a three-piece suit, for example—that should go immediately to the top of the list. You’ll get the biggest bang for the buck acquiring the most versatile pieces first. Also, take the season into account. If it’s wintertime, you obviously aren’t going to be looking for shorts. I definitely recommend keeping a living document of your menswear needs and wants. Seeing it in black and white and in an organized fashion is a great way to put it all into focus and suddenly makes everything seem a bit more manageable. If you are already a list maker, you know what I’m talking about. It’s also a good feeling when you get to cross something off the list.

It’s important to balance the aspirational with the practical.

Identify Your Economic Comfort Zone. This is personal and in no way a reflection of you as an individual. Remember, there are quality items at most every price point and more costly does not always equal higher quality. When defining a budget it’s extremely important to balance the practical with the aspirational. This is critical. The good thing about placing a premium on classic and timeless pieces versus chasing the latest trend is that by acquiring these items you are building a wardrobe that will never go out of style instead of one that will be obsolete in a few months.

Be Disciplined. You’ve made a plan, zeroed in on a spending level, and identified what you are willing to budget, so stick to it. A best practice here is to always have an idea of what you would like your next acquisition to be. That way, when you walk in to a store or are shopping online, you are doing it with a purpose. Stay focused and don’t be swayed by a pushy or talented salesperson. Stick to the game plan.

Having said that, always be aware of your list as a whole. Though you may be looking for something specific, keep an eye peeled for other essential pieces that you may find on sale. End of season sales and promotions are great, and if you can find what you are looking for, they make economic sense. Plus, nowadays if something is on sale as part of an end-of-season sale, it will still likely be in season for another month or two.

Stay On Point with the Style Values. This is mostly a reminder. The big ones to pay attention to are quality and fit. The others—versatility, timelessness, and affordability—are pretty well covered with the other tips here. And, of course, as you build your menswear collection, be sure to wear everything with confidence.

Stylishly Yours,

He Spoke Style

Photo via Normann Copenhagen

Brian Sacawa

Brian Sacawa is the Founder of He Spoke Style and one of the original men’s style influencers. Since 2013, his goal has remained the same: to provide men the advice and inspiration they need to dress well, develop their personal style, and gain more confidence. Brian’s interest and passion for men’s style and luxury watches has led to his writing for The Robb Report, The Rake, and Sotheby’s and he has been quoted on menswear in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,, Brides Magazine, and the Huffington Post. He lives in the woods north of Baltimore with his wife, Robin, kitties Nick and Nora, and German Shepherd/Collie mix Charlie.

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