As Shakespeare said, “Clothes make the man.” (And Kingsman is a freaking awesome movie, if you haven’t seen it!)
For all of recorded history, the “upper class” has used clothing as a means to set themselves apart from the masses, and the same is true today.
How you dress says an enormous amount about who you are: your attention to detail, your level of sophistication, how much money you have, and more. You want to make sure that you’re sending the right message via your attire.
To that end, I’ve found one rule to be unfailingly useful in the pursuit of wealth and power: Be the best dressed person in the room.
“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” – Edith Head
The best dressed person in the room is usually the most powerful person in the room, and so people find themselves deferring (whether consciously or subconsciously) to the best dressed person.
If that person is you, you have an advantage, and you want every advantage that you can get. Of course, what you should be wearing depends a lot on what room you’re going to be in. Since luck favors the prepared, it’s best to have a well-rounded wardrobe.
In fact, Neil Patel, a well-known figure in the online marketing world, recently wrote a blog post that dove into this very subject.
In his post, titled How Spending $162,301.42 on Clothes Made Me $692,500, he explored the various business benefits he has personally experienced by drastically upgrading his wardrobe, and I agree wholeheartedly with his findings.
Of course, most of us don’t have a spare $162,000 lying around to use on clothes…luckily, you can put together a very, very high-quality wardrobe for a tiny fraction of this price.
Alas, I can’t speak to the ideal wardrobe for a woman (sorry ladies), but here’s the bare minimum that every man should have in his closet:
1. One three-piece wool suit, gray or charcoal (or dark navy, if you insist) – Indochino.com is a fantastic option; you can get a three-piece made-to-measure suit for $550-$700, which is a steal. For occasional wear, look for something in the super 140s (Indochino premium suits fall in this category). For daily wear, super 110s-120s would be better.
2. Two or three high quality dress shirts – Get at least one with French cuffs, and at least one plain white shirt. I really like the trim fit dress shirts by English Laundry, but you can also get made to measure shirts from Indochino for about the same price as an off-the-rack English Laundry shirt, and you can customize them to look every bit as cool as an English Laundry shirt.
3. Two or three silk ties and coordinating pocket squares – They should go well your shirts/suit, and you can find a nice tie + pocket square for about $50-$75/set (Nordstrom has some great combo packs, seen in the first image below, with multiple ties, pocket squares, and socks for just $99). One thing to note…your pocket square and your tie can coordinate, but should NOT match. The fun part is that it can coordinate with whatever you want…shirt, tie, jacket, socks, glasses, take your pick!
4. Two pairs of nice dark denim jeans – AG Jeans are my personal favorites, and you can often find them on sale at Nordstrom for $90-$100/pair. Make sure to tailor the length and seat for a perfect fit.
5. One cashmere sweater. Charcoal or heather are great colors, and go with most anything. I usually buy mine during Nordstrom sale events for $80.
6. One pair of all-purpose dress shoes or boots – I’d recommend classic black or dark brown, depending on your suit color, and for comfort and ease I really like Chelsea style boots. Make sure the upper, the liner and the sole are all real leather (full grain leather for the upper), if possible.
7. One wool pea coat – Get dark gray or charcoal, because lint on black sucks. These can easily be found for about $100.
8. One nice watch – Even the richest guys like their gadgets, so I vote for a smartwatch of some kind, maybe an Apple Watch or a Sony Smartwatch 3.
9. One leather messenger bag – I prefer that my bag matches my shoes and belt, so I went with black. You can easily find a good one for $120 or less.
That’s it! You’ll want some little things to round it out (a good pen, cufflinks, socks, undershirts, belt, tie pin, etc.), but what you get there really depends on personal preference, and won’t set you back very much if you’re careful.
Just make sure that whatever you get coordinates well with your clothes, and doesn’t look garish or cheap. Thrift stores and pawn shops can be a great place to find these little things thriftily.
Now, just mix and match depending on the occasion! Less formal occasions, rock the jeans, a dress shirt, and a cashmere sweater over the shirt. Or jeans, a dress shirt, and your suit vest. More formal, go for the three piece suit, a crisp white shirt with cufflinks, a nice tie with a tie clip, a silk pocket square, and some snazzy socks. No matter the occasion, with this wardrobe, you’re set (unless you need a tuxedo…but I just rent those, they’re rarely worth owning, unless you truly become upper crust. 😉
With your suit, shirts, and pants, tailoring is critical. You want these to fit well, and a good tailor can work miracles even with lower quality items. A $300 suit can look almost as good as a $2,500 suit with a bit of customization.
All in, you can put together a wardrobe like the above for around $2,000, including tailoring. While still not a small sum of money, all of these things should last you for many years with proper care. As much as I hate debt, if you have to put this on a credit card, do so, and consider it a very wise investment in your future.
Lastly, though it really should go without saying, your personal grooming needs to be as impeccable as your attire.
Shower regularly, wear deodorant, keep your hair and facial hair neatly trimmed and styled, avoid heavy cologne/perfume, brush and whiten your teeth, and keep your fingernails neatly trimmed (hell, you might even want to invest in a good manicure).
You’d be amazed at how big an impact the littlest details can have. The wealthy and powerful tend to be very precise, and very alert, and will notice the little things (particularly in regards to personal grooming). A gorilla in a suit is still obviously a gorilla…so don’t be a gorilla.