Who doesn’t anticipate their center cut 8 oz. being presented without being drizzled with steak sauce accompanied by mashed potatoes and broccoli. What is a Thanksgiving feast with a turkey lacking the company of dressing, greens, macaroni and cheese, yams, and hot, buttered rolls? What’s a movie experience without the salty popcorn or cheesy nachos? It’s all just plain and boring, as is an outfit unadorned with accessories. Daily, our female counterparts rummage through jewelry boxes trying to locate the perfect earrings, necklace, and bracelet to compliment their selected garments. They sift through an assortment of colors, shapes, and sizes to find the perfect match. While men may seem to have limited options on earrings, bracelets, and chains, we should not limit ourselves to just these standard “side dishes” of mens fashion.
In order to understand how to accessorize we must first recognize the options available to us beyond the standard pieces of jewelry. Mens accessories can be broken down into the following categories: footwear, waist wear, wrist wear, neckwear, and head/eye wear. I believe every outfit should have a “pop piece”, something that brings the outfit to life. Some men stay away from accessorizing because they want to be inconspicuous and avoid being labeled as flashy. It’s possible to have “pop” without being flashy. Let’s explore.
You might be asking how footwear fits in the category of an accessory. True, shoes are a standard part of any outfit. However, according to Webster’s dictionary, an accessory is “something added for decoration.” Shoes can add to or destroy an outfit, so, for purposes of fashion, footwear can double as an accessory. The first concept to understand about footwear is that black does not go with everything. Many men will have one pair of dress shoes and wear it with every dressy or casual outfit they put on. It’s okay to push the envelope with your shoes. I’m not encouraging you to purchase every color shoe that Stacy Adams manufactures, but you should own more than black and brown. The basics would be black, brown, blue, grey, and white. You should also invest in various shades of brown to ensure that you have the necessary variety for coordinating with the many earth-tone shades found in your closet. On the other end of the spectrum, the basic white tennis shoe or now classic grey New Balances don’t go with every dress down look either. Nike, Converse, Steve Madden, and even Timberland have made it easy for men to expand the colors they place on their feet. As men, we can have on a nice pair of jeans and a plain/graphic tee and destroy the entire look by throwing on the first pair of sneakers we see. Take the time to examine your wardrobe and purchase shoes that will compliment or bring out even the smallest detail in your shirts. If you are wearing an outfit where your belt is visible, try coordinating the shoes with the belt.
That is another important fact; a black belt does not go with every outfit. As much as possible your belt should be congruent with the color scheme of your outfit, especially if your shirt is tucked into your pants. If wearing a solid color on top and bottom, with the shoe you select, coordinate the belt to match the shoe and let those become your focal point. Simple, yet effective. For the more casual looks the canvas or cloth belts are a great option and are available in a plethora of colors. Additionally, there are belts with removable buckles giving you the option to be more expressive at the waistline by choosing anything but the standard buckle. Be creative as you want with the buckle you select as it can be your “pop piece” all by itself.
Another simple way to add life to your outfit is with wrist wear. The world has moved beyond the silver, gold, black or brown leather and rubber bands with plain black or white faces. You can now get a wrist watch in any color imaginable with any color face imaginable. There is nothing wrong with the classic watch. It has its place. Yet in a world where everybody has easy access to the cell phone on their hip, the watch has become more of a symbol of fashion than a time telling mechanism. Take advantage and fasten color and style on your wrist. Stores such as Fossil offer the luxury of building your own watch by allowing you to select your band and face separately with the end result being 50% your own creation. Cuff links naturally fall into this same category. They come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes ranging from subtle to extravagant. The cuff link is not just for the business suit or church look. With more patterned shirts being offered with French cuffs you can grab your links when heading to a dinner date or casual gathering. It’s a great sophisticated look resting unassumingly at the bottom of your arms.
Moving up, the next accessory category is neckwear. The necktie will always be a classic accessory, but if you have been paying attention you have noticed that both the bowtie and ascot have become extremely popular. With more workplaces becoming more casual and contemporary churches fostering a more relaxed atmosphere ties are becoming less mandatory and more fashionable. For instance, who would have pictured Chuck Taylors, jeans or casual pants, a button down with the sleeves rolled up halfway, and an open vest, topped off with a bowtie being a good look? It is comfortable, trendy, and great for any casual or laid back atmosphere. You could also create a similar look using an ascot or regular necktie. Leave the top buttons undone on your shirt and allow the necktie to hang just below tied the normal way. This gives you a more relaxed look at the neckline while still being fashionable. Traditionally ascots are worn with suits and give you a very sophisticated and European look. Break the tradition and wear your ascot with the same outfit described above, but with a twist. Instead of going for the traditional method, allow the ascot to be worn directly around your neck resting on your chest while leaving your top two buttons undone. With this one little variation and you have a completely different look and effect. The possibilities with neckwear are numerous. Challenge yourself to try something different.
Topping off the accessory categories for men is headwear/eyewear. Sunglasses are as much about fashion as they are about utility. So many styles and colors are offered from sporty to high fashion. Match your eyewear to a garment in your outfit and watch how it becomes a must for the outfit and not just a shield from the sun. Just as sunglasses have a dual role, so do hats. Many men don’t wear hats simply because they are attempting to keep their head warm or hide a bad hair day. Hats come in many varieties and can alter the look of any outfit. Just be careful not to just grab the one at the front of the closet all the time. Pair your hat with your shirt or shoes and add the extra flavor to your outfit. Make sure the hat fits your head and doesn’t swallow your face; unless that is the effect you are going for. A “fitted” or cap is appropriate for the dressed down outfits and so is a scully/beanie during the winter months. For the more casual or dressy attire consider a Kango style, bucket hat, bowler/derby, fedora, flat cap, homburg, or newsboy cap. Whatever you choose coordination is essential.
Women are quick to proclaim that their man is plain, simple and boring when it comes to dressing. Many of them secretly wish you spiced it up a little bit more. It is not necessary to transform your entire wardrobe to accomplish this. Simply learn to accessorize. Just remember one thing…accessories should enhance without overpowering. Accessorize to the extent that you feel comfortable but know that every entrée is better with a side dish. Indulge in a side of fashion!