10 Essentials for the 20 Something

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Top ten lists are always fun to read. And around this time of year, everyone starts to print 10 essential lists, usually incorporating a few things from the new Fall-Winter collections along with old chestnuts. Here is a list written with no reference to any new collections.

1. Navy blue suit – I know that a lot of people would recommend a charcoal gray suit instead, because it is more neutral, and besides, a navy blue suit is apt to make a young man look younger. I say “Embrace youth.” It’s not as though people will suddenly think that you look older and full of gravitas because you are wearing a charcoal suit. A navy suit stands up and says “Look at me, I’m a young man, and I look sharp” as long as it fits well. And the suit should fit well. You may not have a very expensive suit, but a trip to a good tailor for alterations is never a waste of money.

2. Crisp white shirt – the reason why is obvious. It will go with everything. Make sure it fits. Do not look at the price tag until you are ready to buy it (so, make sure that you have plenty of cash in the bank.) If it comes dearly, so be it. If it comes easily, then thank life and take your mother out for a nice dinner.

3. Dark blue jeans – let them age naturally, going from starchy and new to creased and faded. My favorites are from one of the best American companies in the business, the difficult to find 5EP. My perennial standby is the APC New Standard.

4. Leather messenger bag – You need to carry your PDA, your cell phone, all the ways your boss keeps you on a leash. Or maybe you are lucky enough to just have to get in touch with your girlfriend. In any case, you don’t need to look like those sad, sad men who look like slightly overweight utility workers, with a half dozen electronic devices beeping from their belts.

5. A pair of good brown brogues – these can be worn with your jeans or your suit. Don’t skimp on them and don’t neglect them. The way you treat them should be the way you treat life, which is to say that they should be well worn but also well maintained.

6. A good leather belt – it doesn’t have to be expensive. But please, no leather board. Full grained leather only. Something that will age well, as you hope to. And make it something that is at the same time modest and beautiful.

7. A v-neck sweater – I always wanted to go to Antarctica. Still haven’t been. But if I were there, I’d wear a slim v-neck over my white shirt to keep the cold out.

8. A duffle bag – a young guy should travel. A duffle bag is the perfect traveling bag unless you are hiking. It should not be so precious that a man has to think twice about throwing it into the back of the truck. Mine is a Filson 222 (the medium sized duffle.) Filson bags are so famous that retailers refer to the different models by their model number. Their fame is well deserved. Made of waterproof heavy canvas and bridle leather, they have been made to be kicked and beat up in Seattle since 1897. Other guys carry a vintage Hermes bag. More power to them. There is only one rule. If it is too precious to be used, and used hard, it is not worth having.

9. A pair of classic sneakers – Whether they are the original Adidas Stan Smiths, Converse Chuck Taylors, or designer variants made by companies like Common Projects, Steven Alan, Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, or A.P.C., the important thing is that they are unadorned and classic in design. They are sneakers that are not just worn by young men. They look good worn by a 20 year old or a 60 year old. A crisp white shirt, dark jeans, and these classic kicks are the great democratizer. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It’s not a particularly expensive outfit. If yours fits better than the millionaire’s, you are the better man in that minute.

10. A military jacket – Not surprisingly, military jackets never really go out of style. Every season, they come back. The fit and most popular model might vary (variations of the French F2 is very popular right now, as is the American M65), but they will always be part of the young man’s uniform.


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Fok-Yan Leung can be found discussing men’s style at Styleforum.net.