College is a wonderful time. You get to meet new people, explore your interests and test your partying limits. You also get to wear pretty much anything, as evidenced by the sheer number of students who stroll around campus all day in full pyjama attire. That’s just fine during those four special years, but once you hit the real world a slightly more grown-up wardrobe should be in order. For all of you soon-to-be college grads (or twentysomethings still in transit) we’ve lined up a few tips on how to dress for success, respect and—with a little luck— your first real job. Stylist Derrick King of Baltimore’s Christopher Schafer Clothier offers up his expert advice.
“If your clothes walk in the door way before you do, you’ve gotten their attention but in the wrong way.”
MADE MAN: What are a few essential style pieces a recent college grad should have in his wardrobe?
DERRICK KING: I always tell my clients with anything in life you have to start with your basics. It’s the same for your wardrobe; those basics are going to allow you to create numerous outfits as you add on to your wardrobe. When first building your professional wardrobe you should start out with the following:
I. One charcoal solid suit and one navy solid suit. This will be the foundation of your wardrobe.
II. Button cuff shirts in blue, white, pink and even lavender or light purple. These colors look good on any skin tone. Avoid french cuff shirts this early in the game. Button cuffs will allow you to seamlessly take your outfit from dressy to casual. Once you have the solids down, then you can start going into stripes and patterns, but only after you have that as your foundation.
III. One pair of black shoes and one pair of brown or chestnut colored shoes in either wing tips, cap toes or plain oxfords. Brown or chestnut shoes are perfect for either charcoal or navy suits. Black can give a more formal or evening appearance to a charcoal suit when paired with a crisp white shirt.
IV. Finally to “tie” it all together, an assortment of ties. These will allow you to be able to create several outfits just out of those few pieces. Your suits and shoes are your framework to work within, and you can create a multitude of different looks by changing up shirts and ties. Just remember to rotate your suits and shoes throughout the week to keep things fresh.
MM: Are there any specific pieces he should avoid?
DK: When transitioning from college to your career you want to give off the appearance of being mature and confident. Avoid anything that appears too youthful or too flashy. Things like excessive jewelry, extremely pointy or square toed shoes, and loud, bright colored, black, or extremely loud print shirts.
MM: How can a young man dress professionally while still expressing his personality in his choice of clothing?
DK: Accessories are a great and safe way to express your personality in your choice of clothing. Pocket squares and ties are great ways to add punches of color and personality to the basics of any wardrobe at this early stage. Just avoid the novelty stuff. Your South Park or Star Wars tie may have you looking like more of a goof than a gent .
MM: A guy scores his first job interview out of college. How should he dress to meet his potential employers?
DK: Take the “less is always more” approach. A simple plain white or blue shirt, navy or charcoal suit (avoid black, which should be reserved for evenings and formal events) and a solid color or conservatively patterned tie. Avoid sneakers or t-shirts with suits. Chinos are way too casual for an interview, and leave your boat shoes at home. While this may seem like common knowledge you’d be surprised the questions I get from guys first starting out. You want to create the impression of being confident and stable to your potential employer. Your clothing should essentially be a tool that accentuates your personality. If your clothes walk in the door way before you do, you’ve gotten their attention but in the wrong way.
MM: What are the three biggest style tips you’d give to a young man transitioning into adulthood?
DK: 1. Get the basics down. 2. No matter what amount of money you invest into your wardrobe, if it doesn’t fit it doesn’t matter. Fit is vital whether you go custom or off the rack. If you walk into an interview looking like a kid in his dad’s oversized suit, or in something that is extremely tight, it makes it hard for anyone to take you seriously. 3. Once you’ve gotten the basics down and you’ve learned the rules, you now have the supplies needed to start the journey into your own personal style. Explore and have fun!
Editor’s note: The styles pictured in the top-most image are the Ibiza Sportcoat and Tommy Bahama Sport Shirt (left) and Kroon Sportcoat, Michael Kors Cardigan & Hickey Freeman Sport Shirt (right). All clothing available at Nordstrom.