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Building from the bottom

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    Building from the bottom

    Hey guys,

    This is my first post and I'm really excited to be apart of this awesome community! With that being said, I'm going to be a college sophomore next semester and I wanted to elevate my business style as I will be interviewing for internships, networking at job fairs and basically will be wearing business casual or dressier a lot more than I'm used to. I need to buy things like a suit or two, dress shoes, button down shirts, ties, etc... Seeing as how I don't have too much money to upgrade my wardrobe all at once I was wondering if you guys could lend some suggestions of versatile items(especially in regards to a suit and shoes) that could serve multiple functions, and shoes that could be worn with a suit and also dressed down a little bit. I figured it'd be best to ask for advice from a group of guys that have probably been in my shoes before and have come out on top. Any advice would be greatly appreciated..thanks!

    First of all, your first suit should be charcoal. Why charcoal? You can wear it to funerals, but it's not black, because black suits are pretty much only for funerals or stereotypical federal agents. My charcoal suit is Jack Victor w/ Loro Piana fabric. It's half-canvassed and was $500 on sale. Don't skimp on the suit and invest in good tailoring too.

    Next, a pair of burgundy oxford balmoral cap toe shoes, because burgundy shoes go with everything and a cap toe balmoral is the standard in business. If you can't swing the $385 for Allen Edmonds Park Avenues, a pair of Johnston & Murphy Melton Cap Toe Oxfords will be a fine substitute and can be had for $175 or less. If that's still too much, try JC Penney's Stafford line. Make sure to find a matching belt. There's no reason to ever spend more than $30 for a belt.

    Next, a few pairs of nice wool pants. Here's where you can really save some green - Kirkland Signature from Costco, which you can order online without a membership. They have wool gabardine for $39. I have a pair. They look very good. Not sure how long they will last, but for $39, who cares? Hey, they have some decent belts too. Buy 2 pairs of pants. A light tan and a light gray.

    Now, on to sportcoats to go with the pants. A navy blue blazer is your mus-have, but stay away from gold crest buttons in favor of something simpler. eBay is your friend here as long as you make sure the measurements match your suit - if you look, you can find great deals. Brooks Brothers is a good choice here. You should be able to get away with under $100 here.

    On to shirts - I like the Charles Tyrwhitt 3-for$99 deal. Although many style sobs don't like no-iron fabrics, as a college student, you will appreciate the effortless crispness of a no-iron from Charles Tyrwhitt - they are nicer than others I've tried.

    As for as ties, any thrift store will have 11 ties, 3 of which will be worth wearing and cost you under $10 for all three.
    Last edited by espressocycle; June 1, 2015, 06:44 PM.


      I disagree with everything above. Sounds like OP is still in college. No need for such formal stuff, and better to skimp now.

      Navy/charcoal suit from BR/JCF (or similar)
      Invest in 2 nice shirts: white and light blue (nordstrom, banana, try this stuff on)
      Unconstructed cotton navy blazer (JCF, etc)
      A couple pair of chinos
      A nice pair of dark jeans
      Black/brown dress shoes (allen edmonds; i'd go for some broguing on the browns so they can be worn more casually)
      Bucks/suede shoes

      That's it, that's really all you need as a college student/intern.
      Last edited by Scofield; June 1, 2015, 07:28 PM.


        @espessocycle pretty much nailed it, but this is the "traditional" business casual. As mentioned by [MENTION=10540]Scofield[/MENTION], you may want to go with a version of business casual that is a little toned down and more casual that you will get more use out of in school.

        I'd just add, Charcoal means dark gray. Make sure your first suit isn't mid gray. Second suit should be navy, which you can also wear to funerals in my opinion. Or flip flop, but keep it dark.


          I have to side with [MENTION=10540]Scofield[/MENTION] on this one for a variety of reasons. We don't know what OP's internship will be -- there's a very good chance, unless he's in investment banking or the like, that a more casual version of biz casual will allow OP to use the clothes outside of work on a more consistent basis (and still be fine for work).

          Next, I would skimp on the suit and pants. Not super skimp, but you don't need to worry about getting Loro Piana or anything. Just make sure it fits you well and you'll look fine in whatever. There's a very good chance it won't fit you by the time you're 1-2 years out of college, so you don't really need something to last forever. By that point, with a real job/income, you'll want to upgrade anyway.

          To OP, congrats and good luck--both on the start of the internship search and your style journey.


            for perspective i just graduated college in December, i was in a fraternity as well so i was constantly dressing up. I also work at a job where i have to dress business professional everyday and i use this list to dress.

            I would look at though they have low stock if you are able to get your hands on a slim charcoal/navy suit it would only run you around 160 and it looks great for the price.

            for shirts i splurged a litte bit but the non iron brooks brothers slim fit shirts fit great and always look good. if there is an outlet store near you they always have them on sale. I also recommend splurging here because you will always need to wear a dress shirt you will not always need to wear a suit.

            for ties i would go to they have a crazy selection and good quality for the price.

            a belt you can really get anywhere but i would get a reversible black/brown belt to match with everything you have formally or casually.

            pants are a toss up but i really like the chinos and dress pants from j crew factory. from jcf you can get most of the things you need for a good price.

            for casual shoes i would look into getting a pair of sprees that you can wear with almost anything and for dress shoes a nice pair of black leather dress shoes. id look at jack erwin which will run around 195.


              I will mention that if you have thrift stores around you, ties can typically be had for cheap at these places and some can be nice quality. You will have to look around and make multiple trips, but (at least where I am) ties at thrift stores run $1-3.


                I always plug the $1,500 wardrobe Joe posts on the main site for at least some ideas:

                Couple things to remember:
                1. Get shoe trees, rotate dress shoes or at least give them a days rest between wearings. That is unless you wear them, run to an interview for a few hours, then take them off but shoe trees.
                2. Before buying a suit, figure out fit so you don't buy something too small or too big.

                Also check out the site for threads with pictures to get some inspiration to help you along. We all tend to define our style over time and it becomes an addiction of sorts so don't worry about having everything at once.


                  Thanks for all the great responses everyone especially the suit recommendations, where I was really struggling.


                    If you're trying to dress for business and you don't have much cash, a navy (wool) blazer is pretty crucial. It makes for a whole bunch of potential outfits, in a business scenario; and then you put on the suit when the deal goes down.


                      I definitely recommend nailing down your measurements and fits before you go any further. I remember starting my wardrobe I was so eager to get some new clothes I was not picky about fit. But it is survival of the fittest (literally) in the closet, and the items that fit best get worn more and the ones that fit poorly you will find yourself never reaching for.

                      Find a shirt that fits you great and buy at least 3 (white, light/pale blue, and a check pattern), so you know getting out of bed you will have one you can grab without having to decide between two "meh" options. I highly recommend Spier & Mackay, $32 per shirt if you buy 3 and super nice quality at that price point. Charles Tyrwhitt is also a good option, but I prefer S&M fit.

                      Definitely skimp on your suit. I recommend the Thompson from JCF, get one in charcoal and one in navy. I wear my navy suit more than any other personally. You can also get Hilfiger and Bar III at Macy's on sale for under $200, just make sure they fit right first. No polyester/rayon/viscose/synthetic, no compromises.

                      I say go cheap on shoes as well. GH Bass will last 2 years easy and can be had for $40-50 on sale (quite often). Get a pair of loafers, a brown plain blucher or wingtip, and a black captoe. Toss in a pair of chukkas or boots when Fall comes. After you know what kind of shoes you like, and you have practiced caring for a pair (shoe trees, conditioning, polishing) go get a nice pair like Allen Edmonds.

                      Navy blazer is key if you will be spending less than 50% of your time in a suit, as it will pair with almost everything. I recommend you grab a wool one on eBay or Stafford at JCP. Also get a cotton one (try Target, I just got the Merona one on clearance for $30 and the fit is passable... JCF, Uniqlo, are also good options).

                      For ties, make sure you get a nice navy silk tie- not a satin sheeny thing but with a good color. Here I recommend splurging and getting some from the Knottery, Brooks Brothers, and off eBay (ties are the best thing to buy second hand, IMO). Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Ross also usually have some steals if you are vigilant. Solid navy, a dark purple, a patterned green, and a burgundy will all serve you well and you can then start to get creative as you build your collection.

                      Try to budget everything out, do your research on what you want to buy after you have checked fit and quality. Then go find it on sale (and this site can be super helpful finding good deals and advice for saving $$$).

                      Search the forums too as this topic gets brought up fairly often, lots of good advice to read through.


                        I'm more with espressocycle. Classics, remain classics regardless of age. The very first suit should be more traditional/business like and not cheap, regardless of internship or major. Especially so if it's not banking or consulting since it will be worn mostly for interviews, weddings, etc. If it doesn't fit 2-years after college, hit the gym. To me, there is no substitute for Brooks Brothers for a first suit. At least to go try stuff on to see what fits and what you like--you know you will get a good fitting there. You can then find Fitzgerald cuts (a good blend between modern, but still classic) on eBay for $100-$200 (sometimes less). Charcoal is the most traditional and versatile, but I think navy looks the sharpest. I would do a classic formal charcoal, then navy more modern, lower end for a second when budget allows.

                        Shoes is the second thing I wouldn't skimp on since if done right, they can literally last a lifetime. However, I always recommend a blucher brogue wingtip in burgundy as the first shoe. Yes, a cap toe is more traditional/formal; however, the wingtip is far more versatile. For an interview or wedding, 90% of the people won't be able to tell you the difference between a blucher and balmoral or even notice on first glance. As long as they are well maintained and look sharp. Burgundy goes with everything, and blucher looks better with chinos or denim. MacNeils or McGregors (depending on your foot shape) can be found on Shoe Bank for $200-$250 during sales and can be resoled forever. Black cap toe balmoral is usually recommended as second since it is traditional, but it is not very versatile. I would almost recommend brown second.

                        I agree on a reversible belt. Black/brown or black/burgundy. Marshalls or Ross are good places for these cheap where you can actually touch the belt and see the quality of the leather, as to opposed to buying online and getting cardboard.

                        Navy wool blazer is a must. Cotton unstructured is not as versatile and more in the nice to have department. Again, go with classics.

                        I agree on the CT shirts as well. Cheaper than BB non-iron, hold up as well, and they fit slimmer. Only buy them on sale, and they are on sale often. White and light blue. Then white and light blue french cuff. Then stripes, patterns, etc.

                        Never buy a tie new. Huge mark up. Good way for a salesman to bump up a commission after selling you a suit. Thrift shops are cheapest, but I find the selection is usually awful unless you time it right. I prefer eBay. Search for Brooks Brothers lot to get 5-6 at a time (usually 3 good ones and a couple to donate). Also try searching by time ending soonest and filter out anything >$10, especially late at night or at odd hours. You would be surprised what you find for dirt cheap. One power red tie, one classic navy stripe, one brown with dots/squares, then get creative.

                        I'd put Chinos before wool pants. More versatile, and you can always wear your suit pants if dressing up a sweater or a blazer. Stone, khaki, and grey. Go try them on since there are a ton of fits and options. J Crew, JCF, BR, Bonobos, etc. Once you find your size and fit, use coupon codes or eBay to buy.

                        Couple pairs of dark denim. Levis is often recommended. I think Uniqlo selvedge is a great deal.

                        OCDB in white and light blue from Uniqlo or Lands End. Nice thick quality for cheap.

                        Polos from just about anywhere. Start with solid staple colors first.

                        Merino wool v-neck sweater in navy. Don't buy cotton sweaters. Lots of options. Shop sales, and it should be ~$30.

                        Bucs or chuckas, white sneakers, and a pair of slip-ons to round out the shoes.
                        Last edited by connersw; June 2, 2015, 10:07 AM.


                          He's going to be a sophomore in the fall. Honestly one suit is probably going to be enough. I can't imagine wearing it too too often so a Jcrew factory suit would be fine. Like one pair of black shoes, eBay is your friend.

                          I would be more concerned about on campus style. At 19-20yo you are going to be casual on campus, going to class, and going to parties.

                          Find a pair of decent black Captoes - eBay is great for slightly used Allen Edmonds
                          Suit navy or charcoal
                          Black belt - Marshall's is great.
                          One white dress shirt
                          Two ties also Marshall's is your friend.

                          Other than that I would ditch the high school T's, beat up sneakers, cargos. Get some solid jeans, chinos, buttons downs, polo's and some T's that are fitted and stylish like stripped or solids.


                            Honestly, i dont understand some of these suggestions. i feel out of place at my business casual consulting firm (full time) with wool blazers and wool pants...and you guys are suggesting that stuff...with french an intern?! I really dont see the need for an expensive suit decent one is good enough. He'll probably WANT to upgrade his suit later on anyways....are you seriously suggesting suitsupply territory for a sophmore in college?!

                            Although I do agree that shoes are the one thing he should invest in now. Other than that, he should focus on casual style...bucks, polos, chinos, "dressy" jeans, casual button ups, unconstructed cotton blazers, etc.


                              I think Scofield and Brent K got this about right.