by Dan Brickley

Wow. Has it really come to this? I recently learned there is someone at this magazine who has been forbidden to purchase his own clothing. I won’t say who it is, but you’ll find his name closer to the top of the masthead than the bottom. He is a reasonable, intelligent man with a good eye for what works and what doesn’t—except when he’s standing in front of a mirror. The expensive, yellow plaid shirt that doesn’t go with anything (except possibly a wood chipper) was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Since then, his wife must be present to approve all apparel purchases. This is nonnegotiable. If you—as a husband, wife or significant other—feel that you are headed toward this totalitarian state of clothes shopping, I can help. As the longtime host of the TV series A Makeover Story, it was actually my job. I found that focusing on five “essentials” often was enough to move fashion disasters in a safe direction, so that’s how I’ll handle it here. And just to keep things in season, we’ll focus on autumn. Men, stick to this plan and you never hear another What were you thinking! Ladies, arm your man with this information and you’ll soon be cutting him some slack (instead of cutting up his slacks) when he comes home from the store. Buy two sport coats. Although price-wise they will represent the lion’s share of the new wardrobe investment, quality navy blue wool and brown corduroy sport coats are an absolute necessity that will create endless outfits. I know that men can be tempted, at times, to purchase grey, black, or herringbone blazers (all of which can be dazzling), but coupling those colors and patterns with shirts, slacks and ties dramatically widens the playing field for fashion faux pas. I highly recommend J. Crew’s Cashmere Ludlow Legacy Blazer ($575) and Banana Republic’s Tailored Corduroy 2- Button Blazer in Camel ($198). As you’ll see, navy and camel act as an absolute and infallible base for each and every autumn ensemble. They make up the keystone in the flying buttress of a well-rounded wardrobe. Purchase two pairs of Chinos. Don’t call them Khakis, because they aren’t the same. What most people consider a stereotypical khaki is really just the bottom of the barrel in the world of men’s cotton trousers. I hate to say it, because they serve many a purpose, but it’s true. The word Khaki, by the way, comes from the Urdu word for dusty. During the Raj, English soldiers would dye their whites the color of the omnipresent and unavoidable dust in south and central India. Thus, was born both the color and the English word. Chinos, the more sophisticated cousin, are distinguished by the combed cotton sheen and the lack of back pocket cover flaps. Lacoste’s Classic Chino in Beige ($88) is perfectly conservative and appropriate for any occasion. Get two tailored shirts. You want the real deal here. A well-constructed gent’s wardrobe requires them in at least two colors; white and a light blue pattern. I’ve always been a fan of the Brooks Brothers Luxury Slim Fit shirt ($79.50). It is timeless, fits properly, and is available with or without a French cuff. Brooks Brothers includes its trademark “knot” cufflinks with each French cuff purchase, which is a fantastic pair of fashion training wheels if I’ve ever seen them. Every man needs an essential brown shoe. Keep in mind, a go-to black shoe is always a necessity, but I find that in fall, a brown shoe is always more appropriate and will mesh with infinitely more outfit components. Hugo Boss has always been a favorite of mine. And, in this case, the Saharian Chukka Boot in Dark Brown ($275) is a timeless, rich choice. Chukka sub-ankle boots are a great option for brisk months and seem to carry with them both endless style and rugged masculinity—two big advantages in my book. Most men have no idea what it’s like to suffer for the beauty of a shoe, and this will be no exception. Chukka’s wear like a Jimmy Choo, but feel like a Birkenstock. I know, it’s so unfair! Accessorize. No male wardrobe would ever be complete without a little accoutrement. I know most men shy away from (if not perpetually underestimate) the importance of the accessory. A stubborn man can mount successful arguments against a beautiful watch, a great pair of cufflinks or a dazzling ring. However, a first-rate leather belt is a must have, not a should-have. Again, since we’re building our fashion masterpiece within the framework of an autumnal palate, I highly suggest brown—if for no other reason than the fact that brown leathers seem to retain more beauty in texture, and stand out more prominently against other fabrics. Ralph Lauren’s Saddle Leather Belt in Papaya ($175) is a winner through and through. Its gold roller buckle and rich saddle leather echo country craftsmanship, while conjuring images of the luxury of Savile Row. A suddenly and unexpectedly well-dressed man can be a startling reminder of all the other fantastic, useful, and sometimes mystifying purposes he serves. So go forth and shop with new purpose and confidence. To the Short Hills… and beyond! EDGE