Written by Marissa Bell
It’s a common misconception that it’s easier for men to dress professionally because there are less options for them. While it is true that there are indeed less options in terms of items of clothing (skirts and dresses, for instance, although I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this is a good thing that society says men can’t wear those), it doesn’t make it any easier to dress professionally on a budget. As with women, one of the harder things to figure out when you’re trying to build your professional wardrobe is what items are essential, which ones to splurge on, and what are the most important rules to follow. First things first, here is a list of what items are considered essential to have in a professional men’s wardrobe:

  • 3 pairs of black dress pants
  • 2 pairs of nice khaki pants
  • 2 suits (neutral, conservative colors)
  • 10 dress shirts (you should have 2 for every pair of pants you have)
  • 3 ties
  • One black and one brown pair of dress shoes
  • Briefcase
  • Adult jacket (leave the ski-jacket at home)

Yes, this does seem like a lot of items, and a lot of money, but because there are less options for types of clothing, it does mean that you need to have a wider variety of the items you do have. From just those 8 categories, you will have enough clothes to have a large wardrobe so no one is noticing that you wear the same three shirts five times a week. To try to keep the prices down, check out these three rules:

Rule no. 1: Splurge on Tailoring
If you walk into an interview and look as if you borrowed your suit from your father’s closet, that’s the employer’s first impression of you. And you do NOT want to forever be remembered as, “that guy wearing the suit 4 sizes too big”. The easiest way to look unprofessional is to wear an ill-fitting suit. Even if you don’t splurge on the suit itself, it is always worth it to get a suit tailored to look as if it was made for you. Not only does it give off the air of power, it also gives you confidence. Knowing you look good makes you feel good and gives you the confidence to perform well in a job or interview.

Rule no. 2: Notice the Details
Maybe it’s just me, but, someone could be wearing a perfectly fitted suit and if I look down, and notice that peeking out under the hem of their pants are white sweat socks, the look is instantly ruined. It doesn’t matter how perfect the suit is if little details are off. White sweat socks instead of trouser socks, a cartoon watch instead of a professional watch, scuffed shoes, dirt around the collar, miss-buttoned shirts, etc. Little things that when you’re getting dressed you’re thinking, “Oh they won’t notice *insert small almost noticeable detail*”, but if they do, that’s all they can focus on. Take the time to think about every detail of your outfit, get it dry-cleaned before hand, buy new socks, just to make sure that your outfit isn’t something you have to worry about at an interview or at work.

Rule no. 3: Shop the Discount Stores
 The same rule applies to men here as it does for women. To stay under a budget, you need to be looking in the right stores. If you walk into a Hugo Boss store looking to find a suit for less than 200 dollars, think again. The best places to look for good quality suits are those discount stores. They take designer wears that are over stocked at department stores and stock them. My favorite places to look for quality professional wear are:

  • Macy’s
  • Target
  • TJ Maxx
  • Marshalls
  • Ross: Dress for Less

If you limit your search to discounts stores, it will be much easier to build a professional, quality wardrobe on a budget so you’re comfortable and confident in a business environment.