Accessories can make or break an outfit. A perfect fit can be elevated simply by having one additional element of interest introduced by a well-chosen accessory. But on the other hand, accessories can ruin an otherwise fine fit by being overdone, ostentatious or in conflict with one another. “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” Keep that advice from Coco Chanel in mind as I share five accessories that will, in the right contexts and done tastefully, make you look like a million bucks.
Okay, it doesn’t necessarily have to be Swiss, but it should be tastefully designed, and small. Giant diameters ruin what might be otherwise great watches these days. And unless you have Chris Hemsworth’s arms, they don’t really look at home on your wrist (though if you’ve got Chris Hemsworth arms, by all means, wear something proportionally small on your wrist!). When you’re wearing coat and tie, and want to look refined—whether it’s for a wedding, evening out with your significant other, or even just at the office—a small watch looks far more elegant. My personal favorites are Omega’s from the 1960s. My brother generously bought me a 1966 DeVille for my 30th birthday last year, with an off-white face that comes in at 34.5mm across. It’s magnificent.
I realize calling a product meaningful sounds like the worst marketing language, but I only say that because the guys wearing bracelets well are those doing it for a reason and not just because it’s the cool thing to do. When done well, a bracelet communicates a sense of refinement that no other accessory does in exactly the same way (when done poorly, it usually communicates that the wearer is trying too hard).
The ideal bracelet can lend style to an outfit because it’s carefully chosen, and the wearer knows when to wear it. I don’t typically wear a bracelet, but my dad does—and he absolutely nails it. He owns a couple, though one is far and away my favorite; it’s a heavy, solid sterling silver piece with decorative Navajo carvings made by Darin Bill. My dad has loved New Mexico since he was a boy, and Navajo blankets, art, and jewelry have been mainstays for decades in my family. I’d borrow it from time to time, but my wrists are much smaller than his.
Years ago I got a fairly inexpensive belt in snuff suede from Meermin and it changed my life. It sounds like a hyperbole, but seriously, suede as a belt material was a revelation to me. I wear that belt 90% of the time to this day. It looks particularly great with white pants and denim, but I’ll wear it with wool trousers as well. It doesn’t have to be suede, but a belt in a subtly different texture can bring your outfit together in a way you might not immediately think of. Something like alligator leather can improve a dressier fit, while canvas looks great with madras in the summer.
Besides just the belt material itself, you can also look for a cool buckle. For instance, I’ve always liked machined flat plaque buckles on a narrow dress belt—they feel very mid-century, and they make me think of my grandpa. I have no meaningful memories of him because he died when I was young, but I know, from what my dad has told me, that he was a very skilled craftsman. He had a fine attention to detail as well as a penchant for design, which he put to use making all kinds of things, usually with a strong mid-century aesthetic. A narrow belt with a machined buckle feels like something he’d have worn—and possibly even made himself.
This is a super basic pick, but it’s an impeccable choice that really does improve a navy or gray suit. As pocket squares have gone mainstream, many men have been led astray into thinking the more gaudy, loud, bright and matchy, the better. In response, stylish men and forum members have sworn off squares all together. But even those most grieved by the over-saturation of pocket square culture still wear the white TV fold. It’s because it’s a stylish detail that’s not ostentatious. Mine is from J.Crew; it was a gift, and it is monogrammed.
If you’re looking at ways to fold your pocket square perfectly, check out Peter’s guide to folding a pocket square.
Not a visible accessory most of the time, but when it is, it ups your class factor by a zillion. The things most men carry around to house their cards and cash are abysmal, awful, ugly, and thick. Don’t be like that. When you pull your wallet out of your breast pocket, a slim card case (or I suppose, a breast pocket wallet if you use bills regularly) makes for a nice indication of your appreciation for elegance—even if it’s not seen by most. It is slim enough that it doesn’t show if your jacket is more fitted in the chest. And even if you don’t have a jacket on it won’t make too big a bulge in your front pants pocket.