How to Build Your Wardrobe: Men's Hats, Watches, and Other Accessories

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In How to Build Your Wardrobe Part I we discussed why a man’s clothing is important, broke men up into groups, and listed the clothing they need. In How to Build Your Wardrobe Part II we gave you 5 general wardrobe building guidelines and expanded on the clothing checklists. Now in How to Build your Wardrobe Part III, we’ll discuss hats, watches, and other accessories that add to a man’s presentation.

Four Simple Guidelines When Choosing Accessories

  1. Accessories add flavor to your clothing, but even great accessories cannot help a poor foundation – If you haven’t read Building a Wardrobe Parts I and II, please do so. I do not want you to form the impression that accessories stand alone – they do not. Think of them like a spice; they can only bring out the best in a dish that starts with quality ingredients.
  2. Quality is good, meaning is great, finding an heirloom that embodies both is perfect – Some accessories are special in that they have lived a life before you, and within them is a sense of history and quality impossible to find in something new. It’s a very lucky man who finds himself with his grandfather’s watch worn through World War II or a hat that was witness to Martin Luther King Jr. marching at Selma. Wearing a piece of history is special; it can give the wearer the strength to go out and create a bit of history himself.
  3. Use the accessory you purchase, and use it often – The writer Alan Flusser says it best in that the most expensive items a man owns are the ones he never uses. Ensure that the accessories you purchase for your wardrobe are ones that will stand the test of time and that you’ll find occasion to use. A handsome tie clip is wasted on the man who never wears a tie.
  4. Function first, style second….but not distant second – Most timeless men’s accessories serve a purpose – pay attention to performance first. If you have to pay a little extra for style, weigh your options and then take the plunge. You want something that not only works, but looks great doing its job.

A Man’s Accessories Overview

A Man and Hats

Building the Courage to Start Wearing a Hat – I won’t say that every man should have a hat in his wardrobe; however, I do think every man should strongly consider one, especially if it can practically serve him. Do you live in rainy Seattle? Consider a hat that will compliment your raincoat. Spending hours outside in the hot Tucson sun? Look for a lightweight and breathable hat that will shave 20 degrees off your day. Remember function first, style second……but don’t forget about style, as you want a hat that you love to wear.

Three reasons to consider wearing a hat –

  1. Hats are useful – The right hat protects a man from the elements and enhances the way he interacts with the world. They can keep the rain off your head, protect your chrome dome from the sun’s rays, and save a bad (or no) hair day. And amongst clothing and accessories, they are unique in their ability to communicate and convey respect for others. Tipping your hat to a lady or doffing it at a graveside service adds dignity to your comportment.
  2. A hat instantly sets you apart – Wearing a hat such as a fedora is rare these days, especially when worn properly and with confidence. Although I don’t advocate setting yourself apart by simply being “the hat guy,” if used correctly it can be a distinguishing feature that helps cement your place in a casual acquaintance’s memory bank. In the words of the great Las Vegas designer Nudie Cohen “Better to be looked over than overlooked.”
  3. Hats increase your perceived height – Hats create the illusion of added height; in one study men who wore hats were on average granted an extra two and one half inches by observers asked to guess their height. Why is this important? Because height commands respect and authority in a first encounter. Just ask any tall man who is used to being the first person people see when he enters a crowded room or on the other extreme a short man who can often feel overlooked.

More information about hat types, where to buy, and men to contact for detailed discussions:

Two AOM classics – Bringing Back the Hat and The Perfect Hat for Your Face

Two great posts by Chicago style blogger Salvador Ortega – Style Upgrade: Fedora and Penman Hats

Our old friend the Houndstooth Kid weighs in – The Fedora at a Glance and What About Hats

Finally, two great forum/lounge sites to discuss the intricacies of wearing hats with other men:

The Fedora Chronicles and The Fedora Lounge

Basic Hat Etiquette – A hat can be worn outdoors at athletic events, while riding public transportation and while in the lobbies and elevators of public buildings. Take the hat off when you enter a home, during a meal, at work (assuming you are indoors), when indoors and conversation is expected, and when you wish to show reverence (for example when meeting a religious leader or the playing of a national anthem). The key point to remember is that it covers part of the head and this can make you seem “aloof” and “distant;” understanding this, you can judge the situation and make the decision to wear the hat or take it off anywhere.

Male Jewelry – Watches, Rings, Cufflinks, and Bracelets

I’ll address each of these separately –

Timepieces: A Man’s Watch – It has been argued that with all the electronic gadgets we surround ourselves with, the man’s watch as an accessory is becoming antiquated. I’m not going to take a stance either way, but as of 2010 a timepiece worn on the wrist is still a classic accessory. If a man enjoys wearing a watch, he should have at least two in his wardrobe – one for sport and one for more formal occasions. The general rule is the more simple the watch, the more versatile and formal it is. Digital watches with plastic bands are for sport while large timepieces with multiple moving hands, gauges and metal bands are for the office. The most formal watches are simple timepieces with a single set of hands and leather band. If you’re attending a black tie event, forgo the watch altogether; the logic here is that a gentleman does not worry about time at galas such as these.

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