According to the internet, the average tax refund (in the state of California), is $2,900.
Let’s assume that you will require two thousand dollars for boring things like student loans, your credit card bill, and cat food.
That leaves you $900 to Tax-Refundify your Style. What should you do with it?
1. Get a pair of Allen Edmonds McTavish shoes.
Allen Edmonds is a company from Wisconsin. Great things come from Wisconsin.
Sprechers beer is from Wisconsin.
Harley Davidson is from Wisconsin.
The University of Wisconsin is from Wisconsin.
I am from Wisconsin.
If that’s not enough to convince you: with Allen Edmonds, you’re getting a handmade, “legacy-quality” shoe (years from now, you will still have them while being nostalgic for the time when you got them). On the other hand, you’re not going to pay $600 dollars for them.
Beyond that, though Allen Edmonds had become something of an old-man’s shoe (bought and worn by U.S. WWII servicemen who wore them during the Big One, and kept them on for years after), recently, the company renewed its image with a number of models that are shockingly stylish.
If this pair of Neumok doesn’t bring tears of joy to your eyes, then picture how the person who made it lived in Wisconsin and received a great wage and safe working conditions; picture him finishing the final stitch in the fully repairable sole and heading off to quaff a Sprecher Black Bavarian with his unionized brethren.
You’ll want a pair, too.
Allen Edmonds has frequent clearance sales, bringing the cost down nearly to the level of a mass-produced Chinese-made shoe. But because they’re made so well, eBay is full of Allen Edmonds shoes that outlived their owners whims, despite being in excellent condition, and they can be picked up for a C-note and change.
If you really want to be a #Styledork and abuse the privileges of the internet, order a pair from Zappos, ensure you like the fit and style, and buy the same pair on eBay for somewhere around 100 bucks.
(A few years from now, consider buying a new pair. The entire state of Wisconsin will thank you for it.)
2. Invest in a proper hair cut
Some years ago, in a grad-school class on Post-Modernsim and Pedagogy (don’t ask), we watched and read about Docker’s ad campaign: “Nice Pants.”
The idea here is that men want pants that don’t make their hinders look like sacks of potatoes.
The problem is that men also don’t want to talk about pants.
They don’t want to talk about fit or cut or style or stitching or pockets or whatever, and you know why.
They want the procuring of said pants to be as easy and casual – just like Docker’s pseudo-compliment-slogan: “nice pants.”
The problem is that your pants can make you look like an Alpha (like the guys in this Alpha Khakis ad), or like a middle school kid whose body hasn’t quite sorted things out, yet.
So, the solution is to buy a pair of pants that are masculine and simple and classic and clean and we shouldn’t talk about that any more.
Which brings me to the subject of haircuts.
Men feel the exact same way about haircuts as they do about pants.
Men need a good hair cut.
Men are often very hesitant to spend too much time looking for one.
But even more than your butt, which will never be seen in any photos for any online dating sites, your head is pretty much the main-attraction. So it needs to look good.
A good haircut will make people at work, who look at you every single day, go: “Hey! Lookin’ good!”
You will not get that haircut at Supercuts, Cheapcuts, Cut-n-go, or Paynothingforyourcut. You will need to spend about $70.00 for your amazing cut.
Unless you have friend who swears by his $70.00 stylist, use Yelp. Do not worry about the price. Pick a place or a stylist that is highly rated.
Walk in, take the first stylist who’s available, and use this script:
“I’m looking for something different. I just got a new job / new girlfriend / I’m flying to L.A. to pitch a script / I’m going on a book tour [pick ONE of these. NOT all of them] and I am ready for a new look.
Then, whatever the stylist asks you for your preferences, say, “Go for it, I trust you.”
When s/he is done, you may think, “Great. My head is ruined.”
But when you get to work the next day, you will need three hands to count the “Hey! Lookin’ good!”s you will hear.
If not, hair grows back, so wait 3 months and repeat the process.
One last suggestion: a good haircutter is an artist. While many advocate for telling the stylist exactly what you want, the reason I am writing this blog and you are reading it is that I spent a really long time before I even knew what I wanted, and perhaps you’re somewhere in that process.
Let the artist do his/her work.
3. Get a suit, for God’s sake.
When I wear a suit to work, quite often I will get a friendly compliment, followed by the question: what’s the occasion?
The occasion, my friends, is that you are not sitting around the house in sweat-pants, playing Pac-man and eating Pringles.
You are a man, going off to work, to kick ass. Even if your job is not kick-ass, per se.
And that is why you are wearing a suit.
The thing you have in your closet, incidentally, which you bought from Men’s Wearhouse seven years ago is not actually a suit. It’s a costume for weddings.
Here is my definition of a suit:
- It must fit you impeccably.
The three main areas where men’s suits fail their owners are:
Symptom A: The pants pool up around the ankles.
Cause A: The pants are too long
Symptom B: A thin band of shirt cuff doesn’t peek out of the sleeves.
Cause B: The sleeves are too long.
Symptom C: You look like you just returned from a business trip to the 90s.
Cause C: The lapels are too wide.
Symptom D: You don’t look slim and dashing.
Cause D: Your jacket is too long.
Symptom E: You look like you just walked out of Men’s Wearhouse
Cause E: You just walked out of Men’s Wearhouse.
The Cure: Get a proper suit and have it tailored properly.
You are going to embark on an exciting adventure called, “Getting measured by someone with a tape measure and trying on a lot of suits.”
The tape-measure-person is available at any department store or tailor. It’s free.
As for trying on the suits, this is where gilt.com and myhabit.com come in.
You are going to skip over Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and DKNY. For now, skip Brooks Brothers (unless you know what you’re doing, you’ll look like a banker) and Banana Republic / J. Crew (you already know about them, and you’re trying something new).
You will try suits by Theory, Ben Sherman, Hugo Boss, ETRO, Paul Smith, and maybe even by Jack Spade, Luca Roda, and GANT Rugger.
You are going to order suits made by labels you’ve never heard of and return all of them until you find one you love.
They will be marked $300-600.
They will not be black. They will be grey or plaid. Yes, plaid.
You may find that you are a size smaller than you expected. Your proper size might even contain an S next to the number – for “short.”
[Wait, hear me out. This doesn’t mean YOU are short, it means you want the suit to look amazing. Suits, now, are slimmer and shorter than when you were a best man in whats-his-name’s wedding.]
Once you find it, have it altered by a respected tailor (again, Yelp). If it’s done right, you will see a teeny bit of sock, and your shirt-cuffs will peek past the sleeves; you will look amazing.
Do NOT wear this amazing, new shirt with crappy, old dress shoes or with sneakers, thinking that’s what the cool kids are doing. Wear it with your new Allen Edmonds.
Wear it to work once a week.
When someone asks what’s the occasion, you know what to say.
4. Buy a thin, non-silk tie
All those ties you have are probably too thick and too shiny.
Thick ties are from a life-cycle ago, and should be donated to the Salvation Army, along with your NES and the barbells you bought at a rummage sale while in college.
Shiny ties, meanwhile, are often plucked from the pile-o-ties at Mens Wearhouse, Brooks Brothers, and Kohls. And the only difference between them, in my opinion, is the price.
It’s time to move on to cotton and woven ties.
These ties say, “I am a boss. But I am not the boss from Office Space.“
Get your woven tie at the Tie Bar.com. It will cost less then the entree at a decent restaurant, and if you wear it with your sharp, new suit, you will look like you work for a hip design firm. Stay away from TieBar.com’s cotton and wool ties, which look, in my opinion, cheap.
Stay also away from Ben Sherman and Penguin ties. Some of them are great (I own a few nice ones), but most are skinny versions of the shiny “pile-o-ties” tie.
Get your cotton tie from bonobos.com, gilt.com or myhabit.com. Find a design that’s fresh and light: for example, this chambray tie and this gingham tie will go with the new suit or with jeans and a white oxford shirt. Actually, it will go with anything. So buy it and wear it a lot.
Check out cotton and wool ties also from Alexander Olch and Pierrepoint Hicks.
5. Get one gingham shirt and one chambray shirt
The vertical stripes with big barrel cuffs looked great 10 years ago.
Now, it’s patterns and materials with a bit of “Americana”: enter the chambray shirt and the gingham shirt.
Both look amazing with your new suit and dress shoes, and both look amazing with jeans and a corduroy jacket.
Both are masculine and yet refined, a little bit rugged, and a little bit classy. Perfect.
You know how you have shirts in your closet which, when you need to look good, you go to them? You can count on them? You look great in them?
Why is that?
Well, it’s not because of the pattern. (A white oxford shirt is my go-to.)
It’s because your “knock-em-dead” shirt probably fits better than your other shirts.
Buy your gingham and chambray shirts wherever, but be prepared to have them tailored (to the tune of 20-40 dollars each).
Many men don’t realize that when clothes are too big, it makes them look less put together.
Slimmer is nearly always more flattering.
Unless you’re a big dude, or you find a “slim cut” (which you should look for), you may need to have the sleeves shortened and the back brought in so you will cut a fine silhouette.
You would be amazed at what a proper fitting shirt does for you, and how many of the shirts in your closet do not do that.
One bonus of this tax-refund Stylification is that now you have a tailor who can make even your blousy, baggy shirts look great. Tax bonus!
* – * – *
Those are my top-five stylish ways to spend your tax refund. If you had a hundred bucks left over, what would you do with it?