Broke-Ass Stuart is a travel writer, TV host, poet and self-proclaimed hustler.
His whole philosophy: “What makes life interesting is not the things that you own, but the shit that you do.”
So what if you wanna do “cool shit” – and you want to do it in style – but you’re on a tight budget? You’re living from burrito to burrito?
Answer: the same way you keep your daily burrito interesting for weeks on end (at least until your tax refund comes in)…
Same old burrito + a range of great condiments = a super-burrito buffet.
In other words, you accessorize.
A Black-Tie Affair
Let’s start with a classic: the grey cardigan. Alone, it’s about as dull as a tortilla sans everything.
Along comes master accessory #1: the black, knit tie. This is the sour cream and salsa of the accessory world. Goes with everything, makes everything pop. Pair that black tie with your grey cardigan for a look that’s neither preppy, nor punk, nor rocker, nor geezer, nor varsity, and yet, it’s all four. Four outfits for the price of almost nothing.
If you’re nearly broke, get one from The Tie Bar for 25 bucks, and if you’re Broke-Ass, sacrifice your burrito-budget for one night and bag yourself a black tie on eBay: literally, the same cost.
By the way, since you kept it subtle with the black and white and grey, go nuts with your watch. Find one with a big face and boss attitude.
Ron Burgundy Returns
Our next accessory is not an accessory at all: it’s color. Wierd. But true. Men’s clothing tends to fall into the same boxes, season after season. Lapels grow and shrink, but the form is the same. Color, however, is one area where broke-ass fashionistos can flex their funk, and that’s where burgundy enters the story.
About five years ago, every department story was selling burgundy (and blue and black) blazers. And though saturation lead to their fall from favor, trust me – no one remembers this. More burgundy for you. (And if anyone remembers and points it out, well, here are some resources for dealing with that. I’ve got yer back.)
It’s been long enough that you can both a) find one for a song, and b) pair it with a bold, colored watch, for maximum effect.
Keep the shirt toned down, and find a colorful watch on eBay for the cost of a parking ticket (What? You don’t have a car? Great, you don’t have a parking ticket! So splurge!)
If you keep the tie a neutral color (have fun with the pattern, though), you can even get away with a lapel flower.
WHOA. LAPEL FLOWER?!
Yes. Lock the doors. Eat the keys.
An accessory boss isn’t afraid to show appreciation for nature. With a flower. Made out of some synthetic material.
Look, this doesn’t need to get complicated. Grandpa wore a flower in his lapel every day. Oscar Wilde never went out without a boutonniere.
Surely, a little pop of color won’t kill you.
A few tips, however:
1. On the “flair-up scale,” a burgundy jacket is already +1 or +2, depending on what city you live in. A used, orange NOOKA watch will bump you up to “Daring/Edgy” (+3). So if you’re gonna rock a flower lapel, keep the color subtle, and be sure you’re comfy being a little costumey.
2. Find a flower-lapel on Etsy, and keep your hard-earned cash in the artisanal lapel-flower-making community.
3. Wear this ensemble anywhere folks are being fancy, but where reverence is not required: the reception, not the wedding. Traffic court, not Superior Court. “The Kinda Late Show with Broke-Ass Stuart,” not Phil Donahue.
Herringbone, according to legend, earned its moniker because when it was invented, old men favored the pattern, and also, they love to eat herring. Today, herringbone provides rich turf for the accessory-maven to roam. Find a herringbone blazer at your local resale shop – but if it doesn’t fit beautifully, don’t buy it. Blazers are a costly to tailor. Be choosy and hunt until you’re like, “Back off. It’s mine.”
Then, accessorize the shit out of it.
Up above, the burgundy-on-fire look popped because of the contrasting colors. Here, the pop comes from a range of browns, all creating an optical illusion: Stuart appears to be timelessly suspended in style between 60 years ago and on-point to the microsecond.
Notice also the flower lapel and the tie clip. The stone is tiger’s eye, and what’s great about a tie-clip with tiger’s eye is that it’s got a ton of flash, but it’s so classic, it sits back in its own old-school cadillac of awesomeness. And it’s cheap.
Find a vintage clip for the cost of a quality hair-cut and a jar of herring.
It’s no secret that I love bow ties. They blend friendly approachability with eclectic attitude. But you can’t just slap on a silk bow tie with a suit and think you’re a baller in the accessory game.
To take yourself seriously enough to accessorize, and not so seriously you ask people to remove their shoes before they enter your presence, rock a bow tie made of cotton, wool, or even denim. This one is made of salvaged Joe’s Jeans, and it would play as beautifully with a chambray shirt or blazer as it does with this pseudo-seersucker.
The pipe, however, is only for trained professionals. Do not try this at home.
Notice, by the way, the asymmetry of the tie? Asymmetry (and it’s big, Italian cousin, Sprezzatura, is exactly what keeps accessories from looking too fussy.
Accessory bosses don’t often drink bourbon, but when they do, they prefer to shlug straight from the bottle.
A Secret From the Horse’s Mouth
If you’re new to the accessories game, here’s a little secret: for a new look on the cheap, ditch the tie and dig a bandana out of your costume bin. Unbutton your top button, and jam that red hanky in the pocket.
Will that baller move cost you much? Nay.
One outfit with a million variations
A few pieces of advice for accessory-hunters:
- Hit vintage or antique stores for accessories sprinkled with that special spice called “Old n’ Cool.”
- Lurk around eBay and ETSY for stuff that’s used, cheap, and unique.
- Dig around your Uncle Russ’ jewelry-box for stuff he doesn’t wear, anyway. Offer to take it off his hands.
- Mix and mash-up textures, colors and materials.
You say you’ve spent your burrito-budget on accessories? No problem. Get gussied up in your best gear and take your friends out for a burrito dinner… minus the burritos.
After all, chips and salsa are free.