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ALPHA MALE: Dressing For the Holidays

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Before it's time to pick up the carving knife next week, make sure you've got your holiday look in place. Here's how. Photo: GANT Rugger.

It's the holidays!

What type of response does that elicit from you? Excitement? Happiness? Fear? Dread? It is ok to feel any way you want. After all, the coming months present as much stress and anxiety such as, "What the

hell do I get her?!" as they do peace and joy like when your family is all together. Well, that may create stress and anxiety too, but I digress. Here we are, at the holidays and, regardless of your mood, if you are reading this, you want to at least look the part of festive host or cheery guest. I am going to delve into my archives for this column a bit because, after all, this discussion—like your wardrobe—should be fairly timeles. Let us reflect on some of the lessons we have learned and take a look at what you can bring to the table besides the stuffing this holiday season.

Start with a "blank slate"

There is a reason white Oxford cotton shirts sell better than any other shirt. They are a reliable staple, a blank canvas on which to paint the rest of a man's wardrobe. Every guy I know has at least 2 usually. Again, the guesswork has been limited. So next, find a fit that works for you because you know you will be buying a white Oxford shirt. Again, trial and error. In my store, WHARF, I carry an in-house line of staple shirts including a white Oxford. It has a great cut, uses beautiful fabrics and looks great. But it does not fit every guy. Some guys come in and find another brand's fit like GANT Rugger or life/after/denim that is better for them. Find one that fits, mix in a fresh detail like an English spread collar and build off of it with layers this holiday.

Pile on your plate and your layers

Cotton and merino wool blend sweaters, Tweed blazers and denim should already see more wear once again so do not be afraid of those seasonal pieces because they help make your look appropriate as well as help show off your own personal style. 

When you start to layer, especially in this cold weather, that does not mean bulk has to come along for the ride. Try sizing down in shirts, sweaters and blazers. You will often be surprised by the slight difference, but large effect on your look. This can be a challenge, but once you learn your body type, you will be surprised how sizing down often pays off big. The pop of a nice colorful merino sweater under a well-fitted blazer at your office party says you pay attention without being stuffy or feeling uncomfortable. And if it gets warm as the crowd size increases, you can ditch the blazer without looking like the guy in the corner in just a pillowy shirt trying to cool off.

Cozy and casual

Holidays can be wonderfully casual affairs at home, so do not rule out a nice, clean pair of denim jeans in lieu of wool trousers or heavier cotton chinos. A darker pair of jeans can be appropriate around the fire or cutting the turkey if you are not dressing for the office holiday party. I recommend a raw, dry, indigo-dyed pair of denim. This is the truest form of jeans, never worn, stiff at first, but will develop a buttery soft feel over time as you break them in and the fabric conforms to your body type. Stick to a straight or slightly tapered leg, and a lower or mid "rise" in the top block (the top part of the jeans where your waist and buttocks fit). This tends to give you the best fit and look for your body type.

Punch it up with accessories

Are you going with a tie this holiday? Heritage looks have heavily influenced the weights of fabric and texture of ties, and seasonality plays a bigger role in selection. Think of those plaid flannel shirts made for a New England winter. They are the perfect piece to draw inspiration from for your neckwear. Many varieties of heavy weight ties exist today that compliment the textures of the season. Your closet no longer needs to be filled with just silk basics from a department store. Compliment the weight and seasonality of your tie to your outfit. The heavier the fabric of your clothes, the heavier the tie.

Scarves, pocket squares, socks and hats should all add a little color and texture to your outfits. Remember, when you bundle up in layers or outerwear during the colder holiday months, you will only see a hint of these accessories peaking out from a jacket or boot. It should be just enough to add a little personal style without throwing caution to the wind and overwhelming your ensemble.


Above all, try to remember this is supposed to be a time of year filled with cheer and good will. There will be stress and anxiety, but take a few moments to enjoy time well spent with associates, friends and family. Holidays at home, company parties or festive dinners all offer you a variety of opportunities to focus on fun dressing while you are piling on the turkey dressing. And, at least for now, any further discussion about the fit of your clothes can take a vacation until after the holidays- and a second helping of dessert.

Robert Babigian is owner of WHARF Clothing & Wares, a menswear retail boutique located at 212 Westminster Street in Providence, RI. A native Rhode Islander, Rob started WHARF after 2 decades in marketing and sales to fulfill his desire to combine his loves of consumer branding, small business and style that would fulfill a niche for desirable men's clothing in the Providence market. The apparel and accessories found at WHARF reflect Rob's own personal aesthetic—a combination of traditional New England staples mixed with modern fits, construction and fabrics blended together with a touch of European style. For more tips or to shop the store, stop in and see Rob and his staff or reach them online at shopwharf.com.


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