If you want to be taken seriously in the real world, you need to ditch those torn jeans and t-shirts and opt for some higher-end threads.

You don’t have to look like a banker to be treated as an adult, however. Adding a dash of color to your wardrobe can help you maintain a youthful style fit for a mature man.

We’re going to attack different sections of your closet in future articles, but for now let’s stick with the crux of a “big-boy” look – the suit.

Never Wear It “Off the Rack”

Most men believe they can pull a suit off the rack and buy it as long as the arms are long enough. Don’t be that guy. A suit purchased “as-is” will look boxy and bulky, giving you a stout, “kid playing dress-up in his dad’s closet” appearance.

The key to a great suit, regardless of color or style, is tailoring – and you don’t have to drop $1000+ on custom work-wear to get a tailored look.

Simple things, like taking the sleeves up or the waist in can make you appear like you were born in that suit. And most alterations don’t cost more than $10-$15 a piece. Trust me, that Polo Ralph Lauren you bought on sale at Macy’s can look (and feel) like a hand-crafted work of art with a few nips and tucks.

A few tips:

  • A cinched waist will give you a tapered look and a better silouhette.

  • Don’t be afraid to show some cuff (or socks). People should be able to see roughly 1/4 – 1/2-inch of your shirt cuffs peeking out your sleeves. The cuffs of your pants should fall just at the top of the shoe for a nice medium break.

  • The jacket’s shoulders should not make you look boxy – you want a clean, natural line all the way down the length of your arms.

So Many Colors

Never think gray and black are your only options. You’ve got blue, brown, plaid, white, off-white – a rainbow of options. Whether you can pull some of those colors off is another story, but the fact remains: you are not beholden to one or two colors.

And even if you do choose a reliable color like gray, it’s what you do with it that counts. Pair it with a bright shirt and bright socks, or go for the Don Draper look with a pure white shirt and skinny tie (as long as the lapels match – more on that later).

Any plain suit can be spruced up with the right color and pattern matching, just make sure you don’t clash. Also, a pocket square that complements your tie (without matching entirely) not only adds a flair of style and class to your outfit, but also draws attention away from your gut and back to your chest.

Yes, gents, you want the ladies looking at your chests.

A few tips:

  • Rock some funky socks to break up an otherwise monotonous color palette from the waist down.

  • Black isn’t the only acceptable shoe color available. Brown kicks go great with gray and blue suits.

  • Tiny shirt patterns (like small checkered plaids or thin stripes) should be paired with bolder, wider patterened ties and vice versa.

  • Invest in some pocket squares – they’re a cheap way to make you look like a million bucks.

It’s All in the Details

Looking good is about noticing the little things. For example, when it comes to ties and jackets, your lapels should coincide with the width of your ties. A skinny tie should be worn with a thinner lapel, a wider tie with a wider lapel, et al. Skinny ties with wide lapels look awkward and unproportional.
The same philosophy goes for knots and collars. A wider-spread color looks great with a fatter tie knot – not so much with a dinky small one. A small knot would get lost and accentuate the larger size of the collar. A fat tie knot with a tighter collar makes the collar look too small. Remember: it’s all about proportions.

If you want a truly classic, timeless look, go for a three-piece. The addition of the vest gives you the flexibility to walk around without a jacket, yet still look complete. Want to change things up? Ditch the vest entirely – it’s like a whole new suit!

Other ways to complement your look:

  • Shine your shoes. Keep ’em bright, keep ’em clean. If you can’t do it yourself, learn how or find a place that will do it for you. Most major metropolitan areas are chock-full of cheap shine places where you can get your shoes polished and read the paper.

  • Pick up a cheap tie bar. The tie bar will both keep your neckwear from flopping around during the day and it adds a dash of class to the whole ensemble.

  • Buy a great watch. People will judge you by what you wear on your wrist (especially if you normally don’t wear anything there), so invest in a solid, attractive timepiece to complement your look.

  • French cuffs are in – that is, cuffs requiring cuff links. While sometimes more expensive than their button cuff counterparts, they add “one more thing” to your arsenal of elegance and, when paired with a pair of stylish links, you really can’t go wrong.

For some excellent suit styles at various price points, check out:

  • Indochino Ultimate Gray Suit: (Indochino.com – $369). This is possibly the best gray suit around for the price and can be ordered completely customized. Versatile and stunning, don’t be surprised if you’re cast in the upcoming season of Mad Men just for wearing it.

  • Jones New York Navy Wool Suit: (Macy’s – $525 (usually on sale for much less, though)). Every guy should have at least one navy suit in his closet, so why not start with something like this?

  • Brooks Brothers Madison 1818 Two-Button Suit: (Brooks Brothers – $898). Solid build, great lines and surprisingly affordable.

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