For as long as anyone can remember, people (well, mostly just guys) have argued about what rite of passage turns a young man into an adult. Your first real job? Your first love? Your first heartbreak?
So what’s the answer? Heck if I know. But I can tell you how to look the part.
Most men have at least a vague inkling that you need to own basics like a suit, a tie, and belt that matches your shoes. (If you don’t, email me. We’ll talk.) But today I’m going to touch on the accessories that are often overlooked. It’s far from an exhaustive list, but these four show that you pay attention to the details in life. These are the things that you should splurge on, because they separate the men from the boys.
1. A real pair of sunglasses
Most guys have this down, but I see slip-ups frequently enough that it warrants inclusion on this list. If you bought your shades from a 7-Eleven or got them for free at a music festival, they don’t belong on your head. Ditto for anything that looks like you could use them on a gun range or a ski slope. You need a pair of real, adult sunglasses — the kind that cost $150 and last forever.
I used to break at least one set of shades a year, until I finally invested in a pair of Ray-Bans. I’ve never looked back. So stop shopping for shades at the mall and buy something that will last. Personally, I’m a firm believer that every man should own a pair of classic black Wayfarers, but that’s just my preference. Go with what works for you.
Pro Tip: If you own a car, it’s a very genteel move for you to keep a spare pair of sunglasses to lend to passengers, in case they forget their shades.
2. A pair of cufflinks — and a shirt to wear them with
Okay, so you bought a suit and you’re actually planning on wearing it to something other than a wedding or a funeral. Good for you. So why are you wearing a dress shirt that looks like you stole it off a server at The Olive Garden?
While you might not want to rock them every day, wearing a shirt with French cuffs and cufflinks signals that dressing nicely isn’t something that you reserve only for major life events. Steer clear of the overly thematic ones (Tiny martini glasses? Dice? Nope!) and opt for something simple in gold, silver, or onyx, or go minimalist and try a silk-knot cufflink. You can buy them new or vintage — or you can get your hipster on and find a place that makes artisan cufflinks. (I live in Portland, and we have several vendors who make very elegant sets out of wood because, well… it’s Portland.)
3. A good cologne
Are you planning on going to a middle school dance tonight? No? Then stop smelling like it. While body sprays may have their place (most guys probably don’t tote a bottle of CK One to the gym), the more refined moments in your life demand something extra. Stop dousing yourself in something that you found between the frozen foods and the soup aisle at your local grocery store, and find yourself a bottle of cologne. It’s not hard to do — most department stores have someone who will help you find a scent that matches your tastes — or better yet, bring your significant other with you and have them help you choose.
Also, while we’re at it, stop dousing yourself in anything, period — the only thing you should ever douse is a fire, so unless you’re engulfed in flames, a little dab will do you. Wear deodorant, apply cologne SPARINGLY to your pressure points, and you’ll be fine.
4. A dependable suitcase
At some point in your life, you will have to travel. When you do, make sure that you take a real suitcase with you. No more backpacks or duffle bags. This isn’t lacrosse practice. Find yourself a good, solid rolling suitcase in ballistic nylon (or impact-resistant plastic, if that’s your steeze) — ideally an 18” or 20” number, something compact enough to take as a carry-on. And make sure you buy from a dependable brand — like sunglasses, splurging on quality luggage is worth it. My trusty black TravelPro has held up for over 40,000 miles and more road trips and overnight getaways than I can count. Try doing that with the free duffel bag you got with your Sports Illustrated subscription.