Whether you’re getting ready for your first internship, a part-time job, or even your first professional job out of school, having a ready to wear professional wardrobe is an essential part of stepping into adulthood. However, if you’re starting from scratch, you can make a few big mistakes that will cost you a lot more money than you’re able to afford. Here’s a guide to the best way to stretch your dollar and set yourself up for success when it comes to workplace attire, with a starting budget of just $300! These clothes are designed to be mixed and matched in order to create many outfits from a few basic staples. It’ll get you to your first paycheck in style, at which point you can easily mix in more pieces to further expand your sartorial options.
When it comes to menswear, the most important part of what you’re wearing will always be your shoes. They are the first and last items that people notice, and can make an inexpensive outfit look like a million bucks! For this reason, we’ll be investing the most of our budget in two pairs:
Black: Claiborne Jerome Men’s Oxfords – $49.99
A pair of black dress shoes is a must-have for any man’s wardrobe. They are some of the most versatile shoes you can own, easily taking you from job interviews to weddings, and everywhere else in between. I’ve chosen a relatively plain cap toe design in order to provide the maximum amount of functionality. While these are not shoes that you’ll want to keep wearing in five years, they are sturdy and fashionable, while remaining within our budget. A moderate chisel-toe design is great, but avoid boxy, square-toed designs like the plague.
Brown: H&M Tawny Brown Brogues– $49.99
Another “jack of all trades” type shoe; brown brogues can be dressed up to wear to the office or dressed down with a pair of jeans for the bars. The brogue design adds a bit of flair while remaining within what would be expected for most conservative offices. The exact shade of brown is up to your own personal style, but I would recommend a medium chestnut color over a lighter color such as tan as it mixes flawlessly with just about every other color (except black!). Opt for a flat-fronted trouser over pleats to keep your youthful edge!
Louis Raphael Solid Herringbone Modern Fit in Navy and Grey – $29.97 (Two pairs for $59.94)
The first thought that pops into most guy’s heads when they think of professional clothes is a pair of khakis. Don’t give in to that temptation! For starters, khakis are notoriously difficult to dress up beyond the most informal definition of “business casual.” The light colors more easily show stains, creases, and rarely depict seriousness. Instead, let’s go with two pairs of dress pants in a navy blue and a medium grey. Once again, these colors will pair well with the shoes you’ve bought and will increase your options when you’re getting dressed in the morning.
H&M Easy-iron Shirt in White, Light Blue, and Patterns – $14.99 (Four shirts for $59.96)
By sticking to classic colors and designs with your shirts, you won’t have to spend a fortune in this area. We’re going to pick out white and blue dress shirts that look great despite their low cost. Make sure your shirts are always crisply ironed in the morning so you can present your best self to your bosses and coworkers. For the third and fourth shirts, pick simple designs (checks or stripes) that you like the best—again, sticking to muted colors will allow these shirts to fit in seamlessly with what you already own and give you more ways to mix it into your outfit rotation.
The Tie Bar Industry Red Solid, Navy Pindot, and Pattern – $19.00 (Three ties for $57)
We’re staring out here with the most powerful tie you’ll own, a solid red. This is the tie you’ll wear for the job interview, the big presentation, or any time you need to add a little more confidence to your look. The second tie is a subtle pindot in navy, perfect for pairing with your shirts without clash. Finally, choose a tie in a pattern of your choice—I’d recommend a classic rugby striped design.
J. Ferrar Reversible Belt – $22.40
A belt is one of those items that is only noticed when it’s missing. Avoid the temptation to splurge on expensive leathers when you’re just getting started; an inexpensive reversible black/brown belt will do the job just fine here. Go with a plain, simple silver buckle and you can wear it with everything you have!
Total Spent: $299.28
The first day of a new job is always stressful, but with your clothing on point you can relax and let everyone else focus on your great ideas and hard work. By dressing well in a professional setting, you’ll instantly set yourself apart from your more haphazardly-dressed peers.
Did I miss anything in my guide? What are your favorite pieces to wear to work? Let me know in the comments!