Men’s accessories can be a little daunting for some guys. It’s hard enough picking the right boots and jeans combo, let alone diving into the world of man bags, leather belts, wallets, socks and sunglasses. If you’re coming from a very casual world, and you’re beginning to build your accessories collection, this is a good place to start. We’re going to run through some of the must-have men’s accessories, and suggest a few outfits to match.
Quick note: you don’t need to buy all of these at once. Accessories work best when they’re things you really love, and have accumulated gradually over time. Things with meaning, rather than a bunch of shiny stuff that you bought because someone told you to.
What are men’s accessories?
Accessories are the cherries on your fashion sundae. They’re little add-ons that turn an average outfit into something special. Men’s accessories are also a good chance for you to express yourself and personalise your own style. Anyone can wear jeans and a t-shirt. But jeans, a t-shirt, and a vintage military watch handed down from your grandfather? That’s all you. Technically, things like jackets and shoes aren’t true ‘accessories’. They’re just layers to your outfit. Accessories are more your socks, belts, cufflinks, sunglasses, jewellery and bags.
The golden rule of accessories is: less is more. Some people build an outfit, look themselves in the mirror before going out, and then remove just one accessory. It can help turn a cluttered look into a clean one. You don’t have to be that militant about it, but these days most guys are shying away from layering up with expensive, look-at-me bling. Instead of wearing a $5000 watch, and some ridiculously expensive sunnies, a loud belt, a cravat, pearl cufflinks and a diamond bracelet, just pick one or two things that complement your outfit and focus on those. Maybe a nice vintage timepiece, or some sharp Ray Bans, or a good-quality leather messenger bag. Men’s accessories are the sizzle – not the steak.
Let’s start at the bottom: socks. Socks can say a lot about a guy, and it’s worth putting a bit more thought into it than the standard white crew 10-pack. If you’re a loafers kind of guy, some invisible socks are a good place to start. After that a few pairs of high ankle cotton socks in black, grey and navy will slot into your standard rotation. For statement socks, look for pops of bright pink, purple, green or orange, and save these for suits or smart-casual weddings.
Not every outfit needs a leather belt, but it’s definitely a good way to add some visual interest around your mid-section. The first decision you need to make is: brown or black leather. This should ideally match your shoes. So if you’re wearing black Oxfords to work, look for a black leather belt. If you need something for your weekend Chelsea boots, find a brown leather belt. These are only the two broadest categories, there are dozens of shades of brown, different designs, gold and silver buckles, different fasteners. Our favourite leather belt look is pretty simple: some navy or tan dress chinos, suede Derbies, a button-up shirt and statement blazer.
We’ve covered men’s leather bags in more detail over here, but there are some basics to remember. You need to think about function as well as form: will you be using this bag for work? For a roadtrip? Will you need a change of clothes? How many pockets are you looking for? Bags are first and foremost practical accessories – they need to fit the right amount of stuff. When it comes to bag styling, start with the function. Maybe a brown leather briefcase with your navy two-piece suit. Or an overnight leather bag with your denim jacket, chinos and Chukka boots.
We could write thousands of words on picking the perfect men’s watch. Ultimately though, it comes down to personal taste. Some guys love that chunky, full-metal aviation look, with a thousand dials and cogwheels spinning. Others prefer minimal Scandi watches, which are often nothing more than an empty white circle and some hands (if you’re lucky). The best advice we can give is follow your own style, and think about your overall outfit. If you’re going loud on the tie, or the blazer, maybe pick a more understated watch. If everything else is light and breezy (perhaps an open linen shirt, shorts and espadrilles combo) a big hunk of metal can throw off the balance.
Men’s sunglasses are the one fashion accessory everyone wears in summer. It’s up to you whether you want to splash out on a really expensive pair (some guys are just way too accident-prone) or stick to cheap and cheerful. Whatever you choose, you need to pick a frame and lens style that fits your face (and your outfit). Classic Wayfarers, aviators and clubmaster sunglasses are the three most popular styles, but they won’t suit every guy’s face. Our best advice? Try on a bunch and bring a friend who’s stylish (and brutally honest). Men’s sunglasses are an investment, and you’ll be wearing them a lot, so it pays to get them right.