For much of the history of men’s fashion, designers have tried to elevate the average man into the gentleman’s realm. Instead of grimy coveralls and work boots, men were encouraged to don suits with multiple pieces, ties, hats, and well-shined shoes, demonstrating their care and attention to physical appearance and social status. But what about the average working man?
Yet, in recent years, the world of men’s fashion has all but taken an about-face. Now, comfort and functionality are key elements of men’s fashion — and the working man’s look is back in. If you want to capture the blue-collar worker’s fashionable essence, here’s how to do it successfully.
Starting With a Firm Foundation
Though it might seem that caring about shoes is a quintessentially feminine endeavor, the truth is that no outfit is complete without the right footwear. You might get every other element of working man style pitch-perfect, but if your shoes are loafers, boaters, or flip-flops, you aren’t nailing the look. Instead, you need a foundation that works just as hard as your other clothing — not just in service to your fashion statement but also in providing you with strong, durable, and ultimately functional wear.
Most often, blue-collar workers don some variation of men’s steel toe work boots, which are tough enough to withstand work sites’ harsh environments. Surprisingly, many work boots today remain undeniably stylish, with excellent craftsmanship that keep the boots in good shape for years of hard wear. You should avoid the temptation to buy work boots with too many bells and whistles, like intricate embroidery or embossing; the simplest, sturdiest boots you can find will suit your needs.
Not All Jeans Are Work Jeans
Denim jeans were invented in the 19th century explicitly as a trouser for hard labor in mines, factories and cattle farms across America. Though most everyone owns at least one pair of jeans nowadays, not all jeans are suitable for the working man’s look.
First and foremost, work jeans must be made of durable denim — which isn’t the same as denim used in fashion jeans. The jean’s material should be thick and sturdy, which provides a protective layer, and it should be free from signs of wear like patches or holes. Most often, work jeans come in a dark blue wash, which is a signal that the denim hasn’t been aged or treated in any way to create weaknesses.
Next, you need to pay attention to the fit of your jeans. Your jeans should be snug at the hips without a belt, so you shouldn’t ever worry about your pants falling down. In the leg, your jeans should hit the sweet spot between loose and tight; ultimately, you want to feel free to move in them without any kind of restriction or interference from the fabric.
If you want more variation in your working wardrobe than dark-wash denim jeans, you have two other options for pants: khaki cotton chinos and wool flannel trousers. Neither of these options is terribly functional as work pants, but they are slightly dressier options for a working man’s day out. As with jeans, they should fit snugly, which means you might want to get them tailored for the perfect silhouette.
The Nuance of the Work Shirt
Though there are plenty of casual shirts that might feel appropriate for household chores — like ratty T-shirts — real working men know that lightweight, synthetic materials won’t last on the job. As with your shoes and your pants, you need heavy-duty, natural materials that keep you protected and relatively clean through a day of labor.
The right work shirt is made from cotton or denim. It always has long sleeves and a collar, buttons up, and offers a couple of pockets at the chest where you can keep important items within easy reach. Though khaki and chambray blue are the most typical work shirt colors in the field, you can find plenty of flashier options nowadays in masculine colors and patterns like plaids, checks, and herringbone. If you are wearing your working man look for style only, you might consider layering your work shirt over a T-shirt to create more movement, texture, and comfort.
Though real blue-collar workers are unlikely to think of certain tools like hats, gloves, and glasses as adornments, you can dress up your working man look with such accessories. However, you should avoid creating too much flash; after all, a working man is above all modest, simple, and strong.
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