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This Is What To Wear When You Don’t Know What To Wear

They say time waits for no man. And as any man who’s slept through five morning alarms and faced the near-impossible challenge of finding something appropriate to wear in 30 seconds will tell you, they’re not wrong.

But there are ways to minimise the time spent blankly staring into the wardrobe as if waiting for a Wallace & Gromit-style invention to – any second now – kick into action and clothe you.

Whether you’re against the clock, or just can’t muster up anything that looks vaguely decent in the mirror, this is our guide to styling it out when you’re stumped.

First, Chill

You’re already half an hour late, so what’s another few minutes? Whatever you do, don’t panic. Losing your chill because you’re late or think you’ve got nothing to wear definitely won’t expedite the process.

“Panicking leads to frantic and impulsive dressing, which can only result in regrettable outfit decisions,” says Allie Ohyoma, a senior stylist at online men’s personal shopping service The Chapar. So less wigging out, more figuring out what you’re going to wear.

Check Your Calendar

Just like a suit and tie jars with a few jars down the local, so does shorts and a T-shirt in a corporate environment. The lesson? Use the day ahead to inform your outfit decisions.

“The most important things to consider when dressing for the day are where you’re going, what you’re doing and how long you’ll be doing it for,” says Ohyoma. Pick the right tools for the job, in other words.

Consult The Weather App

It’s not just about meeting dress codes – your decision also needs to take Mother Nature into account. A quick glance at a weather app could be the difference between arriving in style and arriving sodden.

If all you see on your screen is rain clouds, put the suede away and pack a mac instead.

Basics Are Best

When you’re up against the clock, resist the urge to reinvent the wheel. Concentrate on how to look good/not like a dick using the bare necessities rather than experimenting with new combinations.

“Don’t overcomplicate things if you’re unsure what to wear,” says stylist Karen Mason, whose work has appeared in the likes of The Sunday TimesJocks & Nerds and The Independent. “Keep it simple with classic styles in a neutral colour palette.”

That fire engine red boiler suit? Maybe not today, mate. Instead, fall back on the old reliables, those fail-safe pieces that form the backbone of a wardrobe. “Classic items like a white Oxford shirt, a pair of jeans suitable for evenings out and smart trainers or brogues never go out of style,” says Ohyoma. “Build a foundation to your wardrobe with classic, unfussy and versatile pieces like these, and you can only ever go right.”

Of course, general pointers are all well and good, but what about the quick fixes? The foolproof blueprints for looking good wherever, whenever? First, calm down, Shakira. Second, if you really are at a loss, turn to these.

For The Corporate Office

Okay, so it’s not exactly mind-bendingly difficult to a make a call on what to wear when your coalface has a dress code that specifies one thing and one thing only. (That’s a suit, if you hadn’t already guessed.) However, there’s still a lot of room for interpretation when it comes to ‘business formal’.

Bring your A-game with a navy or blue single-breasted suit, a crisp white shirt, brown brogues or Derbies and a tonal tie in a slightly lighter shade of blue. Job done.

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For The Business-Casual Office

Welcome to the minefield. Watch your step, because getting caught wearing the wrong thing here can result in water cooler chuckles at your expense, and at worst lower your chances of a promotion.

It pays to play business-casual safe with a combination that leans smart-casual but lets you feel comfortable, without incurring the wrath of your boss. Try a white Oxford shirt underneath a neutral jumper in merino or cashmere, some dark- or grey-coloured chinos and a pair of leather loafers for a look that’s professional, but not (that) boring.

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For The Weekend

Sometimes it’s the absence, rather than the enforcement, of a strict dress code that’s frustrating. Prepping your finery for a black tie ball is a pain, but at least you know the rules of engagement.

The weekend, and downtime in general, however, opens up a whole world of possibilities (and potential style fails to go with them). Steer right with something casual, but not careless – like a classic white crew-neck T-shirt and selvedge jeans. Weather depending, you could stop here or throw over a lightweight bomber in the evening or a beige camel jacket when the cold really bites.

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For A Night Out

More often than not, a man’s already three or four cold ones in by the time he starts sorting his clubbing clobber. While this ritual is guaranteed to get the creative juices flowing, it also comes with the risk of turning out something that skews more car crash than cool.

Make it easy with head-to-toe monochrome. A grey T-shirt (or black if you’re worried about sweat/swill stains) worn with slim jeans works everywhere. Cap off with a pair of black Chelsea boots to bring this look’s rock aesthetic to its natural conclusion and throw on a black leather biker or smart bomber jacket for the journey to and from home (via the chicken shop).

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For A Date

No one likes a try hard, but then no one likes someone who doesn’t try hard enough, either. Whether its the first or the 31st, there’s a sweet spot to hit when it comes to getting Tinder-ready on date night.

As with all other scenarios, consider the setting. Sandals, as stylish as they can be, are probably not welcome in a five-star restaurant. If in doubt, opt for a foolproof formula comprising an unstructured blazer, worn over a simple T-shirt (or a Breton top for some added va va voom) and anchored by dark slim-cut chinos and minimalist sneakers.

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For A Summer Wedding

Weddings: yeah they’re fun and all, but they’re also resoundingly selfish. First, there’s the expense of paying to go on a stag do; then you have to buy the happy couple a present, sit next to weird friends (or cousins of friends), all the while sweltering in a suit.

We can’t help you with most of that, but we can at least share the secrets for staying cool. It all comes down to fabric choice. Provided it’s not a black tie or morning dress wedding, opt for a breathable two-piece in either a cotton or linen-blend. A lightish grey works whether the sun’s out or not and to this, add a classic white or pink shirt and complementary knitted tie.

You can easily adapt this look to various formalities by altering the footwear (Oxfords being at the top, followed by Derbies, loafers and then trainers), as well as losing the tie for casual summer wedding parties.

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For A Pub Session

Ahh the pub, a safe haven where the only decision that needs to be made is what beer to order. Well, kind of. Sure, most outfits are welcome here (unless you have the sort of friends who seize any opportunity to take the piss), but there are a few practical considerations to account for.

Save your delicate silk shirts for another day and instead opt for hard-wearing materials that will stand up to the odd spillage. This is particularly key when it comes to footwear – nothing suede, please. A plaid or military-inspired overshirt is perfect for battling your way to and from the bar when worn over a simple T-shirt and jeans. Just don’t swill your pint.

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