pursuits

Two Blazers, Endless Holiday Wardrobe Possibilities

It used to be my job to tell people what to pack.

Before my career took a more menswear-centric turn, I was a fashion editor for a travel publication. (Humblebrag: I once had to travel all the way to Turks and Caicos just to put the right bikini on a beautiful Dutch model. Crazy!) So, I was essentially a paid packer, and thus became an off-duty style specialist. What I realized, after more than two years on the job, is that people tend to overcomplicate the packing-for-leisure process, when really the secret to executing the perfect mobile wardrobe is simple: a uniform.

Think in terms of a capsule wardrobe, 10 to 12 interchangeable pieces you can take a formulaic approach to styling. Start by building a color palette (usually neutrals and one bright color for pop) with a few key items that you feel comfortable and confident in, and then pack backwards in layers of essentials down to the accessories, where you can punch it all up with some sartorial flair.

Simplicity is also the key to the month-long event known as Holiday Party Season. Just like a well-curated traveling wardrobe, creating an arsenal of go-to looks made up of luxe basics and favorites is the surest way to dress for the avalanche of social situations that suggest "festive" attire -- without having to over-think it or risk your options running stale.

With that styling logic in mind, I've created your holiday looks playbook below. These 10 pieces, starting with just two blazers, will get you through any and every champagne-fueled occasion you might get invited to from now until January 1. (And maybe in to that mid-winter vacation I just got you thinking about.)

The Festive Attire Checklist

(Hint: No Ugly Sweaters)

2 Blazers +

2 Knits +

2 Button-Down Shirts +

2 Pants +

2 Shoes = Happy Holidays

* Optional: socks, ties, and other styling bits for added joy

The Blazers

Texture is a great way to ease in to "special occasion" dressing. Try velvet, like the above PS by Paul Smith slim-fit peak lapel ($845, mrporter.com), for late afternoon to nighttime (ready: extra boozy) engagements. Or tweed, for a versatile day-to-night option. The black and white caviar-tweed blazer by Saint Laurent ($2,350, mrporter.com) seen up top is a modern take on the rough, traditionally dandy fabric. With both: Play with levels of dressiness by adding (or not) a bow-tie or other celebratory elements like a lapel flower or candy-cane striped pocket square (if you must).

The Knits

These suggestions are just a template -- but the key is to have at least two solid, neutrally-toned options to rotate. Pick varying necklines like this soft cashmere turtleneck by Uniqlo ($90, uniqlo.com) or this lightweight crewneck by Theory ($345, mrporter.com). The latter is perfect for layering over a dress shirt. Both will look great under a blazer or as standalone woolly toppers.

The Shirts

A solid white or blue dress shirt is not only holiday-proof, it's life-proof. If you don't own a good one, invest. If your lifestyle is more laid-back, you can't ever go wrong with a cotton button-down collar oxford, like this one by Everlane ($55, everlane.com). But for you dressier gents (meaning you rock tailoring a good portion of the work week), sub in a more structured-collared option. Offset the solid mainstay with a fun print or flannel, like this subtle black/watch sport shirt by Alex Mill ($165, alex-mill.com).

The Pants

You need two colors, in two fabrics. Here, I went with a tailored wool trouser by Valentino ($790, matchesfashion.com) and washed cotton chino by Bonobos ($88, bonobos.com) -- but this could have also been a slim, pinwale corduroy pant and raw denim jeans. Easy upgrade: Your bottom half is a great place to add in a jolt of color, especially if you're leaning towards darker or season-specific hues. Consider burgundy instead of flannel grey, coppery-brown instead of navy.

The Shoes

Go in-between with footwear -- meaning, not too formal or too casual. Instead find shoes that mix elements of both: a pair of suede (casual) monk straps (dressy) by John Varvatos ($498, barneys.com); a cap toe (dressy) lace-up boot (casual) by Johnston & Murphy ($250, johnstonmurphy.com). It's also good to mix up a black and a brown(ish) option, being mindful not to be too matchy or distracting to your varying neutral tones.

The Extras

Okay, fellas, this is where you can have your Mark Darcy moment. Except instead of having a reindeer do a face-plant on your merino knit sweater, opt for a little more subtle holiday motif play. Consider a Fair Isle pocket square like this one by Brooks Brothers ($28, brooksbrothers.com), or a wintery buffalo-check scarf by J.Crew ($59.50, jcrew.com), and these deer-print cozy socks by Anonymous Ism ($28, jcrew.com) in a slightly less obnoxious shade of red.

Nic Screws is the style director for Bloomberg.

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